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False Balance Lives: In Worst Climate Story Of The Year, PBS Channels Fox News

If you happened to be watching the PBS News Hour tonight, you probably thought the show had been hijacked by Fox News. At first, their climate segment seemed to be about Koch-funded former “skeptic” Richard Muller and his conversion to scientific reality.

But then PBS decided that the way to “balance” a former skeptic who merely confirmed what climate scientists have demonstrated repeatedly for decades was by quoting nonsense from Sen. James Inhofe and then giving an extended interview to former TV weatherman and current A-list disinformer Anthony Watts.

UPDATE: For the video (and transcript) of the show, click here. It should forever kill the absurd notion that false balance is dead — or that the News Hour has some sort of liberal bias. Not that this is news — see the CP post from May, “False Balance On Climate Change at PBS NewsHour.”

Even worse is PBS’s completely unbalanced, extended interview online with the long-debunked Watts, headlined “Climate Change Skeptic Says Global Warming Crowd Oversells Its Message.”

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The URL for that interview is even worse: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/why-the-global-warming-crowd-oversells-its-message.html. Seriously!

You can write the PBS ombudsman here.

UPDATE 2: PBS defends itself here, sort of. They do promise this: “Spencer will have another blog post today offering the views of other scientists in the broadcast concerned about the threats of climate change.” Uhh, “other scientists”? Now Watts is a scientist?

Again, the actual “news” in the on-air segment was about how a Koch-funded skeptic, Muller, had in fact demonstrated that the global warming crowd has been underselling its message.

Given the staggering laziness of PBS’s “journalism” in this segment, it’s worth quoting what Muller actually wrote in the NY Times:

Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!

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Now this underselling could have been the basis of an interesting story, but PBS decided to turn this into a pure he-said/she-said between “skeptics” and “believers,” as they label the two “sides” — destroying any possible chance of delivering actual scientific information to its audience.

Here is the video of the truly head-exploding interview with Watts:

Books could be written debunking Watts, but you’ll have to settle for — Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts and WattsUpWithThat urges readers to disrupt Forbes blog: “Shout them down in the comments section.”

My inbox has already overflowed with emails from climate scientists and others stunned by PBS’s lack of judgment.

The News Hour should look hard at what it is doing here and remember the golden rule of climate science journalism: If you want to write a golden story on climate science, spend your time talking to actual climate scientists.

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