More on Newsweek

by Myron Ebell on August 6, 2007 · 4 comments

in Global Warming

Newsweek‘s cover story this week is a long opinion piece on “Global Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine,” written by Sharon Begley with the assistance of Eve Conant, Sam Stein, Eleanor Clift, and Matthew Philips. The thesis is that political action to address global warming has been stymied by a mighty global warming denial machine.

CEI, of course, is a prominent part of this alleged effort, and so we were contacted by one of the contributors. It’s perhaps illustrative of the sloppiness of the whole piece that the story gets details wrong which I discussed with the contributor. The story says that in 2001, I rang Robert Novak as soon as we heard that President Bush in his address to Congress might call for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. As I told the Newsweek researcher, CEI President Fred Smith rushed off to ring Novak and others who might want to investigate this rumor.

That’s just a small detail, but there are many others. For example, in the next paragraph the story claims that, “Bush not only disavowed his campaign pledge. In March (2001), he withdrew from the Kyoto treaty.” I wish he had, but he didn’t. He did just what President Clinton had done: He declined to send the treaty to the Senate for ratification. It’s too bad he didn’t send Kyoto to the Senate. It would have been defeated overwhelmingly — and still would be today.

On top of all the factual errors, the thesis is ridiculous. The idea that those opposed to global warming alarmism are well funded is easily disproved. Begley and her crew could have spent 10 minutes on the web comparing the annual budgets of the alarmist groups with the anti-alarmist groups. CEI has one of the larger efforts on our side, which amounts to less than one quarter of our annual four million dollar budget. Grist, the online environmental news and opinion outlet, this year quoted an unpublished foundation study that estimated that the alarmist groups have been spending $100-150 million a year to promote their cause. That’s not counting all the free media coverage and promotion or the outlandish scaremongering of scientists like James Hansen of NASA.

The reason that Begley can regurgitate propaganda as if it were established fact is because the alarmists’ megaphone is so large and ours is so small. As several Hill staffers have told me, Members of Congress have to be uncommonly brave to resist the global warming bandwagon because the alarmist message is pounded into them. Back home, their constituents are swayed by multimillion dollar advertising campaigns, which are echoed by Newsweek, Time, CBS, ABC, etc.

It would be nice to assume that Begley and her crew have been victims of the alarmists’ propaganda machine. But Newsweek, like Time, has a long history of promoting the party line. They are not victims, but willing collaborators in the Big Lie. The fine scientists and principled public figures trashed in this Newsweek article are right to be outraged. I should be too, but I find the alarmist fellow travelers in the media are more pathetic than reprehensible and consequently hard to get worked up about.

Michael Balsam August 6, 2007 at 4:34 pm

The CEI is the best.!!! We need more organizations like this one. Love the tagline in the videos… "They call it pollution, we call it life." keep up the great work.

Scott Plouse August 8, 2007 at 8:34 am

Thank you – and others like you – for fighting the fight. Please understand that I'm an environmentalist, but I've seen too many instances where environmental-hystericism has resulted in laws and policies which have had a negative effect on the environment (along with numerous harmful unintended – and unforeseen – consequences). Indeed, the list of "Things You Can Do" at the end of Al Gore's little movie read like an environmentalist's nightmare. Almost everything he proposes, from ethanol to compact flourescent bulbs, will be worse for the environment (not to mention the economy) than the putative effects of CO2 build-up. The fact is that we cannot change the effects of sunspots (or lack thereof), so we have created a bogeyman ("greenhouse gases") which we delude ourselves into thinking we can control, without regard to the disasters inherent in the plans to control it. It's a sad day that "enterprise institutes" have to save environmentalists from themselves, but that is the case with the current "global warming" scare.

Erica Smith August 8, 2007 at 9:13 am

I cannot believe that you are spreading such lies to people that global warming is not an issue currently facing the earth. Your ads don't seem to discuss the point that, yes, humans and other living creatures do breathe out carbon dioxide and trees need it to produce oxygen, but this is kept in balance. It is all the additional carbon dioxide produced by the business industries that is throwing this balance off and creating environmental problems around the world. Instead of trying to hinder progress why doesn't your organization help free enterprise to evolve in ways that will allow them to increase production in a way that is safer for the environment. The funny thing is that your ads are merely propaganda and don't even try to show the alternatives possible in exchange for carbon dioxide. If you are going to show these kinds of ads then you should do it in a way that might be more persuasive by showing both sides of the story.

Lene Johansen August 9, 2007 at 11:50 pm

Erica, no one is denying that humans and other living creatures breathe out carbon, that would be a preposterous denial of scientific fact.

The first question is what, if anything, we should do to ameliorate the effects of the current short term fluctuations in the climate right now.

It is only 200 years ago that a little ice age forced a lot of my countrymen to emigrate to the US, because the climate preventet Norwegians to harvest enough crops to feed everyone. Historically we also know that periods of warming leads to a blossoming of human endeavors, such as art and industry. You might want to check out Brian Fagen's books for starters.

Sometimes the best course of action public policy wise is to not act at all, or as one of my professors succinctly put it: "Don't just do something! Stand there!"

The second question is whether we ought to slow down this public relations campaign that is going on right now, which is a carbon copy, pardon the pun, of a similar campaign in Europe in the 1980's. We were about a decade away from disaster back then too, and well, it did not come to pass, because here we are, 20 years later and still alive and kicking.

No lies are being spread, but there is an honest difference in opinion in what ought to be done. Browbeating does not create a constructive dialogue that explores that difference in opinion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: