A CNN press release declared that Glenn Beck's upcoming "special report" will "deflate what Beck perceives as the media hype surrounding global warming" and "question the accuracy of Al Gore's claims in the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth." Beck has repeatedly advanced falsehoods related to global climate change, cited debunked scientists to support his doubts that "we're causing" global warming, and regularly attacked Gore.
During the May 2 edition of his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck will air an hour-long "special report" titled "Exposed: Climate of Fear" that, according to an April 30 CNN press release, will "deflate what Beck perceives as the media hype surrounding global warming" and "question the accuracy of Al Gore's claims in the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth of 20-foot sea level rises and the disastrous effects of increased carbon dioxide levels." As Media Matters for America has noted, Beck has repeatedly advanced falsehoods related to global climate change, cited debunked scientists to support his doubts that "we're causing" global warming and developed a pattern of attacking Gore.
Most recently, on the April 30 edition of nationally syndicated radio show, Beck falsely claimed that "even the U.N. says" Gore is wrong in suggesting sea levels could rise by 20 feet. He went on to liken Gore's climate change awareness campaign to the tactics Hitler used in "rounding up the Jews and exterminating them."
Climate change is a frequent topic on Beck's CNN Headline News show, but a Media Matters search* has found that since the show's inception, Beck has apparently hosted guests who appear to accept the consensus among the scientific community relating to global warming on just two occasions -- compared with at least 17 appearances by guests who have challenged to various degrees the scientific consensus on global warming.
Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented criticism of the claim in Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth (Rodale Books, May 2006), that if the West Antarctic ice shelf "melted or slipped off its island mooring into the sea, it would raise sea levels worldwide by 20 feet ... Interestingly, the West Antarctic ice shelf is virtually identical in size and mass to the Greenland ice dome, which also would raise sea levels worldwide by 20 feet if it melted or broke up and slipped into the sea." Gore made the same claim in his documentary:
GORE: If [the West Antarctic ice shelf] were to go, sea level worldwide would go up 20 feet. They've measured disturbing changes on the underside of the ice sheet. It's considered relatively more stable, however, than another big body of ice that's roughly the same size -- Greenland would also raise sea level almost 20 feet if it went.
On the April 30 edition of his radio program, Beck denounced Gore's sea level claim, falsely stating that "even the U.N. says that's not true":
BECK: I mean, they are they were telling us things in Al Gore's global warming special that are not true. That the seas will rise 20 feet -- even the U.N. says that's not true. So you got to have the fear, we're all going to die.
Criticism of Gore's assertion about rising sea levels was highlighted by a March 13 New York Times article in which science writer William J. Broad set up a false comparison, suggesting that the 2007 report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which "estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches," contradicted Gore's claim, "citing no particular time frame," that seas could rise "up to 20 feet." But the IPCC projection to which Broad was referring involved rising sea levels as they are affected before 2100 by "[c]ontinued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates" -- not the melting or breakup of the West Antarctic ice shelf or the Greenland ice dome at an indeterminate point in the future.
A chart projecting the rise of sea levels in six different scenarios showed that "the best estimate for the high scenario," which defined the "likely range" of temperature increases over the next century to be from "2.4°C to 6.4°C," resulting in an increase in sea levels between 0.26 meters and 0.59 meters, which converts to a range of 10.24 to 23.23 inches. But the IPCC further stated that "[c]ontraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100" and that "[i]f a negative surface mass balance were sustained for millennia, that would lead to virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m," which is equivalent to approximately 23 feet. Broad's apples-to-oranges comparison on sea levels was noted by Bob Somerby on his weblog, The Daily Howler.
In addition, Media Matters noted that University of Arizona professor Jonathan Overpeck's 2006 study, which predates the IPCC report, concluded that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are "on track" to melt at a quicker rate than previously expected, which, according to Overpeck, could lead to a sea level rise of 13 to 20 feet in the future. From a March 23, 2006, University of Arizona News article on Overpeck's findings:
The Earth's warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet, according to new research.
If the current warming trends continue, by 2100 the Earth will likely be at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than present, with the Arctic at least as warm as it was nearly 130,000 years ago. At that time, significant portions of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets melted, resulting in a sea level about 20 feet (six meters) higher than present day.
Although ice sheet disintegration and the subsequent sea level rise lags behind rising temperatures, the process will become irreversible sometime in the second half of the 21st century, Overpeck said, "unless something is done to dramatically reduce human emissions of greenhouse gas pollution.
"We need to start serious measures to reduce greenhouse gases within the next decade. If we don't do something soon, we're committed to four-to-six meters (13 to 20 feet) of sea level rise in the future."
Beck's global warming panelists
In promoting his special, Beck has repeatedly claimed, as he did during the April 26 edition of Glenn Beck, that "there are two sides to every debate, and you're not getting the other side on the story." Beck stated that his special would look at "the flip side of global warming," presumably focusing on those skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change. Yet, a Media Matters for America review* has found that it is Beck who is not showing his viewers "the other side" of the debate -- that of the mainstream scientific community. Since his TV show began in May 2006, Beck has hosted guests that challenge various aspects of the scientific consensus on global warming at least 17 different times. By comparison, a Media Matters search of Beck's television show has found that he apparently has hosted -- on only two occasions -- guests who appear to accept the consensus among the scientific community relating to global warming. For instance:
- Martin Durkin, director of the documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle that aired in March on the UK's Channel 4 and, according to Beck, is "very similar" to his own "Exposed: Climate of Fear." The documentary's website states that Durkin's film "brings together the arguments of leading scientists who disagree with the prevailing consensus that carbon dioxide released by human industrial activity is the cause of rising global temperatures today." An April 25 article in the UK's Scotsman reported that the film is "under fire" for claiming "that the world was hotter during the 'Medieval Warm Period' based on a graph that ended in 1975, and that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than humans. According to one study, volcanoes produce about 2 per cent of the emissions from human use of fossil fuels." A 2000 article from The Guardian noted that Durkin made a film in 1999 which argued that silicone implants reduce the incidence of breast cancer, as well as a 1997 Channel 4 series called "Against Nature" that, according to The Guardian, "compared environmentalists ... to Nazis, conspiring against the world's poor" and caused the UK's Independent Television Commission to:
hand down one of the most damning verdicts it has ever reached: the programme makers "distorted by selective editing" the views of the interviewees and "misled" them about the "content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part". Channel 4 was forced to make a humiliating prime time apology.
Durkin appeared on the April 30 edition of Beck's program to discuss his documentary and the criticism it has received in the UK. During his appearance, the filmmaker proclaimed, "Oh, the recycling thing has just gone crazy. There's a kind of -- I suppose once you've got the end of the world hovering over the horizon, it's an excuse for doing almost everything." Beck later asked Durkin: "We're doing our special on global warming this week. How much trouble are we in, do you suppose? What should I expect after airing a documentary very similar to yours?" Durkin replied: "Oh, welcome to Hell."
- Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR), an anti-environmental group that has reportedly joined the "Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change," an organization that calls itself "a response to the many biased and alarmist claims about human-induced climate change, which are being used to justify calls for urgent action by governments." Johnson appeared on the May 1 edition of Glenn Beck to repeat the TCPR's misleading and unsubstantiated claim that in 2006 Al Gore's Nashville mansion consumed nearly than 221,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, which Johnson says is "about 20 times more energy than the average American." The TCPR first made its allegation against Gore in a February 2007 press release that, as Media Matters repeatedly documented, omitted steps that Gore has reportedly taken to reduce the effect of his home energy usage. Moreover, a February 27 Associated Press article questioned TCPR's assertion that the Gores used more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006. The AP reported that "according to bills [it] reviewed," "[t]he Gores used about 191,000 kilowatt hours in 2006," while TCPR "said that Gore used nearly 221,000 kilowatt hours." The AP reported that Johnson "said his group got its figures from Nashville Electric Service. But company spokeswoman Laurie Parker said the utility never received a request from the policy center and never gave it any information."
- Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK): Beck has hosted Inhofe, who, as Media Matters has documented, once falsely stated "[i]t was warmer in the '30s than it is today" and, in 2003, called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Most recently, on the March 22 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck allowed Inhofe to distort Gore's response to a challenge Inhofe made of him during his March 21 appearance before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Inhofe noted that he asked Gore at the Senate hearing to sign a pledge requiring that his Tennessee residence consume no more energy than the average U.S. household. Inhofe's pledge stems from allegations that the Gores used more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006. Inhofe told Beck: "I said, 'Are you ready to change the way you live, 'cause you're consuming 20 times the amount of energy?' and he would not respond to it. I asked him three times if you go back and review the tape." In fact, as Media Matters for America repeatedly noted, Gore did not explicitly answer with a yes or no to Inhofe's question. Gore said that he and his family "purchase wind energy and other green energy that does not produce carbon dioxide," but Inhofe interrupted him six times.
- Chris Horner: Horner, counsel for the energy industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and author of the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism) (Regnery, February 2007), has appeared on Beck on at least three separate occasions to attack the "hysterical movement" of environmental activists warning of the threats of global warming (April 23, April 5, and March 21). For instance, during the April 5 edition of Beck's television program, Horner declared Gore's film to be "pure science fiction," and, among other things, pushed the misleading claim that that "it'll be almost 10 years since we've experienced any warming," and that "it hasn't warmed since 1998." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to NASA, 1998 was a particularly warm year because "a strong El Nino, a warm water event in the eastern Pacific Ocean, added warmth to global temperatures." Despite the temperature spike that occurred in 1998, the Climatic Research Unit's Global Temperature Record and a surface temperature analysis of 2006 by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show a general warming trend since 1970. Moreover, a February 2007 NASA Earth Observatory news release states, "By the early 1980s, temperatures surpassed those of the 1940s and, despite ups and downs from year to year, they continued rising beyond the year 2000."
- Bjorn Lomborg: Beck has also hosted Bjorn Lomborg on at least two occasions (January 17 and September 21, 2006). As Media Matters has noted, Lomborg is a "political scientist" at the Copenhagen Business School who purported to conduct a "non-partisan analysis" of environmental data in the hope of offering the public and policymakers a guide for "clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems." His conclusion was that the concerns of scientists regarding the world's environmental problems -- including global warming -- were overblown. But in January 2002, Scientific American ran a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists that lambasted Lomborg's book for "egregious distortions," "elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit," and sections that were "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes." Lomborg has repeatedly attacked Gore's documentary and, as Media Matters documented used a false comparison to suggest that the IPCC "fundamentally rejects" Gore's claim that the world's sea-level could rise 20 feet as a result of warming.
- Mike Huckabee: A Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor, Huckabee was a guest on the April 25 edition of Glenn Beck. In response to Beck's question about whether "global warming" was "real" or "not," Huckabee replied that as "a Christian" he "think[s] we ought to take good care of the Earth. ... But as far as blaming human beings for enjoying the environment, that's a little bit extreme."
- Darrell Ankarlo: Beck hosted Ankarlo, a Phoenix radio host, to discuss global warming, among other things, on the April 23 edition of his television show. Ankarlo accused Gore of "creating these myths surrounding, you know, our global problem" and claimed Gore was "using" global warming "to gear up for an elections process in '08." Ankarlo did not specify what "myths" Gore was "creating" about global warming.
- Don Easterbrook: On the March 13 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck had on geology professor Easterbrook to argue that carbon dioxide is not "the cause of global warming." As Media Matters has documented, Easterbrook has predicted global cooling between 2065 and 2100 and denies that human-produced carbon dioxide has contributed to global warming over the past century.
- Patrick Michaels: On the same program as Easterbrook's appearance, Beck hosted Michaels, a Cato Institute senior fellow, to cast doubt on global warming. For his part, Michaels advanced the misleading claim that Gore "exaggerated" claims about rising sea levels due to global warming and claimed the U.N. "specifically [said] that there is no basis in the scientific literature existing at this time for these claims of massive sea level rise."
- James Spann: Spann, a meteorologist who does not believe that human activity is contributing significantly to global warming, was a guest on the January 22 edition of Glenn Beck. During his appearance, Spann claimed "the earth's climate has changed since the day God put it here. We have had these cyclical changes, and I believe that most of this is purely natural. ... So in our (meteorologists) opinion, a large part of this is not manmade. It's natural."
- Richard Lindzen: A Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, Lindzen has falsely claimed that "there is no agreement that the warming we've seen is due to man." Lindzen has also understated the extent of warming that has occurred and the level of scientific certainty that man has contributed to that warming. In a July 2, 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Lindzen accused Gore of "shrill alarmism." During his May 26, 2006, appearance on Glenn Beck, he agreed with Beck's false claim that in the last century "temperatures here in America" are "pretty much flat," responding: "Well, yes, as far as we can tell."
By contrast, Beck appears to have hosted only two individuals, each of whom appeared once, who discussed global warming and appeared to agree with the scientific consensus. Most recently, on March 8, Beck hosted Matt Prescott of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); while not explicitly supporting or denying global warming in a discussion of a PETA letter that called on Gore to "act as a role model in the fight against global warming and becoming personally a vegetarian," Prescott stated that activists would do more good for the environment by becoming vegetarian and that it is a "pretty big problem" that Gore does not "suggest to people the fact the going vegetarian, simply just cutting the meat out of your diet, is the best way to help your environment." Prescott argued that becoming a vegetarian is "the most accessible way and the most effective way to help curtail global warming." In addition, on the March 2 edition of his television show, Beck hosted Tom Arnold, chief environmental officer for TerraPass, who discussed the merits of purchasing carbon offsets to reduce one's "carbon footprint."
Previous attacks on Gore
- On the March 22 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck likened Gore to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels for Gore's statement, during his testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, that he would initiate a "mass persuasion campaign" to urge Congress to act on climate change.
- On the June 7, 2006, broadcast of his radio program, Beck compared An Inconvenient Truth to Nazi propaganda. Beck dismissed many of the conclusions drawn from the documentary, stating, "[W]hen you take a little bit of truth and then you mix it with untruth, or your theory, that's where you get people to believe. ... It's like Hitler. Hitler said a little bit of truth, and then he mixed in 'and it's the Jews' fault.' That's where things get a little troublesome, and that's exactly what's happening" in An Inconvenient Truth.
- On the July 12, 2006, edition of Glenn Beck, Beck cited recent violence in the Middle East and India as evidence that "we've got World War III to fight," while also warning of "the impending apocalypse." Beck added that President Bush is facing the threat "by himself," while Gore is more concerned with the fact that "[t]he ice is starting to melt in Greenland."
- On the February 27 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck asserted that Gore "has a huge carbon footprint" and said that "the Gores paid almost $30,000 in gas and electric in 2006." Beck did not report any of Gore's reported efforts, which according to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, include the Gores' use of "renewable sources" from the "Green Power Switch" program "actually costs more for the Gores."
- On the June 15, 2006, edition of his radio show, after airing a clip from An Inconvenient Truth in which Gore describes that global warming could cause many highly populated coastal areas to be submerged by seawater -- including the entire city of Shanghai -- Beck responded: "This is what would happen to Shanghai. Does anybody really care? I mean, come on. Shanghai is under water. Oh, no! Who's gonna make those little umbrellas for those tropical drinks?"