CNN's American Morning Leans Towards ClimateGate Deniers

December 7th, 2009 3:10 PM
Peter Demenocal, Columbia University; & Kiran Chetry, CNN Anchor | NewsBusters.orgMonday’s American Morning on CNN covered the ClimateGate scandal extensively, but slanted towards those who deny that the exposed e-mails amount to much. Anchor John Roberts let the interim director of the Climate Research Unit at the center of the controversy give his talking points without question. Out of the four segments on the scandal, two featured skeptics of the theory of manmade climate change.

Roberts, reporting live from the University of East Anglia, home to the CRU, led the 6 am Eastern hour with a preview of the program’s ClimateGate coverage: “I am in Norwich, England at the University of East Anglia and behind me here, this cylindrical building, is the Climatic Research Unit which finds itself at the epicenter of what’s being called ‘ClimateGate.’ Four thousand e-mails and documents were hacked out of the Climatic Research Unit’s server system...Some of those e-mails were looked at by skeptics, and are now being used to cast doubt on all of the science surrounding global warming. Skeptics claiming that some scientists were manipulating data to further their cause.”

Anchor Kiran Chetry subsequently explained that their coverage of the scandal was part of a “network-wide initiative, just trying to get to the bottom of it.” She then introduced the first report on ClimateGate from correspondent Jim Acosta, which focused on the political implications of the controversy, and featured two sound bites from congressional skeptics of the theory of manmade climate change, versus three from federal officials who support the theory.
ACOSTA: The controversy could not have come at a better time for Republicans. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has fought Democrats on climate change legislation for months.

SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (from Senate hearing): One cannot deny that the e- mails have raised fundamental questions, concerning, among other things, transparency and openness in science, especially taxpayer-funded science.

SENATOR BARBARA BOXER (from Senate hearing): You call it ‘ClimateGate,’ I call it ‘E-mail TheftGate.’

ACOSTA: Last week, Republicans fired off a letter to the EPA, demanding it delay new limits on greenhouse gas emissions until the agency can demonstrate the science underlying these regulatory decisions that’s not been compromised. The head of the EPA says the e-mails don’t affect the scientific consensus on global warming.

LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR (from Senate hearing): I have not heard anything that causes me to believe that that overwhelming consensus, that climate change is happening and that man-made emissions are contributing to it, have changed.

ACOSTA: GOP leaders are warning President Obama to reject any new climate change agreements in Copenhagen.

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (from Fox News Sunday): Well, we’re not a dictatorship. The President can promise whatever he wants. The Congress has a role. If there’s some proposed treaty, the Senate will vote on it.

ACOSTA: But in an era of green jobs, Democrats say denying global warming is not just bad science, it’s bad business.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (from Fox News Sunday): If we ignore it, put our head in the sand, we’re going to find countries like China leapfrogging us, moving forward. That’s going to create jobs for China, but not for America.
Clips from Roberts’s interview of Professor Peter Liss, the interim head of the University of East Anglia’s CRU, immediately followed Acosta’s report. The anchor did not appear to press the professor on the scandal, and instead, let him give his points without question.
John Roberts, CNN Anchor; & Professor Peter Liss, University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit | NewsBusters.orgLISS (from taped interview): I don’t think it should influence things at all. Of course, I mean, I’m not a politician, but I can sort of see that it might have some impact. I hope it’s- I say small, or insignificant. But you’ve already seen people saying- well, this knocks the bottom out of the climate argument. I mean, I don’t think that’s true at all. But people will say that because it suits to say that.

ROBERTS: You said I hope it doesn’t have an influence, it shouldn’t have an influence- ‘I think it shouldn’t have an influence,’ but there’s every possibility that it very well could.

LISS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well, you’ve heard various politicians and represented politicians making statements this week saying exactly that it will have an influence, as far as they’re concerned. We’ll have to wait and see whether the bulk of the nations are swayed by that....I think it’s very hard to be a denier. And in some sense, you might say it’s really up to the deniers to explain why it is when we’re pumping so much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, why it wouldn’t have such an effect. I mean, scientists tend to be a bit on the defensive, but in fact, they shouldn’t be defensive because the evidence is very strong.

ROBERTS: You have no doubt.

LISS: I have no doubt.
At the bottom half of the hour, Chetry interviewed Peter Demenocal, a climate scientist at Columbia University who believes in manmade global warming (pictured above). The anchor did present some reasonable questions to her guest, as opposed to the earlier performance of her colleague with the CRU director. In her second question, Chetry asked, “How do you know that, given that...we’re studying and we’re collecting data in such a small number of years, in terms of how long the Earth has been do you show that that’s not just a blip in our huge, huge long history?” The anchor later followed up on the scientific method issue: “Doing experiments and collecting data and all of that that goes into science, sometimes there are things that don’t fit in with your theory, or there are things that sort of you can’t quite explain- the red herring of your research. Is suppressing that, as critics claim, or perhaps trying to find a way to explain that away, something that is frowned upon, or is it, perhaps, something that happens?”

Professor Alan Robock, Rutgers University; & Professor Edward Wegman, George Mason University During the final segment, which began 13 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, Chetry moderated a panel discussion between Professor Alan Robock of Rutgers University, some of whose e-mails were revealed in the hacking at the CRU; and Edward Wegman, a professor of statistics and data sciences at George Mason University, who questions some of the methodology of the scientists who advance the theory of manmade climate change, but more or less thinks humans are the cause of global warming. As she did in the earlier segment, the anchor asked reasonable questions to both of her guests.
CHETRY: Professor Robock, let me start with you, because some of the e-mails that have been leaked actually contain a few e-mails you had sent to the person who is- Phil Jones, this climate researcher. And first of all, explain, in your opinion, what the controversy is, as we talk about, in one of the e-mails, using the term ‘trick.’

CHETRY: And it was having to do with- what, data that didn’t necessarily fit in with a certain theory?

CHETRY: And, Professor Wegman, let me ask you about this because you’ve had some criticisms a few years back about some of the methods- some of the models that were used in the climate change research, [Penn State’s Michael] Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ model which- you know, you probably have to be very deep in the study and science of climate change to know exactly what we’re talking about, but what did you think when you saw these e- mails?

CHETRY: So let me ask you about this, you’re talking about- to be clear, you’re talking about taking issue with the methods, not questioning the overall theory of global warming or climate change?

CHETRY: There’s a public poll that was just out saying that there’s a fraction of- maybe 25 percent of people that doubt what we’ve been saying about climate change. So if- you’re somebody who studies this and so is Professor Wegman. But let me start with you, Professor Robock- what is it that people should know and should sort of take away from this whole discussion about- not only climate change, but about how much human involvement is responsible for changes in our Earth?