- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

For years, liberal environmentalists have insisted that only tough regulations on economic activity can prevent the climate catastrophe of human-induced global warming. Their activism led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, which would have forced the United States. to cut industrial emissions to levels 30 percent below where they are today.

But Kyoto was too onerous for both Democrats and Republicans, who rejected its basic principles in a unanimous 95-0 Senate vote four years ago. President Clinton never submitted the signed treaty for ratification. After all the rhetoric, only Romania ratified it. This spring, President Bush finally threw it in the wastebasket.

If global warming is going to be the nightmare that environmental activists predict, perhaps something like Kyoto´s painful prescription might eventually be needed. But if the gloom-and-doom forecasts are exaggerated or wrong, such severe cutbacks would be a catastrophe themselves the squandered wealth wasted fighting a phantom menace would be extracted from our children and their future in the form of lower living standards and missed opportunities to solve real problems.

The stakes are high, but a fresh examination of network news coverage shows the liberal media aren´t even acknowledging there´s anything left to debate. A new study from the Media Research Center´s Free Market Project, which looked at the three evening news broadcasts from Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) to Earth Day (April 22), showed that the networks are merely mouthpieces for environmental activists. By a nearly 3-to-1 margin (73 percent to 27 percent) the networks favored critics over supporters of President Bush´s mid-March decision against regulating carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants. By an even greater margin (78 percent to 22 percent), they tilted their stories against Mr. Bush´s rejection of Kyoto.

The real shocker is that ABC, CBS and NBC managed to cover this year´s debate without ever once mentioning any of the scientific questions that need to be settled before we dive into the regulatory swamp. The three networks conveyed a total of 25 statements from sources and reporters that supported theories of human-induced catastrophic global warming, compared with zero that raised questions a balance-defying 100 percent liberal tilt.

Reporting on Mr. Bush´s Kyoto decision for CBS, correspondent Mark Phillips displayed the kind of spin you can create when you shut out one side of a story: "Around the world, the anger runs as deep as the floodwaters being blamed on the global warming the Kyoto treaty was supposed to fight. President Bush says he´s putting American economic interests first in rejecting Kyoto. And in Britain, where they´re having their wettest winter ever, they sadly agree." Mr. Phillips cited wacky worldwide weather, including flooding in Mozambique and droughts in the Sudan, as evidence that America is an environmental outlaw.

In February, CBS´ Byron Pitts cast climate catastrophe as just retribution, "punishment, say scientists, for sins of the past, the end result of years of pollution." ABC´s Peter Jennings approvingly cited U.N. predictions of "more freak weather changes, including cyclones, drought and floods, massive displacement of populations." NBC´s Tom Brokaw warned that "global temperatures could rise as much as 10 degrees this century. That´s the biggest rate of change in the climate in 10,000 years."

The networks notwithstanding, scientists with impeccable credentials and no particular political ax to grind Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to name two concur that the "science" of global warming is very much unsettled, flawed and in many cases exaggerated.

But balanced coverage could delay efforts to punish big business for past pollution, so the networks suppressed the scientific doubters and painted those, like President Bush, who questioned Kyoto´s draconian regulations as the real radicals. On pet liberal issues such as global warming, it seems that network correspondents are no longer content to just spin the news in ways that help their friends. Instead, they´ve morphed from journalists into advocates.

L. Brent Bozell III is president of the Media Research Center. Rich Noyes is director of MRC's Free Market Project.


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