Twenty-five years ago I founded and headed a large and influential environmental grassroots group in metro New York.
One of my biggest challenges was to keep my board of directors and rank-and-file from embellishing, exaggerating and distorting the facts in the heat of battle. “The facts are on our side,” I would say, “so hyperbole and misstatements will only undermine our credibility with the media and the public.”
Sticking to the facts resulted in very favorable media coverage, including a New Jersey daily honoring me on the Sunday front page as “Public Service Volunteer of the Year,” and another daily running a front page photo of me and ally Senator Bill Bradley when he and eight other members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation testified on behalf of our cause before a congressional committee. The photo showed the former professional basketball player towering over me in the committee room.
Now 25 years later, when it comes to global warming, the media have become a de facto propaganda ministry that parrots the party line and disseminates exaggerations, misstatements, and outright falsehoods about so-called climate change and its causes and fixes.
Curiously, this has happened in spite of the public now having more years of college. One would expect the opposite to happen—that the more educated the public, the less that the government and media could get by with brazen propagandizing.
On second thought, it’s not so curious. Academia has forfeited its scientific objectivity relative to global warming, as it has on other subjects, due to accepting government research grants that have the implicit requirement that the grantees parrot the party line or lose future grants.
For these reasons alone, I applaud President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Accords. And having studied the counter facts about global warming, I stand up and cheer the president.
This from someone who usually jeers, not cheers, Trump.
My suspicions about the propagandist nature of global warming began in the mid-1990s with a visit to Biosphere II north of Tucson. This was during the time when the facility was run by Columbia University. (It is now run by the University of Arizona.) In the exhibition section of the visitor center was a cutaway slice of an ancient tree. An explanatory placard said that the gaps between growth rings showed how the climate had warmed due to human activity. But when I painstakingly counted and examined the tree rings, it became evident that the climate was warmer prior to the Industrial Revolution; that is, prior to the exponential increase in the burning of fossil fuels.
Hanging from the ceiling of the exhibit hall was a cutaway of a Volvo car, because Volvo was a sponsor of the exhibit center. Apparently, the Biosphere staff and visitors didn’t see the irony and hypocrisy of a car company being featured next to a display on global warming, as if Volvos run on Perrier water and not carbon.
Nearby was a drop-box where visitors could write comments and questions for the Biosphere staff and get answers in return. I dropped a respectful and courteous note in the box, describing my observation of the tree rings and asking for an explanation.
After waiting a few weeks and not getting a response, I sent an email to key faculty at Columbia University. Again, there was no response.
Years later my son attended the University of Arizona. In walking across campus one day, I came upon a weather station in the middle of an asphalt parking lot and near a large building. The station is one of the sources of climate data. Early photographs of campus showed that the weather station used to be in the middle of natural desert vegetation, away from concrete and asphalt. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that temperature readings taken at the station today are higher than readings taken a century ago, due solely to the heat-island effect; that is, to how buildings and hardscape raise temperatures by retaining heat.
On a similar note, the heat-island effect has probably increased temperatures over the years at the official weather station at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, which has grown from a small, sleepy airport 40 years ago to one of the largest and busiest airports in the country. Yet when the local news and the U.S. Weather Bureau cite record temperatures at Sky Harbor, there is no mention that comparisons to prior years might be misleading.
Global warming might be real, might be caused by humans, and might be possible to be ameliorated without creating worse problems. But there is no doubt that the media and academia can’t be trusted when it comes to global warming (and other issues). Hooray to Trump for sticking it to them.