PBS NewsHour: Climate Central a “research organization”; Sorry, no. They advocate solving man-caused global warming [see 2/21/13 update below]

Sea level rise induced by man-caused global warming being a trendy topic lately, the PBS NewsHour couldn’t resist airing a report about it. Problem is, their guest was from the same place that has Heidi Cullen on staff, along with a global warming activist writer, an Obama NOAA administrator having long-ago ties to anti-skeptic efforts, and it formerly had an IPCC-associated founding director who’s now been almost scrubbed out of existence there.

The NewsHour report invited Climate Central’s Ben Strauss to appear last Wednesday, in a segment titled “Report: NYC, Southern Calif. Among Big Targets of Accelerating Sea Level Rise“. The organization is twice labeled as a “research organization” in the segment’s online transcript page. The page invites readers to click on a link which ultimately takes them to Climate Central’s interactive “Surging Seas” companion site, not their main one. Readers who haven’t heard of Climate Central might think that’s all there is, and might miss an opportunity to learn more about them by clicking on the Climate Central logo at the bottom left of the page.

Let’s just take a brief look at a few of the people at Climate Central.

First, there’s Heidi Cullen, formerly of The Weather Channel. While at her prior job, she said this after quoting Washington Post journalist Andrew Freedman’s points about an American Meteorological Society statement on ‘human activities becoming a major agent of climate change’ (back-up link here, boldface added):

If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming…. If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval.

(In case there is any doubt about her views on the issue, she is seen as a “global warming messenger” in the 2007 “Everthing’s Cool” film, along with anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan. JunkScience has already covered Gelbspan’s myriad faults regarding his accusation against skeptic scientists here and here.)

Next at Climate Central is the same Andrew Freedman that Cullen quotes. In case there is any doubt about Freedman’s views, he offers this gem at his 2010 Climate Central blog “Unmasking Disinformation, from Tobacco to Climate“, which originated out of his 6/9/10 WashPo blog:

It’s no secret that many climate skeptics have ties to the fossil fuel industry… This has been explored in numerous books, most notably in Ross Gelbspan’s “The Heat is On” and “Boiling Point,”…

Then there’s Climate Central Founding Board member Jane Lubchenco, who was associated with efforts to marginalize a major skeptic scientist petition back in 1998. It turns out Ms Lubchenco had very troubling ties with the same enviro-activist group Ross Gelbspan was associated with around 1997-8.

However, one particularly intriguing individual formerly at Climate Central is someone who is found only through a search at the site of his name – Berrien Moore III, an IPCC lead chapter author. Interesting results pop up, where, if anyone clicks on the links found within those results for his name, they go to a blank page. It is only after going to the extra effort of finding his bio page link via a web page archive site (scroll down the page there to the main text, back-up link here) that we are able to see this [boldface added]:

Dr. Moore left his longtime position as Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire to become the founding director of Climate Central. As coordinating lead author of the final chapter of the … (IPCC’s) Third Assessment Report, Dr. Moore shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Odd that such a respected individual with a critical role in the development of Climate Central is not listed as such anywhere within the pages of the current site. A little more troubling, considering the NewsHour’s labeling of the site as a “research organization”, are numerous easily found search results in which Climate Central is repeatedly labeled as a “news organization”.

Not helpful in the least is Dr Moore’s own description of Climate Central at his current web page as a “think-tank… dedicated to providing public, business and civic leaders and policymakers with objective and understandable information about climate change and potential solutions.** Hard to miss the bias – if global warming is a natural phenomenon, there’d be no call to “solve” it.

[**Author’s 2/21/13 update:  I’ve now highlighted those three words in red, because when readers go to the current U. of OK page I linked to, those three are missing now from its 3rd paragraph. I copied ‘n pasted the words straight out of that page when I first wrote this article, and guess what, they still appear at other pages for him, as in this example, and at others when we do a search for the complete text. So, we are now left to wonder why it is that they disappeared from that page after this article was put online…..]

Much like the rest of the mainstream media, when the PBS NewsHour arguably applies a misleading label to Climate Central with the intention to portray it as a benign organization, it appears to be handing free ammunition to its critics, and it looks like they are breaking the 1st, 4th and 7th guidelines of their own standards for MacNeil/Lehrer journalism:

* Do nothing I cannot defend.
* Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am.
* Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything.

1 Comment

  1. “MacNeil/Lehrer standards”? Years ago Lehrer, I believe, ran a piece on chemical safety. A good portion of his descriptions of industry practices were at least 10 years out of date, if true at all. I wrote regarding this and got a response back that he knew the information was not accurate, but that he just needed to make a point. I never watched those clowns again.


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