Ignoring scientific consensus, 9News uncritically reported senator's claim that "we don't know" what causes global warming

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Reporting on a local environmental group's findings regarding global warming, KUSA 9News quoted Senate Minority Leader Andrew McElhany's (R-Colorado Springs) remark that "we don't know ... what the cause [of global warming] is." However, 9News failed to report that there is broad scientific consensus linking human activity to a rise in global temperatures.

During a July 25 segment about the release of a report on global warming by a local environmental advocacy group, KUSA 9News reported the remarks of Colorado Senate Minority Leader Andrew McElhany (R-Colorado Springs), who said of the increase in Denver area temperatures, "What we don't know is what the cause is, whether it's human-caused or whether it's solar activity." The report, however, did not mention the widely held scientific consensus that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming of the Earth.

The report also quoted McElhany's comment that "[w]e also know that the Earth has warmed and cooled for eons, to temperatures that are much more extreme than what we have today." While 9News also included a statement from Environment Colorado executive director Matt Baker regarding his group's findings, the report failed to point out that thousands of scientists as well as scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) share the consensus view linking human activity to global warming, as Colorado Media Matters has noted on numerous occasions (here, here, and here).

Regarding McElhany's statement that "we don't know" if "solar activity" is a current cause of global warming, the IPCC found in examining whether changes in solar activity might be responsible for recent warming a "rise in solar forcing during the early decades of the 20th century" but not in later decades, as Colorado Media Matters has noted. According to the IPCC, "Such a forcing history is unlikely to explain the recent acceleration in surface warming, even if amplified by some unknown feedback mechanism."

From the July 25 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 6 p.m.:

ADELE ARAKAWA (co-anchor): A new report shows global warming impacting Colorado and the Rocky Mountains far more than the rest of the country. The Environment Colorado study says the metro area's average temperature last year was nearly four degrees higher than normal. The group attributes that to increased carbon emissions from power plants and cars. It argues people can reverse climate change, but skeptics wonder if that's really possible.

[begin video clip]

MATT BAKER (Environment Colorado): Twenty years ago in Colorado, very few people had air conditioners. Now every new house that's built has air conditioners, and that's because our summers are getting hotter. And that's a trend that's, has been happening, and it's going to continue to happen.

SEN. ANDREW McELHANY (R-Colorado Springs): What we don't know is what the cause is, whether it's human-caused or whether it's solar activity. We also know that the Earth has warmed and cooled for eons, to temperatures that are much more extreme than what we have today.

[end video clip]

ARAKAWA: Environment Colorado will deliver the report to state legislators, specifically looking for a commitment to cut carbon emissions in Colorado by 30 percent over the next decade.

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