PBS aired a “Frontline” episode last night titled “Climate of Doubt.” The show’s producer (but not the host, John Hockenberry) attended Heartland’s Seventh International Conference on Climate Change in May, took some B-roll, talked to me and some of the scientists in attendance, arranged an interview with Heartland Senior Fellow for Environment Policy James M. Taylor, and were pleasant enough to deal with throughout a very busy two days.
The boss, Joe Bast, expected the worst, and gave it a mixed review — one with more of an air of disappointment than annoyance. Joe graciously gave points to PBS for not executing the kind of wildly unfair hit-job the MSM is famous for when covering those skeptical of catastrophic, man-caused global warming. And, yes, there were some parts of the program to commend.
But I judged the piece on a harsher scale — finding quite a bit about the program unfair, incomplete, and just flat-out wrong. So let’s get started …
■ I enjoyed hearing John Kerry whine (again) about being a loser in public opinion. I also chuckled a lot during the the Bob Inglis segment, tweeting: “Boo hoo, Bob Inglis. Voters decided you don’t get to sit in Congress for life. @dcbast #ClimateOfDoubt #Frontline”
■ I liked the part where they let Fred Singer say, “I’m fighting for scientific truth,” and gave Heartland (and the scientists we’ve brought together seven times at our ICCCs) credit for inspiring a new generation of skeptics.
■ It appears Hockenberry still feels the sting of letting Anthony Watts speak to PBS viewers a few weeks back, so he made up for it with a laughably biased report. The stink of bias was so strong, I tweeted that it started to come off as a parody.
■ The program didn’t once even hint at what the enviro-left, John Kerry, et. al. insist we do to “stop” climate change. That’s an important part of the story, and a big reason the public is increasingly skeptical.
■ Hockenberry’s big “gotcha” question for the skeptics was: “What if you are wrong?” There are many good answers to that question, but his implication is that if the skeptics are wrong, the planet boils and we all die … or something like that. Why doesn’t Hockenberry, or anyone in the MSM, ask the alarmists the same question: “What if you are wrong?” The answer is that we’d have reordered our economies from free markets to government-directed socialism for nothing. The honest answer to that question from the left is rather important.
■ The funding thing always gets my blood going, and Hockenberry’s “reporting” on that question was a joke. He showed our poster of sponsors of ICCC-7, but did not note that they did not fund the conference – other than $500 given by a coal group, which would not cover the airfare of a single scientist. Hockenberry also stated that Exxon and fossil fuel companies have been a “major funders” of Heartland. That is bunk. It’s all stated clearly on our website and the documents Peter Gleick stole. Hockenberry could have called with questions about our funding, but he did not. If you’re going to make grand claims about an organization’s funding – and use those grand claims as a way to deligitimize their conferences and the science they promote – shouldn’t you at least make a phone call to the organization?
■ And, as usual, funding only matters when it comes to the right, not the left. As I tweeted: “I can’t wait for @JHockenberry’s #Frontline expose on who funds the environmental left. Any day now, right? #ClimateOfDoubt” and “ Hey, @JHockenberry Who’s beind all those foundations, people who fund #Frontline? I’ll assume bad motives, just like you do. #ClimateOfDoubt”
■ Speaking of Peter Gleick, his name was not uttered once. If you’re doing a story about the skeptic movement, is it not part of the story to report the lengths the other side will go to stop them?
■ Speaking of just a little part of the story: Climategate. Hockenberry brought it up only to slam skeptics for supposedly taking the emails “out of context.” He did not quote any of the emails. He did not ask any of the skeptics to explain why Climategate was a big deal. He did not mention “hide the decline,” or Michael Mann’s deception, or Phil Jones (if I recall correctly) basically admitting after Climategate that the thrust of the scandal was true — the enviro-left just doesn’t have the evidence in hand to prove their alarmist theories.
■ Hockenberry also seemed very interested in the cherry-picking of data – all of it (falsely) in his report by the skeptics. Again, no mention of “hide the decline.” No mention of the way the enviro-left pretends the Medieval Warm Period never happened, etc. It is not cherry picking to point out that global temps have not risen for at least a decade while CO2 has skyrocketed … and that this goes wholly against AGW theory.
■ There was a challenging question Hockenberry asked Fred Singer. I believe it was about second-hand smoke. As Fred began to answer it, they dropped the volume of his audio and cut away to a critic of Fred Singer to let him answer the question for Fred. That’s a shocking example of journalistic malpractice. If you challenge an interview subject with a question, and he answers it, air that answer, not just the answer of one of his critics.
■ Hockenberry characterized primary Earth science education as “climate scientists” vs. “skeptics.” In other words, real science vs. something that isn’t science – dogma, or fantasy, or propaganda. It was underhanded, and the intent was to hint at evolution vs. creationism. Yet it is the left that “believes” in global warming. “Skeptics” aim merely to introduce an understanding of the scientific method – which has no business being in the same conversation with “consensus” and “belief” – and the fact that thousands of scientists have reported data that contradicts the alarmist propaganda.
■ The 97 percent nonsense. Hockenberry brought it up maybe a half-dozen times. Not once did he allow the many skeptics he interviewed explain why the stat is a joke (and it would have taken 8 seconds of air time). Hockenberry should be embarrassed to have bought the bunk enviro-left has been pushing with this fake stat. Would anyone else be able to get away with claiming the answer to a loaded question by 77 hand-picked scientists equals “97 percent of all climate scientists”? Heartland would never hear the end of it if we tried that. Our credibility would be shot, and rightly so. In fact, Hockenberry did take a swipe at our credibility with a criticism of the Oregon Petition and challenging questions to Fred Singer about it. Again, no such challenge to the alarmists about their 97 percent hooey.
■ Hockenberry cited as a “neutral” expert the National Journal reporter Coral Davenport. I immediately recognized the name as a reporter who has inquired about our conferences, and I believe covered ICCC6 and maybe ICCC7. In her reporting on us, she uses the phrase “the notorious Heartland Institute.” She’s an advocate, not merely a “reporter” for the respected National Journal.
■ The pumping up/sympathetic treatment of Katharine Hayhoe. Not really all that annoyed by it, except her complaint that a private group “requested her emails.” Poor thing. Let the FOIA request play out. If it’s legit, she should give them up. If it is not, that’s fine, too. But if you take public money and work for a public institution and work to affect public policy … we have a right to see how that policy is being made behind the scenes. As Diane Bast quipped on Twitter: “At least they didn’t just steal ‘em, eh #Gleick #fakegate?”
■ Hockenberry often stated that skeptics are challenging “climate science.” Wrong. We are challenging the idea that “consensus” is meaningful in a scientific debate, and we are challenging the faulty methods and conclusions of many alarmist scientists. This should not be remotely controversial, and has been the theme of all seven of our international conferences on climate change.
■ Finally, Hockenberry called support of free markets an “ideology.” Really? I thought that was called “America.” Climate alarmism could be used as a dictionary definition of “ideology.”
If you watched the program, leave your thoughts in the comments. If you’re only here to insult Heartland, toss around the slur “denier,” and other calumnies, save your fingers the work for another blog that traffics in that nonsense.
There are many serious, and obvious, biases in the program. Did anyone else note how they allowed alarmists to answer skeptics’ claims, but never vice versa? Or how about all the info about skeptics’ funding sources but nothing about the thousand times more funding of alarmists? Or the assertion that the purpose of the skeptics’ funding was “to confuse the issue” (the science is confusing and the skeptics are right to point that out). Or the sneaky analogies to tobacco, which has nothing to do with the issue. Or silly statements like “the scientific community says”. Or the bogus 97% consensus issue. Etc., Etc. What a disgrace, PBS.