Foxy Treatment of Global Warming
by Bill Chameides | December 16th, 2010
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)
Open letter to Fox News’ Washington managing editor Bill Sammon.
Dear Mr. Sammon:
I read with interest on the Media Matters Web site that last December, while the great Copenhagen climate confab was underway, you issued a directive to your network reporters to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” According to Media Matters, your orders were e-mailed on December 8, 2009, shortly after a wayward correspondent reported that the World Meteorological Organization had concluded that the 2000–2009 decade was “on track to be the warmest on record.”
‘Fair and Balanced’ Reporting
I imagine that some (such as Salon and Frum Forum, the blog edited by David Frum, “dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement”) would accuse you of having a political agenda in issuing your directive. But I’m sure you’d maintain there was another objective: one of providing fair-and-balanced reporting on an important international issue.
After all, it’s factually true that “critics have called into question” theories that the planet is warming. Thank goodness at least one news organization is willing to give voice to the lonely critics of scientific theory (climategate coverage notwithstanding) — I affectionately refer to these brave folks as “refudiaters” and hope you will too.
So I congratulate you on your fair-and-balanced approach to journalism. But perhaps you’ve not gone far enough. Does not a fair-and-balanced approach require giving voice to other brave but heretofore largely ignored refudiaters? In that regard, I humbly suggest other directives for your consideration:
- Alleged moon landing: “Refrain from reporting on the U.S. space program without pointing out that the contention we landed on the moon is based on evidence critics have called into question.” (See here and here.)
- Planet Earth: “Refrain from reporting on the times of sunrise and sunset without pointing out that the contention that Earth is a planet that orbits the sun is based on theories critics have called into question.” (See here.)
- Supposedly round Earth: “Refrain from reporting that the Earth is round or elliptical, as it has been suggested that the Earth is indeed flat and that photographic evidence to the contrary has been called into question.” (See here.)
- Disease: “Refrain from reporting on any form of disease or medical advance without pointing out that the contention that microbes cause disease is based on theories that critics have called into question.” (See here or here.)
- Ice ages: And please don’t forget that the very same directive you issued following the WMO announcement should also be used with any mention of the ice ages, since, as you point out, the fact that “the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period … (has been) called into question.”
You will note, Mr. Sammon, that I’ve confined this list to technical issues. I’m sure your dedication to fair-and-balanced reporting on science also extends to politics. Despite that dedication, I suspect there are sundry directives that would make your political coverage even more fair and balanced. However, that subject has already received much attention (here, here, here, and here) and, being a simple scientist, I will refrain from going there.
But What About the Data?
Finally, Mr. Sammon, while we’re on the subject of whether the “planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period,” I must admit there are aspects of your coverage, or lack thereof, that leave me confused and a bit concerned.
Here’s but one example: the recent report on how scientists have discovered artifacts of Viking ancestors exposed by retreating glaciers in Norway’s Jotunheimen mountains. (See news coverage here and here.)
A search on the Fox News site returned no results on this international news story (could it be that I missed it?). Frankly, I was surprised you wouldn’t have covered it — refudiaters love to cite the Vikings’ settlement of Greenland as a critique of global warming (see here, here and um here). So naturally I thought you’d jump at a Viking-related story.
But you didn’t. Now, here’s the disturbing part. Some of those Norse artifacts are more than 3,000 years old and rapidly decompose when exposed to the elements. So, how could they have survived over thousands of years? One obvious explanation: they were locked up in the ice and therefore protected from the elements.
But if they were just now discovered, doesn’t that suggest they were continuously locked in glacial ice over thousands of years? And doesn’t that suggest that the glacial ice itself has been intact over that same period of time? And doesn’t the fact that that ice is now melting suggest that warming is occurring today and that that current alleged warming is unlike anything that’s occurred in thousands of years? And finally, would that not mean that the refudiaters are wrong in their critique?
A little voice keeps whispering in my ear that the reason you don’t cover stories like this one is that they prove the refudiaters wrong. But if that’s the reason, fair-and-balanced coverage would be out the window, right?
I look forward, Mr. Sammon, to your addressing my concerns with fair-and-balanced reporting that contradicts the refudiaters. It would also be helpful in your directives to ask your correspondents to point out that when it comes to scientific issues, anyone can criticize but critics can just be plain wrong.filed under: climate change, faculty, global warming
and: Bill Sammon, COP15, Copenhagen, Fox News, ice, ice age, Jotunheimen mountains, media, Media Matters, Norway, refudiate