By Joe Bast – Executive director, Heartland Institute via press release
OCTOBER 24 — On October 23, PBS’s “Frontline” program broadcast a special titled “Climate of Doubt.” The Heartland Institute had circulated a commentary prior to the program’s broadcast, which appears below, which said in part, “We hope the program is accurate and fair, but past experience with PBS and other mainstream media outlets leads us to predict it will be neither.” We offered some “facts to keep in mind when watching this program.”
So what did we think of the actual show? It wasn’t as bad as we had feared, but it wasn’t as good as it should have been. The following statement from Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.
It appears host John Hockenberry spent enough time with global warming “skeptics” to know we are sincere, honest, and effective, but not enough time to learn we are right on the science. Rather than examining the scientific debate directly – “looking under the hood,” as we like to say here at The Heartland Institute – he decided to rely uncritically on the claims of a few alarmists pretending to speak for “climate science.” That choice ultimately makes “Climate of Doubt” a biased and unreliable guide to the scientific debate.
The first half of the program consists mostly of short clips from global warming skeptics and political activists who helped convince majorities of the public and elected officials that man-made climate change is not a crisis. Included in this part of the show is footage taken during Heartland’s Seventh International Conference on Climate Change and interviews with Heartland Senior Fellows S. Fred Singer and James M. Taylor and the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell and Chris Horner. This part of the program is generally fair, though surprisingly light on interviews with scientists other than Dr. Singer. More than 100 scientists have spoken at Heartland conferences, nearly all of them skeptical of claims that man-made global warming is a crisis. It’s surprising and disappointing that Frontline didn’t seek interviews with any of them or even show excerpts from their presentations, except Dr. Singer.
The quality of the program starts to deteriorate at about the 20-minute mark. Notorious global warming alarmists Gavin Schmidt, Katherine Hayhoe, Andrew Dessler, and Ralph Cicerone are presented as representative of the mainstream scientific community, which they are not. Rather than use the program to put an end to the myth of scientific consensus on this complex issue, Hockenberry repeatedly invokes the discredited myth of a 97 percent consensus. Evidence in support of that claim is farcical. The issue of what role, if any, consensus should play in science is not addressed at all.
The second half of the program also speculates on the role that corporate and philanthropic funding plays in the debate … but it only addresses the funding of skeptics, not of alarmists. Once again this was a missed opportunity. Why didn’t Hockenberry end the myth, started by Ross Gelbspan but never documented, that global warming skeptics were or are currently being funded by oil companies to “sow doubt”? The Heartland Institute certainly was never part of such a plan, nor were any of the scientists we work with. Yet this libelous smear is repeated without rebuttal by Hockenberry and by the alarmists he interviews.
A third strike against the program occurs at the very end, when the off-camera voices of alarmists assert scientific confidence in predictions of an impending climate apocalypse while images appear of deserts and extreme weather events. Gone is any pretense of a balanced view of the scientific debate. This technique, typical of propaganda films such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” cheapens and discredits an otherwise thoughtful program.
No scientist interviewed for the program offered proof that any of the climatic events shown at the end of the program were caused by human activity, nor could they. One suspects this ending was tacked on after production to address the expected criticism and disappointment of environmental activists who object to anyone in the mainstream media treating skeptics with respect.