For every few hundred climate scientists who believe global warming is an urgent threat, there is one global warming denier, often funded by the fossil fuel industry, who downplays the danger. So why do we have so many more profiles of the deniers in the media?
The Washington Post has run its second profile of the the Deniers this year, featuring Virginia’s Patrick Michaels and Oregon’s George Taylor. Earlier in the year, the Post ran a major cover story by Joel Achenbach in their Sunday magazine profiling a number of Deniers. The journalists writing these articles seem to think that they are hanging the Deniers with their own words or, as Achenbach said, “the skeptics as they present their case tend to undermine it.”
But that is typically true only for someone who reads the piece closely and already knows climate science well enough to see how ridiculous their arguments are. Yes, sometimes a Denier is so out in left field he or she will say something that anyone can see is absurd, as when meteorologist William Gray told Achenbach, “Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.”
But most Deniers are highly skilled in sounding reasonable, even when they smear the entire scientific community. So these articles mainly serve to give a lot of free air time–often with little serious rebuttal–to people whose main activity in life is to stop the nation in the world from acting in time to afford catastrophic warming. Many readers I talk to come away thinking either the subject is just too complicated for them or that the Deniers must have legitimate arguments if prestigious publications are giving them so much ink.
The recent Post article quotes a wholly unjustified smear on climate scientists (and the media) by Michaels:
“The preponderance of bad news almost certainly means that something is missing, both in the process of science itself and in the reporting of science.”
This is from a recent “A Review of Recent Global Warming Scare Stories,” Michaels did for the Cato Institute. Yes, we have witnessed a steady stream of dire news from climate scientists, but that’s because the pace of climate change has accelerated far beyond what most climate scientists expected even a few years ago — NOT because,as Michaels implies, the scientific community is biased or because the media is biased. Quite the reverse, if anything, as earlier posts on Climate Progress have argued, the media is under reporting the story.
The Deniers may seem like interesting characters who deserve media profiles, but the real heroes of the global warming story are the thousands of scientists who have devoted their lives to studying the climate and warning the public about the dangers of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions. Until we get a few hundred profiles of the legitimate scientists, I think we’ve heard more than enough about the Deniers.