CNN Gives Climate Change Denial A PlatformDecember 5, 2012 10:08 AM EST ››› SHAUNA THEEL
UPDATE: In a blog highlighting the segment, CNN claims it invited "a pair of experts" to discuss climate change, without noting that Morano has no scientific expertise. The blog says Morano "presented an alternate theory regarding the impact, and concern, associated with carbon dioxide,"ignoring that the vast majority of scientists agree that carbon dioxide emissions are driving global warming and that the public should be worried about the impacts of it.
CNN anchor Piers Morgan hosted a "debate" on climate science between Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and professional climate misinformer Marc Morano. As Morano spewed myths about climate change, CNN failed to disclose that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization.
Offering two "viewpoints" about temperature data and suggesting that scientific facts are up for "debate" is misleading in and of itself. During the segment, Morano claimed that we "have gone 16 years without global warming according to UN data." Nye pushed back, saying "This will be the hottest two decades in history, in recorded history. So when you throw around a statement like the UN says it's not the hottest 20 years, I got to disagree with you." But the audience was left unaware that Morano was highlighting a short time period to obscure the overall warming trend, as illustrated by this chart from Skeptical Science:
If the role of the media is to inform its audience, anchors must recognize how people are informed and misinformed. When people are repeatedly exposed to a myth, it becomes more familiar and they are more likely to believe it. By giving Morano a platform to claim that average temperatures have not warmed in nearly 20 years, Morgan enabled him to familiarize CNN's audience with climate myths.
It's not surprising that Morano seized the opportunity to spread confusion about climate change. Morano is paid over $150,000 by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, an organization that has received funding from oil companies.* As New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin explained, "industry-funded groups have used the media's tradition of quoting people with competing views to convey a state of confusion even as consensus on warming has built." Morano has promoted extreme attacks on climate scientists and those that accept global warming. His website often publishes the email addresses of scientists, leading to a barrage of hate mail, and he defended a billboard campaign comparing those who accept climate science to the Unabomber, saying it was "edgy."
While Morgan tried to pin down Morano to acknowledge certain facts -- that the earth is warming and the vast majority of climate scientists agree that burning fossil fuels is the major cause of this warming -- Morano seemed to be stuck in an alternate universe, making the on-air exercise a waste of time. Or as Nye concluded at the end of the segment, "We just don't agree on facts. So we aren't getting anywhere."
*This post has been updated to include Morano's salary.