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PBS ombudsman Getler whitewashes the Koch-funded greenwashing episode of Nova that whitewashes the threat of human-caused climate change

By Joe Romm  

"PBS ombudsman Getler whitewashes the Koch-funded greenwashing episode of Nova that whitewashes the threat of human-caused climate change"

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If you think Getler missed the boat on this, you can email him here.

They don’t make ombudsmen like they used to. Once upon a time, when numerous viewers launched a credible complaint against even the appearance of loss of objectivity and conflict of interest, the ombudsman would seriously investigate the matter, talking to parties on both sides, and then rendering some considered independent judgment.

But not PBS ombudsman Michael Getler.  He seems to have no trouble whatsoever with David Koch, a leading funder of the anti-scientific climate disinformation campaign (and the anti-science Tea Party), funding an episode of the great science show Nova, which:

  • is an effort to greenwash Koch’s activities
  • just happens to whitewash the threat human-caused global warming

Getler ignores the first concern entirely, and his entire defense of Nova’s dubious entanglement with Koch is “As a viewer of what strikes me and a lot of others as a consistently first-rate program, I trust NOVA.”  The beauty of that defense is that it could apply equally well to essentially every PBS show.  Hey, they are all first rate programs, so what the heck are you listeners complaining about?

Getler apparently sees himself the “Maytag repairman” of ombudsman.  PBS ain’t broke, so don’t try to fix it.  Here’s the background on why he’s wrong — and why Nova’s own defense is also wrong:

This story began from a joint effort by Think Progress and Climate Progress to investigate David Koch’s funding of a dreadful Smithsonian Institute exhibit put together by their Human Origins Program director Rick Potts (see “Must-see video: Polluter-funded Smithsonian exhibit whitewashes danger of human-caused climate change:    Koch money and dubious displays put credibility of entire museum and science staff on the line”).

I had noted at the end of my Smithsonian post:

For related background, which makes clear Koch knew exactly what kind of science he was buying from the Smithsonian, see the Yglesias post, “David Koch, Climate Change, and Human Evolution.”

The Yglesias post was on an episode of Nova on “Becoming Human” — featuring Potts — that noted how, in

Episode One you can see Koch the Paleoanthropology Enthusiast collide with Koch the Global Warming Crank as it concludes with an oddly upbeat description of the positive role cataclysmic shifts in climate have played in human history. What the research is saying, basically, is that climate swings led to a lot of death, destruction, and extinctions thus opening up new ecological niches that our ancestors filled but the material is presented in a weird “change is good!” kind of way that avoids mentioning all the death.

The New Yorker then published a devastating investigative piece by Jane Mayer that exposes the Koch family’s efforts to put together the Tea Party movement and much of the modern right-wing infrastructure.  It also exposed their greenwashing and whitewashing Smithsonian exhibit, which is even worse than the Nova piece.

Coincidentally, Nova rebroadcast that Koch-funded piece right after the Mayer piece appeared.  Not surprisingly, Getler got a bunch of angry letters.  Surprisingly, Getler decided to brush the whole thing off without any serious effort to understand what the complaints were and why they should have been taken far more seriously.  Here’s what he wrote (emphasis in original, his entire three sentence defense/analysis is at the end):

First come viewer suspicions about the subject that generated the most mail this week: the broadcasting of the first of a three-part series titled “Becoming Human” on NOVA, the popular and award-winning PBS science program. I get very few complaints about NOVA programs “” and this series initially aired in 2009. No complaints, at least that I can recall, at that time. But timing is everything, and the re-broadcast this week of Part One came in the immediate aftermath of a now widely quoted article in The New Yorker magazine by writer Jane Mayer about David and Charles Koch, “the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” as the article’s sub-title claims, and a follow-up assessment by New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

So what does this have to do with NOVA? One thing is that David H. Koch, as an individual rather than the Koch Foundation, is among the funders of NOVA. Another is that among his many interests, according to Rich’s summary of the Mayer piece, “Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial “” a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business.”

So, once again, we have the issue of whether sponsors or underwriters can be seen by some viewers to be undermining credibility or influencing programs. The most recent surfacing of this came a few weeks ago in a documentary about former Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

Here Are Some of the Letters

I was watching the NOVA program “Becoming Human” tonight (8/31/10) on KVIE and I noticed two things: the program 1) implied that we humans have adapted to past climate changes and that we need not worry that we might not survive future climatic changes; and 2) was sponsored by David H. Koch. I have read Jane Mayer’s article on the Koch family in the August 30th New Yorker magazine, and I am concerned about someone like Koch “” who has a stake in the status quo in terms of energy policy “” funding a program that gives us the message that we don’t really need to be concerned about climate change. This is a conflict of interest for NOVA that renders the program less than academically sound. I expect better from PBS.

Arden Collier, Vallejo, CA

~ ~ ~

After reading recent articles in both the New York Times and New Yorker magazine regarding the activities of Charles and David Koch’s foundations to fund stories that debunk Global Warming, and then this evening to find that my favorite of all PBS programs, Nova, presents a story stating Global Warming is but a myth. Guess whose foundation sponsored the program? This is supposed to be a Democracy, but more and more I see the richest among us strive to promote their myopic point of view, campaigns designed by MBA’s to sell average Americans politics that have led this country to ideological gridlock. All this happens at a time when true journalism is under assault with the collapse of local papers, and we are being perceptions in the hope they become our realities. Maybe when the Koch Foundation destroys PBS’ integrity, and the Tea Party becomes the new dominant force in American politics, journalists will wake up. But guess what, it will be too late . . .

Woodruff, WI

~ ~ ~

I watched NOVA last night, “Becoming Human”, and I was shocked and dismayed that PBS would air a show that is funded by David Koch and clearly supports his perspective: climate change is good for humans. In fact the thesis of the program was that climate change is what made us what we are today, as opposed to the other human like species that died off. This is a bizarre and incorrect thesis that leaves out crucial information about today that is different from other times in earth’s history (ie C02 levels). I would normally trust a PBS program and the information conveyed there, but now, knowing the show was funded by Koch and understanding his agenda (see recent New Yorker article) I was unable to trust anything I saw on that program. Most importantly it made me feel that I could not trust PBS anymore, a station which I have supported and watched my whole life. What are you going to do about this situation?

Brooklyn, NY

~ ~ ~

RE: Nova: Becoming Human, Part 1 as aired Aug. 31, 2010 on Colorado PBS. I thought it odd that the program concluded with the thought that human evolution was mostly a response to natural climate change, with the implication that we can do so again. Certainly climate may have been a factor, but I have never seen it singled out as the prime motivator before. Shortly after, I learned that the program series was underwritten by the David H. Koch Foundation. This is the same David Koch, oil man, who has spent millions of dollars to undermine human-caused climate change theory and any political action that might come from it. What a shame that Nova sold itself to this pernicious bidder.

Dave Lucia, Denver, CO

~ ~ ~

I am disturbed to see that the Koch Foundation funds Nova. It is well established that the foundation has a very conservative political bias and mode of operation that makes one assume that their money influences the facts and information that Nova presents. In particular, the Foundation is vehemently opposed to any suggestion that evidence for global warming exists. They will spend any amount of money necessary to attack the science behind global warming. Money that the Koch Foundation donates carries the implication that they have exercised control over the contents of the program. PBS should not allow such a conflict of interest to exist. The integrity of all your programs will be questioned if the integrity of even one seems challenged by the source of funding.

Philadelphia, PA

A Response from NOVA Senior Executive Producer Paula Apsell:

WGBH is committed to the editorial integrity of all our programs, adhering to the strictest journalistic standards. To maintain that integrity, and the trust of our audiences, funders are prohibited from any involvement in the editorial process. NOVA, like all WGBH programs, maintains complete, independent editorial control of its content.

The idea that variations in climate played a key role in human evolution is a widely accepted and influential idea in the scientific community. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History played a leading role in developing the theory. He first published the theory in the journal Science in 1996 (“Evolution and Climate,” Science 273:922-923) and in the same year wrote a popular book about it (“Humanity’s Descent: The Consequences of Environmental Instability,” William Morrow: 1996). Far from playing down the impact of climate change, the whole point of the conclusion to NOVA’s first episode of Becoming Human is to emphasize how profoundly episodes of global cooling and warming have shaped the human past.

For further information on Potts’ theory, see the interview with Potts on NOVA’s web site. See also an article in the National Museum of Natural History’s “Anthronotes” magazine.

(Ombudsman’s Note: One rarely knows when or how, if at all, influence works its way. If it is a factor, it can come from outside or from within. As a viewer of what strikes me and a lot of others as a consistently first-rate program, I trust NOVA.)

Wow!  How embarrassing for Getler.

That is the most unbelievable thing I have ever read an ombudsman write.

He basically says that because you can’t know for certain how influence works or if it is a factor, then the only thing that matters is whether you generally trust the potential object of that influence.  But since the vast majority of PBS shows are “consistently first-rate,” this means he can essentially dismis any complaint against any of them with a wave of his hand.

In fact, trust must be earned — over and over again.  And it can be lost by one serious blunder.   That’s why news organizations created ombudsmen in the first place.

For the record, the defense that NOVA Senior Executive Producer Paula Apsell offers is quite disingenuous, because the Nova story actually makes a different case than the one she defends.  It ends:

NARRATOR: Those that couldn’t adapt died out, like Selam and Lucy’s kind. Better problem-solvers, like Homo habilis, survived.

The new discoveries about ancient climate upheavals in Africa have led Rick Potts to formulate a bold theory of human evolution.

Notice that while Apsell claims, “The idea that variations in climate played a key role in human evolution is a widely accepted and influential idea in the scientific community,” the show itself claims that it was Potts who formulated this theory and that it is “bold” — and that it isn’t just about climate variations playing a “key role” in human evolution, it is about those variations being the “driving force of human evolution.”  Potts himself makes the same point that he is trying to upend traditional thinking:

RICK POTTS: The traditional idea we have had about human evolution is that it was the savannah, the grassy plane with some trees on it that was the driving force. But instead, what we’ve discovered is that climate changed all the time.

And so the idea that we’ve come up with is that variability itself was the driving force of human evolution, and that our ancestors were adapted to change itself.

NARRATOR: It is a simple but revolutionary idea: human evolution is nature’s experiment with versatility. We’re not adapted to any one environment or climate, but to many; we are creatures of climate change.

MARK MASLIN:I think we should actually look to our proud ancestry and how we evolved in East Africa and say, “That’s how we survived that. We can survive the future, because we are that creature, because we are that smart.”

NARRATOR: Today, climate change seems to threaten our survival, but it may have held the keys to the astonishing story of how we became who we are, because it didn’t stop 2,000,000 years ago. These dramatic upheavals would continue for another million and a half years, propelling our ancestors down a road leading, ultimately, to the smartest creature the world has ever known.

Seriously.

So what is it Apsell?  Are you selling some sexy new bold theory, or something that is rather mundane and widely accepted.  I know the answer — the answer is that our scientific understanding of what will happen on our current path of unrestricted emissions is based on vastly more research and observations than Potts’ intriguing but ultimately untestable hypothesis that past climate variations were the driving force of human evolution.  And the theory of warming is testable and has met that test (see “10 indicators of a human fingerprint on climate change” and U.S. National Academy of Sciences labels as “settled facts” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities”).

And no, Nova narrator, the path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t just “seem” to threaten us.  It most certainly threatens the health and well-being of billions of people in the coming decades.

The issue isn’t the straw man concern about whether “we can survive the future” because we are so damn smart.  The issue is whether our stupidity is going to lead to the destruction of a livable climate and multiple catastrophic impacts, like these, to name but two:

Yes we will “survive” — but why, for instance, doesn’t that show mention the fact (pointed out in the Smithsonian exhibit) that an episode of extreme climate change 74,000 years ago “” which is still a subject of much scientific debate “” nearly wiped out the human race.

Apsell’s second point is quite disingenuous:  “Far from playing down the impact of climate change, the whole point of the conclusion to NOVA’s first episode of Becoming Human is to emphasize how profoundly episodes of global cooling and warming have shaped the human past.”

I think anybody can see that the show downplays the threat of human-caused climate change.

To modify my critique of the Smithsonian Exhibit for the Pollyannish conclusion to the Nova episode, the show’s major intellectual failing is that it does not distinguish between 1) the evolution of small populations of tens (to perhaps hundreds) of thousands of humans and pre-humans over hundreds of thousands of years to relatively slow, natural climate changes and 2) the completely different challenge we have today:  The ability of modern civilization “” nearly 7 billion people, going up to 10 billion “” to deal with rapid, human-caused climate change over a period of several decades (and ultimately much longer).

The show fails to make clear that while small populations of homo “sapiens” evolved over hundreds of thousands of years of fluctuating climate, the rapid population growth of human civilization occurred during a time of relatively stable climate.

Here is a rough 6,000 year reconstruction that climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe put together from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) Paleoclimate archive for her new book, “A Climate for Change,” which you can see in a terrific March presentation:

Hayhoe last 6000 years

Let’s be clear here.  Not only has the atmospheric concentration of CO2 “” the principal human-generated greenhouse gas “” risen sharply in recent decades, it has risen at a rate that is unprecedented in the past million years (see “Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks“).  As the author of 2008 study on this subject noted, “the average change in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 600,000 years has been just 22 parts per million by volume.” Humans have run up CO2 levels 100 ppm over the last two centuries. The author added, “Right now we have put the system entirely out of equilibrium.

Even another 100 ppm change could be devastating to the billions of people who have settled in places based on current sea levels and fresh water from inland glaciers and relatively consistent levels of soil moisture and precipitation (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm” “” a study based on the exact same kind of paleoclimate reconstruction the entire Smithsonian exhibit is based on).

Worse, we’re poised to run CO2 levels up another 500 ppm this century if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path! (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F and U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm).

But you’d never know any of that from Nova.

If this were just another Nova show, I’d call it a “grave disappointment” and “seriously flawed.”  But since it was funded partly by the billionaire polluter David Koch, who is founder of a vast network of conservative organizations that deny the threat of global warming “” with overall funding of disinformers that now exceeds Exxon Mobil - the show is pure greenwashing and whitewashing that does undermine the credibility of Nova as an independent provider of objective scientific stories and analysis.

If you think Getler missed the boat on this, you can email him here.

‹ Energy and Global Warming News for September 7th: Marine creatures warn of Antarctic ice sheet instability; IBM working to develop 500-mile battery pack

Philippe Cousteau: “Time is running out for ourselves and future generations.” ›

31 Responses to PBS ombudsman Getler whitewashes the Koch-funded greenwashing episode of Nova that whitewashes the threat of human-caused climate change

  1. Allow me: Wake up PBS.

    Getler should excuse himself on this one, perhaps appoint an independent ombudsman — (snark = perhaps he can outsource one from Pakistan or Russia).

    Apsell is essentially a cheerleader who blindly supports her team with predictable chants and platitudes. Lots of enthusiasm, no wisdom.

    Global warming has not happened before in recorded history – PBS displays little respect for the enormity or the impact. The changes will be difficult and challenging.

  2. Raul M. says:

    Oh, I was just sitting on the porch and a hummingbird
    came and hovered just a few feet (less than 3) from
    my face, just looking at me. Humm.

  3. mike roddy says:

    I was completely discombobulated when I watched the Nova show on evolution. Implying that past episodes of natural climate fluctations are comparable to what we are experiencing today is something we would expect from a far right website, not a TV science program that we have come to treasure. Our emissions are enormous, continuous, and have reset the atmosphere’s radiative forcing, just as biological systems have become too degraded to restore equilibrium.

    Who are these PBS executives and ombudsmen? Do they have any training in science, or are they lawyers and MBA’s? Have they even studied the subject of climate change as laymen?

    This is an absolute disgrace. You expect it from the corporations that control the mainstream media, but we always considered Nova a diluted but still dependable resource. The clammy hands of the Koch brothers are quite obvious here.

  4. darth says:

    Quick googling reveals past NOVA coverage of climate change:

    nov 2003 interview with chinese scientist: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/worldbalance/voic-yihu.html

    mar 2009 episode “extreme ice”

    mar 1998 episode “warnings from the ice”

    I have not watched the above episodes so I don’t know exactly what they covered – has anyone else here?

    Discussion of greenhouse effect for the episode “the big chill” here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ice/greenhouse.html but only one vague mention of possible man-made impact near the end of the article.

    I like “NOVA” and its a very well made show – but they do seem to be treading very lightly on the biggest scientific story of the past 20 years – climate change cause by burning fossil fuels. Remember one of their other big contributors is Exxon-Mobil, I’m just sayin….

    I am going to try to watch “After the warming” from James Burke, 1989 later for some historical perspective. (link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6514270139930450081#)

  5. mike roddy says:

    Getler’s background is in covering military and defense issues for the Herald Tribune. This hardly qualifies as a science background. Maybe he looks forward to global warming as a way to revive his craft, since the world will become far more violent.

  6. Eric says:

    NARRATOR: It is a simple but revolutionary idea: human evolution is nature’s experiment with versatility. We’re not adapted to any one environment or climate, but to many; we are creatures of climate change.

    Even if this were the case it seems rather glib to imply that “oh, we’ll just adapt to whatever comes along as we have before” when the price of adaptation is the preventable deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The moral implications in terms of impact on “quality adjusted life-years,” a concept applied in medical statistical research, are orders of magnitude more important than they would have been 10,000 years ago.

    Also, the effects of funding sources with regard to research outcomes in medicine has been well documented – as a family physician, I think this makes Getler’s “I trust Nova” statement appear that much more credulous. Most physicians will swear that marketing has little effect on his/her prescribing habits when we know this is not so.

  7. Aaron Lewis says:

    I wrote (several times) the News Hour and Washington Week that their funding (Exxon-Mobile, NMA, Chevron) seem to be affecting their coverage of global warming related topics, and getting no reasonable response, I stopped sending them money. I do not feel bad, as I have stopped watching them. They were not covering the news that matters.

  8. mike roddy says:

    Climate Progress should be a weekly TV show, Joe. It’s obvious that the subject is badly neglected in the media, particularly television, and coverage is getting worse as the climate news becomes more dire.

    This is a really critical hole in the public’s knowledge. Why not approach PBS to get this right?

  9. Andy says:

    Without steps to greatly reduce the burning of fossil fuels, we are certainly headed to a climate that neither humans or any of our Hominidae ancestors have ever experienced. I can forgive the weasel words and over exhuberance of the NOVA narration; but in this they’ve stated a factual error.

    My understanding is that the warmest climate Hominidae have lived through was during the mid-Pliocene.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliocene

    The MIT study and others indicate that without a reduction in fossil fuel burning we will boost global temps beyond 4 degrees C.

  10. BBHY says:

    Genetic analysis shows that the human population hit a very low number in the late Pleistocene. The human species very nearly became extinct. It is just as plausible that climate change was responsible for that as it is to claim that climate change was responsible for human development.

    So, climate change may have already come close to making humans extinct, then during a stable climate humans developed advanced civilizations, and now human caused climate change, much more abrupt than the natural kind, might very well finally accomplish the extinct of the human species.

    Gee, that wasn’t the message the Koch’s wanted me to get out of that, was it?

  11. cervantes says:

    Anyway, the premise is that cycles of climate change exterminated all of our cousins and just happened to leave us. Well, right now we’re the only example of genus Homo on the planet, so there’s nothing left to select. Doesn’t seem like a very good argument for complacency, unless you’re looking forward to the Planet of the Cockroaches.

  12. catman306 says:

    “mike roddy says:
    September 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm
    Climate Progress should be a weekly TV show, Joe. It’s obvious that the subject is badly neglected in the media, particularly television, and coverage is getting worse as the climate news becomes more dire.

    This is a really critical hole in the public’s knowledge. Why not approach PBS to get this right?”

    We just stopped listening to NPR at home this week. (I’ll still listen when alone in the car or sometimes at work.) I had been listening daily since the 70s. They’ve been stinking for several years now.

    We didn’t get a an digital analog converter, so we stopped watching ALL television last year. Just like alpine glaciers, NPR and PBS used to be sights to behold.

    But a Joe Romm approved climate change show would help get the word out to the sheltered (by MSM) masses. A TV program is a good idea. A very good idea.

  13. I am shocked–shocked!–that a national media organization like PBS could be bought off. To slant a program like NOVA, a supposedly scientific based organization, in such an obvious way to discredit the science of climate change is enough to make me think about stopping my annual donations to my local PBS station. I will certainly share this view with the PBS ombudsman.

  14. Raul M. says:

    A Prof. said that feedback magnifies by ten. So our
    contributions to the planet climate are magnified
    by ten. Am I wrong or just not getting the true
    picture of the human impact to all life here on Earth.
    What leads me to think that I don’t get it is that
    the pace of the climate change is more than an order
    of ten.

  15. Dave E says:

    I must agree with #10–it may well be that past climate change left an opening for our development. It may be that our extinction will leave the way open for future species to develop–but is that what we want?
    “The Humans Who Went Extinct–Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived” by Clive Finlayson has an interesting account of our development–it is by no means clear that we would necessarily. have been the species of Homo to survive.

  16. Lou Grinzo says:

    Of all the denier tactics, all their serial sins against logic and science and just plain honesty, none infuriates me as much as this implicit argument that any threat that falls short of total annihilation of the entire human race isn’t a problem and doesn’t need to be addressed.

    And let us not forget for a nanosecond why so many people with a huge financial incentive to keep burning fossil fuels see the world through this perverse prism: They “know” that they have more than enough money to protect themselves and their loved ones from “hell and high water”, so they don’t care one iota if they continue to make money by spilling the blood of or causing anguish to millions or billions of other human beings. This is one of the clearest examples of crimes against humanity one could imagine.

  17. Bill W says:

    Let’s not forget that they ran an episode a few weeks ago that was basically a “Yes on 23″ commercial. NOVA has lost all credibility.

  18. The Wonderer says:

    Thanks for this post Joe. I watched the Nova program for the first time last week and was dumbfounded at the “don’t worry be happy about climate change” conclusion. I didn’t put the Koch & Smithsonian link to it however until you posted it here. The happy ending of that show kinda glossed over the part where the human population plummets by orders of magnitude.

  19. Scott McKain says:

    James Lovelock, author of the Gaia Hypothesis, and a very thoughtful guy, has speculated that the human population will be reduced to a small number of bands in the far north. The species will survive, but civilizition most certainly will not.

  20. Anna Haynes says:

    “Getler was appointed ombudsman in November 2005.”

    Interesting timing. Appointed by whom?

    “In November [2005], the Corporation for Public Broadcasting inspector general found that [CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson ] had made improper hires, had tried to tamper with PBS’s TV programming and appeared to show political favoritism in selecting CPB’s president while he was chairman, Tomlinson resigned his CPB post that same month.”

    “When Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, a close Karl Rove ally, took over PBS a few years ago, he told the Association of Public Television Stations along with officials from the CPB and PBS that they should make sure their programming “better reflected the Republican mandate.”"

  21. Leif says:

    There is one big difference between climate change of yore and today and that is the addition of about 6 billion more people. In the past, the few folks that were around had other ecosystems to exploit. Agreed new skills needed to evolve but man was primed for that with a large brain and opposing thumbs. Today all ecosystems are either full or rapidly degrading and there is not a single window to exploit. Correction, there is one and that is sustainability. However our large brain appears to have atrophied in way too many folks. The ludicrous thought that mankind can just move north does not stand to even simple investigation. For one, all the good soil was moved to the mid latitudes by the glaciers of the Ice ages. And man has trashed that out for the most part with poor farming practices. The Anthrocene Extinction event is under way and we all are invited. Good luck.

  22. Anna Haynes says:

    re my #20, on looking around more, my Tomlinson-Getler supposition is probably mistaken; it looks more like Getler was the *replacement* for Tomlinson’s ombud, who resigned around the time Tomlinson did.

  23. Gary says:

    @Darth

    you can read the transcripts on PBS website. Extreme Ice was pretty fair on warming, though they implied it may be too late to do anything. They also had an episode a few years back on “dimming the sun” which implied that co2 had saved us from ice ages in the past. All in all, given that this is the defining scientific issue of our generation, Nova seems to be treading very lightly indeed…

  24. zed ink says:

    small suggestion, Joe..

    above you say and the anti-science Tea Party.. mebbe anti-climate science would serve more accurately..

  25. Artful Dodger says:

    An equally dubious episode of Nova titled “Dimming the Sun” first aired April 18, 2006. It tries to suggest that pollution control legislation resulted in less aerosols to block sunlight, thus exasperating Global Warming :

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sun/about.html

    So we needed all that Coal smoke after all, huh David?

    This nugget continues today with advocates of “Geo-Engineering” proposing that we toss gigatonnes of Sulphur Dioxide into the stratosphere to mask the effects of CO2 (while ignoring Ocean Acidification). Hail Mary! Wonder where they get the Sulphur? Maybe from oh idunno, COAL?

    Funding for NOVA is provided by ExxonMobil, David H. Koch, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Is anyone truly surprised that Nova’s Ombudsman is a pawn? “The Tail don’t Wag the Dog”. Any group that values their income security over the damage done to Public Policy by a deliberate disinformation campaign has been compromised.

    I stopped watching PBS years ago. It is slop, and can not be trusted.

  26. adelady says:

    zed ink.

    From the other side of the world, I think anti-science fits the tea party incognoscenti to a T (forgive me).

    They’re not just anti climate science, they seem to be opposed to any findings from those over-educated ivory tower types in many areas.

    My only positive thought that might sway some of them would be that Climate Denial Crock of the Week item featuring all those military types worried to death about consequences of climate change. I can’t think of any other well-qualified group they would regard with any respect.

  27. homunq says:

    My letter:

    “As an ombudsman, your job is not to tell us who you trust, but to investigate and find the evidence so we can decide for ourselves. This is a job that you badly failed to do in regards to the allegations of influence by the Koch brothers on the NOVA series “Becoming Human”. You should learn to do your job, or PBS should get an ombudsman who can.”

    Separately, the “climate change is just another evolutionary pressure, like the ones that made us human” idea is chilling. By the same logic, a global nuclear war would be great for the survivors, who would have a whole planet to repopulate. The only people who can actually have such monstrous, irrational opinions are those who are forged and tempered by constant dishonesty about their true motives.

  28. Anna Haynes says:

    Re “They don’t make ombudsmen like they used to”, I emailed the NYTimes’s new public editor asking if the NYTimes has any processes/policies/expectations for its journalists and editors to (internally) report possible attempts at influencing their stories via coercion.
    (they’re schooled to eschew the carrot, but what about the stick?)

    No response. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear? Perhaps he’s buried under a deluge of responses from readers?

  29. Anna Haynes says:

    From Michael Getler:
    (I’d asked about the circumstances surrounding his hiring as PBS ombudsman in November 2010)

    “… Tomlinson and the CPB had nothing to do with my hiring. CPB at the time has its own ombudsman. I was hired by Pat Mitchell, then CEO of PBS. I started on Nov. 15 but the offer to join PBS and my agreement, came several weeks before that. I wrote about this in my first column on Dec. 2, 2005.”
    —–

    p.s. well said, homunq#26

    And FWIW (likely nothing), the bio for NOVA’s Apsell says she’s a former Smithsonian board member.

  30. Roger says:

    Thanks for bringing this all to light, Joe. My respect for you, and the power of money to corrupt, continues to climb, while it falls for NOVA, WGBH, PBS, the MSM, and our ability to preserve a livable future!

  31. Sam Pagosian says:

    Must point out a little typo, Joe.

    It is the Smithsonian Institution, rather than Institute.

    And might I add just one thing – even if the thesis is true that PBS
    has been somehow affected by funding, just keep in mind that “the perfect
    is the enemy of the good,” and PBS is still pretty darned good, and far
    above all other outlets in the breadth of services provided. Yes, hold them to a higher standard, but imagine if they went away…