FOX News Misled Viewers on Climate Science, Says CSPP
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says that before airing an hour-long special, titled "The Heat Is On: The Case of Global Warming," the FOX News Channel informed its viewers they were about to be misinformed on the science of global warming, and then proceeded to do just that. Said Robert Ferguson, Executive Director for CSPP, "Presenter Rick Folbaum and a cast of mostly non-scientists, celebrities and lawyers employed a transparent form of deception: telling only one side of a story or situation with intent to mislead. Worse, the side they did present wasn't even scientifically credible itself." In short, FOX perpetuated a recent pattern of those claiming the backing of science in advancing alarming claims which have little to no basis in fact. Just how unscientific was FOX? CSPP researchers offered a few representative examples. Claim: Warming is responsible for the increased incidents of Lyme disease. Science: Fabrication. Leading specialists have found the opposite to be true: "Mean temperatures show weak and inconsistent correlations with incidence." Incidents are instead related to New England farmlands returning to forests near homes, creating "edge habitat" and an explosion in deer populations which carry the black-leg tick. Lyme disease is not a problem in the warmer Southern states. Claim: Warming is responsible for the recent appearance of a Great White shark in Alaskan waters. Science: Fabrication. Great Whites (Carcharadon carcharias) are endothermic - able to elevate their body temperature above that of the surrounding water. They can tolerate a broad temperature range, providing them access to prey (primarily coastal pinnipeds) over a wide ecological niche -- including sub-artic Alaskan waters. They have long been observed along the U.S. coastline from California to Alaska. Claim: Warming is responsible for malarial outbreaks. Science: False. Not a single instance is supported by evidence in the peer-reviewed literature. Studies have shown no relation between climate (periodic ups and downs) and malaria incidence, but lots of evidence for drug resistance, cessation of use of insecticides like DDT, movements of people from malaria-burdened lowlands, etc. Until the second half of the 20th century, malaria was endemic in the U.S. and widespread in many temperate regions, with major epidemics as far north as the Arctic Circle. Claim: 2003 European heat wave was responsible for many deaths. Science: Half-truth. Lack of adaptation and government policies were primary causes of deaths. It is the rare, unexpected heat wave that often kills. Where heat waves are more common, populations adapt. For example, the heat experienced in Europe in 2003 was far less severe than normal summer conditions experienced by residents of Phoenix, Arizona or Las Vegas, Nevada. Adaptations such as wide availability of air-conditioned homes, businesses and shelters are made possible by access to relatively inexpensive electricity - something made more cost-prohibitive by some European energy policies. Claim: Warming is causing worldwide loss of coral reefs. Science: Exaggeration. Two marine biologists have recently concluded that from 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, extratropical North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were 2-3 degrees C warmer than at present and coral reefs flourished. They reported that the fossil record clearly demonstrates the ability of corals to expand their ranges poleward in response to global warming and to "reconstitute reef communities in the face of rapid environmental change." In fact, they report that coral range expansions are occurring today, noting that "there is mounting evidence that coral species are responding to recent patterns of increased SSTs by expanding their latitudinal ranges." Claim: Alaska's Herbert Glacier and Montana's Glacier National Park are melting. Science: Natural process, not man-caused. A recent 300-year study of Glacier Park found that glaciers have advanced and retreated repeatedly, and not in sync with variable greenhouse gas levels. Another study found Alaskan glaciers have had periods of advance and retreat for the last 700 years at least. A researcher at the University of Alaska Southeast reports that about 800 years ago Herbert Glacier (featured by FOX) retreated miles back into its valley enough for a forest to grow, and then it advanced and receded again, and then advanced. Now it's again receding. There were no SUVs or power plants 800 years ago. Claim: Warming is melting in the Antarctic and will contribute to sea level rise and flooding of coastal areas. Science: Wrong. A robust literature shows that during the period of time FOX's "experts" claim the planet experienced the warmest temperatures of the past two millennia, Antarctica experienced a net buildup of ice that actually removed water from the earth's oceans. Claim: Warming is melting Greenland ice sheets and raising sea levels. Science: The rest of the story. FOX pointed to the melting and thinning of ice in the coastal areas of Greenland. However, opposite changes are occurring in the much larger interior ice sheet. A Norwegian-led team of scientists studying an 11-year period (1992-2003) of Greenland ice sheet activity reports that "below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is -2.0 +/- 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice- sheet margins," but that "an increase of 6.4 +/- 0.2 cm/year is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters." Spatially averaged over the bulk of the ice sheet, the net result is a mean increase of 5.4 +/- 0.2 cm/year, "or approximately 6.0 cm over 11 years. The Greenland Ice Sheet has not been wasting away, but has been growing at a very respectable rate. This increase, like the one in Antarctic, is removing water from the oceans. "One could scientifically dispute nearly every claim made in the FOX program," said Ferguson, "but the public never had the opportunity to hear it." Concluded Ferguson, "If a trial judge allowed only the prosecution's case, and then told the jury to form their verdict on that testimony alone, would such be 'fair and balanced?' Apparently Mr. Folbaum and FOX believe so." (Note: A version of this release with references and informative graphics can been viewed at: http://www.ff.org/centers/csspp/misc/press1/co2/20051118.pdf) http://www.scienceandpolicy.org
SOURCE Center for Science and Public Policy
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