This July, Washington Post writer Marc Kaufman championed a two-year Global Warming study by the Union of Concerned Scientists in his article, “Study: Inaction on Warming Will Be Disruptive, Costly.” The study, which the author obviously supports, makes sweeping pronouncements about the global Armageddon to come. According to the study, global warming will bring regular and disastrous flooding to the Northeast coast, causing unprecedented damage to roads, housing, and other structures. Also, the Midwest will be afflicted with perennial droughts and American agricultural industries will collapse due to the climate changes.
In case anyone didn’t catch the transparent scare tactics in the summary, vocabulary such as “overwhelmingly,” “swelter,” “dramatically,” “disastrous,” and “more severe” permeate the article in an open attempt to induce readers to reduce their carbon emissions. The study itself is hardly impartial, and attempts to spoon-feed a liberal policy agenda to the public by prescribing “a low-emission alternative—featuring much improved fuel efficiencies and a transition to alternative and renewable energy resources.” This policy would “leave the Northeast with a climate similar to today’s.” Yet not a page earlier, the author paraphrases the study’s main writer, Peter Frumhoff, as asserting that “even under the best-case emission-lowering scenario, global warming will bring unprecedented damage to the coastline.” Are we doomed or not?
Kaufman’s complicity with the UCS couldn’t be any clearer; the author conspicuously notes that “[A low emission alternative] will not be easy, since it would require industrialized nations to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below levels in 2000” (emphasis added). Kaufman does not even grant readers the option of a theoretical response to the UCS public policy solution. Learning to change “will not be easy,” but it must be done. The author’s deliberate omission of contradictory information and lack of labeling is so complete that the article appears purposefully deceitful. This goal: to enhance the credibility of an otherwise dubious study, and to promote belief in a scientific consensus on global warming.
Kaufman accomplishes this end by mislabeling, omitting contradictory information, and quoting only sympathetic sources:
Kaufman coyly identifies the Union of Concerned Scientists as a “public interest group” whose scientific background gives them an authoritative perspective on the global warming debate. He fails to mention, however, that the UCS is a left-wing lobbying nonprofit created during the Vietnam years as an offshoot of the antiwar movement. UCS systematically issues briefs to legislators in support of their liberal agenda: no nuclear weapons or U.S. missile defense systems, the elimination of genetically-modified foods, and increased global warming awareness.
Kaufman also deliberately points out that the UCS study is due to be published in a “peer-reviewed” journal, “Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change,” because the peer-review process could add credibility to UCS claims. In reality, however, peer-review by this journal will make little difference in determining the credibility of the UCS study because the journal’s members already assume that global climate change is happening. The journal is dedicated to developing solutions to deal with global climate change, not evaluating its plausibility.
Omitting Pertinent Information:
Kaufman characterizes the May report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the “panel’s just-published impacts and mitigation report.” The February IPCC report asserted that it was “very likely” that human activities were causing global warming. However, Kaufman omits the April 18th development, in which Russian Vice Chair of the IPCC, Yuri Izrael, wrote an op-ed for the Ria Novosti news which claimed that “the panic over global warming is totally unjustified” and that “there is no need to dramatize the anthropogenic impact” of global climate change. Izrael argues that “There is no serious threat to the climate,” and that humanity is “more threatened by cold than by global warming.” Perhaps Kaufman wishes to ignore these events, and continue believing that the human origins of global warming remain uncontested.
What is most ridiculous about the author’s support for the study is that even scientists who believe in global climate change could point out that the UCS numbers as much as double mainstream scientific estimates. While the UCS estimates an 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit change in the winter and 6-12 degrees Fahrenheit change in the summer, the University of North Carolina and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology both estimated a 97.5% probability that the overall change in temperature will not exceed 8.89 degrees Fahrenheit. The 2007 Congressional Quarterly Researcher, “Issues for Debate in Public Policy” notes that climate change researchers generally agree that temperature increases will range between 3.6 and 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The February and April 2007 IPCC panel rulings, earlier quoted by Kaufman, also estimate a more modest change— between 3.2 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—far short of UCS estimates.
Bethany Stotts is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.