FOX News Misled Viewers on Climate Science, Says CSPP

Nov 21, 2005, 00:00 ET from Center for Science and Public Policy

    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
     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
     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
     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:

SOURCE Center for Science and Public Policy