FBN fails to disclose climate-change skeptic's position in industry-funded organization

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER & ZACHARY PLEAT

Stuart Varney interviewed former Sen. Harrison Schmitt to discuss whether "[g]lobal warming is real" but did not disclose that Schmitt is chairman emeritus of The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, an organization funded by ExxonMobil.

On June 2, Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney interviewed former Sen. Harrison Schmitt (R-NM) to discuss whether "[g]lobal warming is real." During the segment, Schmitt said that "[t]he CO2 scare is a red herring" and claimed that "the CO2 that is being emitted right now not only has no known negative effects, it has many positive effects, particularly for plant life." At no point during the segment did Varney -- who introduced Schmitt as "a former NASA astronaut, one-term senator, respected geologist" -- disclose that Schmitt is chairman emeritus of The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, an organization funded by ExxonMobil, according to Exxon's own corporate giving reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

According to Exxon's reports, ExxonMobil gave The Annapolis Center $105,000 each year in 2006, 2007, and 2008. According to its IRS Form 990s (retrieved from the GuideStar database), The Annapolis Center had total revenues of $524,655 in fiscal 2006 and $381,294 in fiscal 2007.

Moreover, a January 2007 UCS report on how ExxonMobil "has funneled about $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of ideological and advocacy organizations that manufacture uncertainty on the issue" of global warming stated that "The Annapolis Center's climate work includ[ed] production of materials exaggerating the uncertainty about the human contribution to climate change." The report, citing ExxonMobil's corporate giving reports, found that it had given The Annapolis Center $763,500 between 1998 and 2005.

During the segment, Schmitt claimed that "the CO2 that is being emitted right now not only has no known negative effects, it has many positive effects, particularly for plant life." But experts do not argue that carbon dioxide as a natural gas is inherently harmful. Rather, they point to the danger posed to the atmosphere by excessive discharges of CO2. As the Natural Resources Defense Council noted:

[A] pollutant is a substance that causes harm when present in excessive amounts. CO2 has been in the atmosphere since life on earth began, and in the right amounts CO2 is important for making the earth hospitable for continued life. But when too much CO2 is put into the atmosphere, it becomes harmful. We have long recognized this fact for other pollutants. For example, phosphorus is a valuable fertilizer, but in excess, it can kill lakes and streams by clogging them with a blanket of algae.

Schmitt also stated during the segment that levels of CO2 have been "much higher in the past." But scientists blame the current CO2 levels in the atmosphere on human activities, not natural variation. According the 2007 "Synthesis Report" by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years. Global increases in CO2 concentrations are due primarily to fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution." Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency, states that "Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700's, human activities, such as the burning of oil, coal and gas, and deforestation, have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. In 2005, global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 35% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution."

The 2007 IPCC report also stated: "Global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004." It further explained, "Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important anthropogenic GHG. Its annual emissions have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80%, from 21 to 38 gigatonnes (Gt), and represented 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004."

From the June 2 edition of Fox Business Network's Fox Business:

VARNEY: You ever noticed that we're constantly told the science is in? Global warming is real. Human beings, they're causing it. However, our next guest is skeptical. Now, he is a former NASA astronaut, one-term senator, respected geologist. This man has walked on the moon.

We're very pleased to welcome on the program Harrison Schmitt. Sir, welcome to the program. It's an honor to have you with us.

SCHMITT: Well, it's great to be here, Stuart. Thank you.

VARNEY: Now you've heard the same as I've heard -- I've done countless environmentalist interviews on this program, they always tell me the same thing: The science is in. Global warming is real. CO2s are up. We are warming up the planet, and it's our fault. Do you hold a counter position?

SCHMITT: Well, the CO2 scare is a red herring, Stuart. CO2 has been increasing gradually for some time. Temperature has been increasing by about a half a degree per century since the -- 1660, the depth of the Little Ice Age. And there's nothing in the data -- and I speak for observationalists everywhere, not modelers, but observationalists -- there's nothing in the data that indicates that the current rise in CO2 has anything to do with that very slow temperature rise that has been going on for centuries.

VARNEY: But the --

SCHMITT: Indeed, most of that CO2 is probably coming out of the oceans.

VARNEY: But that is an accurate statement, isn't it? That CO2 levels have risen to record levels, certainly within the last few millennia. That's where the science truly is --

SCHMITT: No, no, no, no, no. That --

VARNEY: OK.

SCHMITT: That is not an accurate statement. CO2 is at about 385 parts per million right now, but it has been much higher in the past. No question about that.

VARNEY: OK. Now are we going to get cap and trade based on this concept of global warming, CO2 emissions, and the science is in? We gonna get cap and trade based on that?

SCHMITT: Well, I have no idea what the politicians will eventually do. When they start to realize that the American people are not behind them in this more properly termed cap-and-tax initiative that is currently before the Congress and is being pushed by the administration, I think they will start to back off from it because their next election will depend on it. We unfortunately have career politicians and they -- on the good side of that is that they will recognize when they can't get elected.

VARNEY: Do you think there is any need to restrict CO2 emissions?

SCHMITT: I don't think so. I think you ought to be prudent and increase efficiency, which in turn will reduce CO2. But the CO2 that is being emitted right now not only has no known negative effects, it has many positive effects, particularly for plant life.

VARNEY: Now they keep coming at me and saying, "Well, what about the polar ice caps? The ice is melting. The polar bears are in danger."

SCHMITT: Well --

VARNEY: But, I mean -- I don't mean to joke about it, but the ice is melting. They say that is reality; that's because of global warming.

SCHMITT: Well, actually, the reality is now that since 2006, the Greenland glaciers have been advancing, and as of this last winter, the polarized cap was back at 80 -- at 1989 levels. So, it's a cycle.

These -- the -- it's decadal cycles on this very gradual warming trend that has been going on for centuries. It is important to recognize that we're dealing with natural forces here, and anything that we try to do to deal with that through a cap-and-tax program or anything else is just going to result in a loss of liberty for the American people and a loss of available discretionary resources.

VARNEY: Harrison Schmitt, walked on the moon, former senator, geologist, we thank you very much for imparting your wisdom with us today. We appreciate that, sir. Thank you.

SCHMITT: Well, thank you for the invitation.

Zachary Pleat is an intern at Media Matters for America.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Fox Business
Person
Stuart Varney
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