A PBS ‘NewsHour’ Blog Post and Broadcast Provoke Viewers’ Ire

Commenters to  public broadcasting’s ‘NewsHour’ site decry a ‘hack piece’ of reporting involving an extensive interview with blogger skeptic and former weathercaster Anthony Watts … and also the several responses by the NewsHour editor and reporter directly involved.

A PBS “NewsHour” broadcast and companion blog posting are raising the kind of rancor generally associated with Fox TV talk-show programming or Wall Street Journal opinion pieces dealing with climate change. The in-coming is primarily from what climate contrarians might dismiss as the “warmist” or “believer” side of the issue, and not from the usual critics of PBS climate broadcasts.

The ruckus started with a blog posting interview with “Watts Up With That” meteorologist and climate contrarian Anthony Watts by NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels. Michels clearly seemed out of his depth in dealing with specific Watts’s points, in particular those dealing with potential urban heat island effects and with what Watts, unsurprisingly, criticized as inappropriate siting of temperature stations. Michels did not reply to or challenge either of Watts’ questionable claims on those issues, both of which have been long since rebutted in peer-reviewed journals.

News Analysis

That might raise the question: Why not use veteran science correspondent Miles O’Brien, who NewsHour brought in to cover complex science issues after he and the science staff had been let go by CNN? Climate change is an issue on which O’Brien has done substantial earlier coverage, and it’s a subject he says he is eager to continue reporting on.

There’s an answer to that question, actually. O’Brien said in a phone interview that he is a freelancer with a contract to do 15 science stories a year for NewsHour … specifically excluding climate science. “I’m not in the loop on climate stories,” O’Brien said, characterizing the recent NewsHour broadcast as “a horrible, horrible thing” that he fears reflects badly both on the program and, indirectly, on himself.)

Timeline of Blogs,  Broadcast, More Blogs … Explanations and Apologies

NPR’s Hari Sreenivasan

Back to the PBS blog posting and the broadcast piece itself … and to the subsequent somewhat defensive responses, apologies, and retractions from NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan and from reporter Michels. The chain of events:

  • Reporter Michels posted a blog piece and interview with Watts on September 17 at 4:55 p.m. EDT, prior to the NewsHour’s broadcast of his piece. That initial posting consisted solely of the one-on-one interview with Watts, running about 9-1/2 minutes. Michels said Watts — who he said “doesn’t come across as a true believer or fanatic” — had been recommended for an interview by the Heartland Institute, which Michels described as a leading climate science doubter. Both the 9-1/2 minute video and the full transcript of that interview are available at the site above.
  • The actual 10-1/2 minute broadcast that same evening, aired around 6:28 p.m. EDT and was posted, again along with a full transcript, about three hours later. That piece dealt substantially with Berkeley physicist Richard Muller’s much-ballyhooed, and controversial, “conversion” from being a skeptic. In that piece, Michels interviewed Watts, Muller and his mathematician daughter, and also Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory scientist William Collins. In that broadcast, Michels several times referred to the vast community of scientists and others accepting the scientific consensus as “believers.” He did not challenge Watts’ seemingly self-serving comments about peer review. Michels in that piece also referred to “the 97 percent of scientists who say that it is real.” He did not challenge Watts’ comments undercutting numerous public opinion surveys suggesting substantial levels of public concern and anxiety, nor ask Watts the basis of his opinions on those surveys.
  • The next day, Sreenivasan, who has overall editorial responsibility for NewsHour’s climate coverage, posted a blog piece referring to “the amount of personal e-mail that hit my inbox last night” after Michel’s blog post. He tried in that post to “clear a couple of things up regarding what was on-air, what was online, when and why.” Sreenivasan characterized the Michels blog post interview with Watts as “one element; it was not the entire piece…., one segment, which you might want to look at in the context of several other segments we’ve been doing at the NewsHour on climate. (The next day, Sreenivasan updated his post because he had “implied that Anthony Watts is a scientist. As we reported on the broadcast, he is not.”)
  • As promised by Sreenivasan’s September 18 reaction post, Michels returned at 6:08 EDT that evening with his own posting. “Anything dealing with climate change is bound to provoke an argument,” Michels opened. He said his initial online posting of the Watts interview “was to let the audience hear more about the views of a prominent voice from the community of skeptics,” but he did not address his own unquestioning — and un-inquisitive — interviewing technique. “As many of you wrote us to complain,” he continued, “we should have not ONLY posted additional comments from Watts’ perspective.” (emphasis in original) He pointed and linked to a NOAA response that its temperature record is “scientifically sound and reliable” and supported in the peer-reviewed literature. He also provided a NOAA National Climate Data Center link and one to skepticalscience.com, which he said “examines and pushes back on the critique from the skeptics’ community.” Michels in that posting also reported Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry’s being “appalled” with how her views were characterized in the on-air broadcast. Curry told Michels in an e-mail that her marks were presented in a way that suggests “I don’t think human-produced CO2 accounts for any of the climate change we have been seeing. This is absolutely incorrect.” She said her recent posts on Arctic sea ice decline estimate that human CO2 emissions are responsible for about half that decline. Michels’ response to Curry in his blog post: “In retrospect, we should have said that Curry suspects natural variability accounts for some amount of climate change, but she also believes human-induced CO2 plays some role in what has been happening to the planet.” Closing the program’s September 18 broadcast, Sreenavasan, without acknowledging shortcomings, briefly pointed viewers to the additional materials posted on the NewsHour website addressing the criticisms and the program’s online responses.

Commenters Largely Critical

As they frequently are, comments submitted online in response to the NewsHour posts and broadcast represented a wide spectrum of pro-and-con views, but the majority were critical of Michels’ handling of the Watts interview and the broadcast itself. Some faulted his several times referring to those accepting warming as partly caused by human emissions as little more than “believers.” Some faulted the program’s virtually equating meteorologist Watts with the vast community of peer-reviewed climatologists. A West Orange, N.J., commenter characterized the pieces as “just another ‘he said, she said’-style hack piece of the sort that has become endemic in the MSM” (mainstream media).

Another commenter wrote: “When I watch PBS I expect hard journalism. I expect the reporter to have researched the issue and to be asking tough question that put the subject on the spot. If Michels were to interview [Penn State climatologist] Michael Mann or [NASA scientist] James Hansen I would expect exactly the same treatment. Tough, hard-nosed journalism.”

All the comments are online at the sites linked to above … but one seemed to capture many of the key points made by those upset about the NewsHour/Michels coverage. Here’s that comment in full:

The problem is that Watts’ inaccurate comments went unchallenged by the interviewer. His claim that inaccurate temperature measurements are responsible for the increase in global average temperatures in the data base is unsupported by statistical analysis and has been debunked by about a dozen peer reviewed scientific publications. Spencer Michels did not challenge him at all on this during the interview. This was a major failure of this story, which you need to correct.

It doesn’t matter that other stories on climate change may have been more accurate and scientific.

On September 17, a climate activist organization, Forecast the Facts, initiated a grassroots petition signing campaign asking PBS ombudsman Michael Getler to investigate the Watts interview segment for what the group called “violations of PBS standards on accuracy, integrity, and transparency.”

Bottom Line: Expect More, Better from PBS NewsHour

Bottom line on all this? No question that Michels clearly did not appear in the interview or on the broadcast to have “done due diligence” — that is, to have done his homework on climate science. No responsible science journalist could be pleased with his mishandling of those pieces or, for instance, with his sophomoric characterization of “believers.” He allowed the interviewee to opine not only on science but also on policy issues, without drawing any distinction and without adequately characterizing the nature of Watts’ scientific, let alone policy, credentials.

Sreenivasan’s weak-kneed defense of the whole episode came across as overly defensive, and it included mis-steps of its own that he later had to take back.

In the end, it may have been “NewsHour” … but it certainly was not its “finest hour.” One expects more from the program, and the abundant critical comments are a sure sign that it did not measure-up in this case.

It’s one thing for a PBS broadcast to take rhetorical hits from those flat-out dismissive of the enormous body of climate science evidence. That goes with the turn and is to be expected. It’s altogether something else when the barrage comes from those normally respectful of PBS NewsHour reporting and in sync with the scientific community on climate science.  The NewsHour’s journalistic shortcomings in this instance are far from the most serious committed in the name of broadcast journalism on climate science … they’re just the most surprising and, in some ways, the most disappointing.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of Yale Climate Connections. (E-mail: bud@yaleclimateconnections.org).
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44 Responses to A PBS ‘NewsHour’ Blog Post and Broadcast Provoke Viewers’ Ire

  1. Jeff says:

    When the history of this is written, the failure of American journalism to inform the American people of the overwhelming amount of peer-reviewed science supporting AGW will be recognized as almost criminal in nature. With adequate public knowledge and political will, we could have been taking so many measures to slow down the AGW train. Instead, out of cowardice, laziness and/or greed, the media fiddled while the planet started burning.

    • Agreed. Their tepid journalism, or even outright bias – could be excused only if the AGW is mild and disappearing.

      But it is not. The news from all other outlets – from the BBC to the Guardian to countless Web based news reports – the news is that AGW is quite serious, getting worse and deserves our full attention.

      PBS attempts at deliberate denial harms their reputation at the very least – and at most paints them as dangerous propagandists of misdirection.

      There will be lots of changes ahead, I am not trusting PBS to report them.

      • SUT says:

        You’re not trusting them because they reported both sides of an issue? There’s a word for people who think like that.

    • Paul Quigg says:

      I have many concerns with Watts interview, but what strikes me is the violent reaction to a different opinion. Science is a continuing give and take to prove or disprove a hypothesis but climate change has no room for anything but the party line. I have a very close friend in the National Academy with particular emphasis in the NRC. He has been very active in the grant process and peer review. We went round and round for six months on scientific bias among other climate change concerns and concluded that the scientific community had done a terrible job of selling their argument to the public and the media had been complicit by ignoring the uncertainties voiced by the scientists in regard to future climate.
      Why are we continuing to debate the believer-skeptic argument?, it just detracts from valuable time required to find some reasonable direction toward a solution to this incredibly complex problem

      • Asteroid Miner says:

        Selling their argument to the public is not the job of scientists.

        • Paul Quigg says:

          Scientists are constantly selling their arguments to the public in their papers, lectures, organizations and media interviews. If not scientists, who?

        • John Sully says:

          In fact, many granting agencies are requiring a public outreach component in grant applications. A scientist is not just a researcher, although that is an important part of his job, but also an educator.

    • Kate says:

      Certainly this News Hour episode is a total shame, and the media has done its share of “fair and balanced” reporting that undermined the truth.

      But I think looking back, far more characteristic of our time will be the attitudes of denial and putting economics and convenience before thinking about the future the run in veins throughout the audience the media serves. Why hasn’t Obama addressed climate change? Why doesn’t the electorate make this a central political issue?

      It is because the issue is inherently unpleasant and demands sacrifices. Not sure we can put this all on the media.

  2. Greg says:

    As a long time PBS viewer, I have come to expect better as outlined by Bud Ward. I found myself shouting to my wife about the factual errors during the program

  3. Leif Knutsen says:

    I feel betrayed by that report and believe that PBS will not get my trust back, ever. I have been a 50+ year fan of PBS, a monetary supporter in the early years, however not since PBS has started taking money from the ecocide fossil industry and vermin like the Koch brothers. Since that time I have witnessed a continual soft peddling and “water carrying” of issues that pertain to those bottom lines. (I have witnessed the same from another source the NYT to much dismay.) To see such tripe from a public funded media is the last straw.

    The ability of the few to profit, handily I would add, from the pollution of the commons is the fundamental flaw in western capitalism and must be addressed or it is “toastvill for the Kidders!”

    The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must I and concerned people the world over subsidize the ecocide of the planet? That existential question continues to go unasked much less answered!

    Time is short to nonexistent! I DEMAND “JOURNALISM” from PBS. You still fail…

    • J Doug Swallow says:

      Leif Knutsen’s diatribe is very telling, to say the least. He is saying that unless PBS goes back to its normal one sided, biased left leaning reporting, he is forever disappointed in their trying to perhaps issue forth both sides of an issue, How dare they do this? He denigrates the fossil fuel industries; but, I wonder if he realizes that Apple Computer is now the most valuable company in history.
      “Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) became the most valuable company in history on Monday in terms of market capitalization. Heading into the final hour of trade, the stock had risen better than 2 percent, to give the company a market-cap of over $620 billion with shares trading over $662.00 apiece.”

      This is quite a legacy for the college drop out, Steve Jobs, and it is a shame that he didn’t live to see it happen but it also says something about the position of the energy companies in today’s world.

  4. Nullius in Verba says:

    “If Michels were to interview [Penn State climatologist] Michael Mann or [NASA scientist] James Hansen I would expect exactly the same treatment. Tough, hard-nosed journalism.”

    Can anyone point to a mainstream media interview where they did?

    “His claim that inaccurate temperature measurements are responsible for the increase in global average temperatures in the data base…”

    He hasn’t made that claim. This sort of inaccuracy is a large part of the problem.

    “He allowed the interviewee to opine not only on science but also on policy issues, without drawing any distinction and without adequately characterizing the nature of Watts’ scientific, let alone policy, credentials.”

    Can you point to any example of an interviewer challenging Mann, Hansen, or any other representative of the IPCC on their policy credentials? And whose word are you taking on Watts’ scientific credentials? Isn’t this an ‘argument from authority’?

    These sorts of protests always seem remarkably selective and one-sided. It’s quite routine for journalists even on scientific questions to interview experts and opinion-holders without academic qualifications: campaigners, politicians, government officials, representatives of NGOs, industry representatives, they even sometimes talk to science journalists! And it’s quite common for the media to present grossly inaccurate and unsupported stories from unqualified spokesmen on the climate consensus side without ever questioning it.

    It’s not the media’s role in society to rule on such matters and present only the Approved Truth according to the selected elite, nor to exclude the views of large portions of the population. That’s censorship. It’s not only illiberal but also unscientific.

    I’m sure this particular segment was no better than usual for TV journalism, but to suddenly be objecting so loudly to it on these grounds seems motivated more by the desire to silence the opposition than upholding scientific quality in the media. Right or wrong, giving the impression that you’re trying to do so damages the credibility of the AGW case. If the reason for the consensus is that dissent is very obviously not allowed out in public, why should we believe you?

  5. Susan Anderson says:

    I too was shouting at the TV, even though I was in the kitchen preparing dinner.

    This was just appalling. Anthony Watts is very good at getting an audience, and the claptrap he promotes is never corrected on air or online even when he is (rarely) persuaded to see his errors. He immediately looks for a fake skeptic slant on every occurrence. His recent antics about the Arctic meltdown are a case in point.

    PBS should not be helping him get more prominence, but calling him out for his misbehavior. The more expert meteorologists also know he’s so full of himself he can hardly see, so it’s not fair to paint him as an expert.

  6. Susan Anderson says:

    Oh, and it is not fair to skeptics to call him a skeptic.* Real skepticism looks at all sides of a question, and does not give a free pass to anything that supports what they want to believe while dismissing out of hand anything that doesn’t. The continued attacks on top climate scientists and communicators now include death and family threats. Has PBS reported that?


  7. Erin Theresa says:

    Anthony Watts is not a meteorologist. He never even finished college. It’s unclear if he even took college classes relating to the atmospheric sciences. That being said he is not a meteorologist according to the American Meteorological Society standards the industry uses to define a meteorologist. He is simply a former weathercaster that has an interest in climate science.

    • J Doug Swallow says:

      Education is for sure an important part of any civilized countries make up; but, one needs to consider that Thomas A. Edison held 1095 patents, making him one of the most prolific inventors ever, and he had three months of formal education. Was he a scientist? Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard during his freshman year & went on to do some pretty amazing things. Steven Jobs also dropped out of university during his freshman year. It is no theory or hypotheses that both Jobs and Gates went on to do some amazing things regarding computer SCIENCE without all of the PhD’s behind their names; therefore, I assume that Mr. Watts could be a self educated individual in a field that has greatly interested him.

      Watts’ name does appear as an author on peer reviewed Papers in the JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: “Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends” Therefore, one can surmise that his education was up to the task at hand in the eyes of his fellow contributors.

      • Martin Lack says:

        I for one am looking forward to the peer-review of Watts et al (2012) in Energy and Environment (the journal of choice for people submitting poorly-constructed research with unsupported conclusions). However, given its release into cyberspace by the lead author, we don’t have to wait that long: Skeptical Science were even kind enough to make their review consructive (not that it will make a blind bit of difference to Watts).

      • Sou says:

        Watts might sound like a light bulb, but he can’t hold a candle to Edison.

        Pretty silly comparing him to Gates and Jobs too. His self education is sadly lacking.

  8. J Doug Swallow says:

    One could wonder just how unbiased the father/daughter BEST partnership was, given the information below:

    “Elizabeth Muller is listed as “Founder and Executive Director” of the Berkeley Earth Team along with her father Richard Muller. But since 2008 it appears she’s been earning money as a consultant telling governments how to implement green policies, how to reduce their carbon footprint and how to pick “the right technologies” – presumably meaning the right “Green” technologies.”

    “GreenGov™ is a service offered by Muller & Associates for Governments, International Organizations, non profits, and other organizations that work with Government. The aim is to provide politically-neutral counsel that is broad in scope while rooted in the hard facts of state-of-the-art science and engineering. The key is to make the right patch between the best technologies and the strengths of the government. We know that to be effective the political dimension must be integrated into the technical plan from the start.”
    Muller and Associates helps investors profit from investments in alternative energy.

    Taking the above information into consideration, one can wonder just how valid the following disclaimer is.
    “We believe that science is nonpartisan and our interest is in getting a clear view of the pace of climate change in order to help policy makers to evaluate and implement an effective response. In choosing team members, we engage people whose primary interests are finding answers to the current issues and addressing the legitimate concerns of the critics on all sides. None of the scientists involved has taken a public political stand on global warming. “

    • Martin Lack says:

      I see you are still “shooting the messenger”, Doug.

      • J Doug Swallow says:

        I see that Martin is still skirting the facts as I presented them with out offering up any evidence to dispute those facts. I gave my evidence, Lack of facts, where are yours that proves that I am “shooting the messenger”? I do not intend to involve myself in a contest of wits with a proven to be totally unarmed person and that should not be the context of this debate, to take unproven cheap shots at some one with a stupid one line post.

        • Martin Lack says:

          Now, now, Doug. Feigned indignation is no substitute for having a decent scientific reason for disputing the reality, reliability, and reasonablenes of the consensus view that climate change is a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.

          Also, I can see no facts in your original comment; only a link to the second-hand opinions of an Australian microbiologist (borrowed from discredited contrarian scientists like Carter, Lindzen, Michaels, Plimer, and Spencer).

  9. Nullius in Verba says:

    “Real skepticism looks at all sides of a question, and does not give a free pass to anything that supports what they want to believe while dismissing out of hand anything that doesn’t.”

    That’s an interesting definition. Have you considered whether it applies to what you’re doing?

    Climate scientists measure global temperature with a network of thermometers that they describe as ‘high quality’. You don’t usually get told how the collect the data and process it, you just see the end result: a thin wiggly line. And it certainly looks very impressive.

    So Anthony Watts goes and takes pictures of your thermometers, showing them next to trash burners, barbecues, air conditioning vents, black tarmac, jet engines, and so on. You don’t have to be a scientist to raise your eyebrows at the sight of the scientific instruments for monitoring global temperature sat next to the barbecue.

    And what’s your answer to those pictures? Do you look at all sides of the question, and not dismiss things out of hand because they don’t support what you want to believe?

    Your answer is to complain that he’s not a proper scientist, that he doesn’t have the most advanced scientific qualifications. It’s to screech about the horror of a TV news programme interviewing him without anyone on after to immediately deny and dismiss everything he says: to portray him as an unqualified lunatic who has been proved wrong by ‘experts’. It’s to complain about the ‘many falsehoods’, while misrepresenting his views.

    But for anyone who has seen those photos of your thermometers, it’s a bit hard to see what your point is. There isn’t any explanation of why you’ve got thermometers sat next to aircon vents, or why you didn’t notice until sceptics pointed it out. There isn’t any explanation of how you think you can get an accurate temperature record with an artificial heat source sat within a few feet of your instruments. It isn’t immediately obvious to me what Watts’ academic qualifications have to do with all that.

    In fact, it looks a lot like dismissing out of hand anything that doesn’t support what you want to believe.

    Oh, and do you really think that Anthony Watts of all people doesn’t receive death threats?

    • melty says:

      “And what’s your answer to those pictures? Do you look at all sides of the question, and not dismiss things out of hand because they don’t support what you want to believe?”

      No… I believe that scientists looked at the data taking UHI into account and got the same broad result. I.e., take out all the urban stations and you get the same trend. And so Watt’s thesis is somewhat demolished.

      Here is a 2007 post on this from climate scientists

      Here is another one from the BEST study (you know, the one that Dr. Watts promised to believe whatever results it found, quote: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.”).

      • Nullius in Verba says:

        Unfortunately, that seems more a case of not understanding the thesis in the first place.

        It is not simply ‘urban’ sites that are the problem. UHI is an issue too, but the significance of this find was that there were other problems in addition to UHI. The climate scientists used aerial night light observations and population data to pick out ‘rural’ sites for use in their ‘high quality’ network, but they didn’t go to the actual sites themselves to check them out. It was these ‘high quality’ sites that were found next to aircon units and on tarmac-covered airfields. The point was not simply that there was heat contamination, but that it existed at sites the climate scientists considered of the highest quality, that they used as references for the urban thermometers when calculating the UHI correction.

        It’s actually two separate issues – site contamination is not the same as UHI.

        The RealClimate boys pretended that the issue was something else, and pointed to their previous inadequate efforts on UHI. BEST did a clumsy analysis that was even worse than what the climate scientists had been doing. It actually found a negative UHI effect, more urbanisation reduced temperature trends, which BEST couldn’t figure out but sceptics recognised as the effect of the logarithmic population dependence. The strongest UHI effects on trend occur at low population density, not high.

        Incidentally, BEST was initially supported by the sceptics because they said they would not practice press-statement science, that they would release all the data and methodology for checking before drawing conclusions, and they would use the best statistical expertise to deal with the adjustments. Since those addressed the main sceptic complaints, it looked good. Instead, Muller held press interviews announcing conclusions before any of the papers were published, they didn’t publish the raw data or all of the methodology at the time, there were obvious blunders and errors still in the data, and serious problems with the methodology were picked up within days of the draft papers appearing. BEST had wrecked all their careful diplomacy in one weekend by repeating all the worst of the bad behaviour they had been set up in response to. Afterwards, they said it was still preliminary, they’d published the draft to start the discussion, and the media had distorted it. Most sceptics are unconvinced, and I think regard it now as no more than Muller’s publicity campaign for the family business. BEST is still a few years off from producing useful results.

        But all that’s besides the point. The issue still stands that thermometers were poorly sited, and that this was not sufficiently adjusted for because the scientists using the data didn’t know about the problem until Watts and Co. discovered and publicised it. Watts’ qualifications and credentials don’t come into it.

    • John Ward says:

      The primary reason why it is inappropriate to interview Watts is that it gives uninformed listeners the impression that his claims have not been disproved many times. Would it be appropriate to interview someone from the Flat Earth Society and suggest that his views merited serious consideration after they disproved again and again? For the evidence against Watts’s claims–and your claim that these questions have not been answered–read this: http://www.skepticalscience.com/surface-temperature-measurements-advanced.htm and this: http://www.skepticalscience.com/WattsandBEST.html And for a presentation combining visual evidence and wit, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcxVwEfq4bM&list=PL029130BFDC78FA33&index=67&feature=plpp_video

  10. Martin Lack says:

    I recently came across this video of James Hansen, first broadcast on the 20th anniversary of his 1988 testimony to the US Senate, suggesting that the CEOs of major oil companies may be guilty of crimes against humanity (for perpetuating doubt and policy paralysis)… It may well be that incompetent journalists like Michels need to be added to that list.

    However, to be fair, being wrong and/or incompetent cannot – and should not – be a crime. What is criminal is deliberately stating things you know to be false. Sadly, this is a major obstacle to any potential prosecution because, I suspect, even serial misrepresenters of fact like Richard Lindzen genuinely believe that they are right (and that everyone else is mistaken, mad, or mendacious).

  11. klem says:

    I saw the interview with Anthony Watts. He speaks the truth and his words offend you deeply. The truth is, it is Anthony himself which offends you, not just his words. And I’ll bet you don’t exactly know why.

    Why does this person offend you? I know why, I used to be a climate alarmist like you, I know exactly why Watts is so offensive. He is a climate skeptic, and your belief in climate disaster is based on faith, a deep beliefe that all humans are sinners and their activity will cause future apocolypse. Watts is a climate heretic, simple as that. That’s why Watts is offensive in ways you cannot fully describe.

    Climate alarmism is a faith, a quasi-religion, and heretics are deeply offensive. That’s also why the PBS program has garnered so much vitriol from the alarmist side, it allowed a heretic to speak. Can’t have that. Watts or PBS must be silenced.

    You have to question your personal feelings regarding this tv program folks. This is a learning oportunity.


    • Martin Lack says:

      Presumably, Klem, you are addressing Bud Ward? Since I suspect you don’t know him personally, do not hold your breath waiting for an answer (especially since you cannot even be bothered to address him by name).

      Unlike faith in God, there is a well-established scientific basis for concern that rapidly doubling the CO2 content of the atmosphere has upset the dynamic equilibrium that has maintained a remarkably constant sea level and temperature since the last Ice Age. There is also empirical evidence and the fact that model predictions made 20-30 years ago have been validated by subsequent events. See: http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

      The only people that dispute it – scientists or non-scientists alike – are those that have a childlike and prejudicial conception that all environmentalists are socialists; and thus see the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the concept of Entropy as a threat to their laissez-faire and/or libertarian paradigm.

      Unfortunately victories by those who pick fights with history and/or science are extremely rare.

      • Dan Rogers says:

        Martin, if you were in charge of things on the AGW side of this controversy, would you be willing to compromise on what should be done?

        • Martin Lack says:

          Hi Dan. I am not sure what you mean by “controversy” or “compromise”; can you please explain? This might help you focus your thinking:

          Just as it was with carcinogenic agro-chemicals, thalidomide, CFCs, asbestos, tobacco (and many other things), controversy has been manufactured to delay sensible regulation of the fossil fuel industry: An industry that has polluted our atmosphere with CO2 for decades. We now know that it is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing; and we are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere a million times faster than it can be recycled (i.e. 300 million years worth of fossil fuels in 300 years). Therefore, I am sorry, but, even Mitt Romney is not in a position to compromise with the Laws of Physics.

          • Nullius in Verba says:

            “we are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere a million times faster than it can be recycled”

            Actually, it’s roughly twice as fast. Atmospheric CO2 content goes up each year by only about half the amount we add through burning fossil fuels. The rest is absorbed into the oceans and other carbon sinks.

  12. melty says:

    Oh wow…. this is just unbelievable:

    “That might raise the question: Why not use veteran science correspondent Miles O’Brien, who NewsHour brought in to cover complex science issues after he and the science staff had been let go by CNN? Climate change is an issue on which O’Brien has done substantial earlier coverage, and it’s a subject he says he is eager to continue reporting on.

    There’s an answer to that question, actually. O’Brien said in a phone interview that he is a freelancer with a contract to do 15 science stories a year for NewsHour … specifically excluding climate science.”

    Whaaaat? Isn’t this a scandal — or at least a story — all in itself? Doesn’t this tell us something about PBS’ editorial policies on climate science reporting? How will PBS justify this particular decision? Who is pulling the strings — and why?

  13. Dan Rogers says:

    Climate change — warming — has been taking place now for about ten or twelve thousand years as we continue to emerge from the current glaciation or, as we call it, the current “ice age.”

    Does anyone cogently dispute that? I think not.

    So we know the climate is getting warmer. Do we try to slow that down or stop that from happening, or do we make preparations for it? That is the basic choice we ought to make.

    Some of you think that the “prevention” choice — climate control — is better than the “preparation” choice, going along with Albert Gore and his idea that carbon dioxide from human activities is actually what is causing the warming trend. You folks have managed to create a “bandwagon” effect. It is characterized by condemnation of anyone who disagrees with you. You insist that “the debate is over” and that your opponents lost that debate long ago. The rest of us disagree.

    So where do we go from here? Is there any compromise we could make? The answer is NO if dogmatic insistence on “the truth” continues to rule either or both sides of the debate. But if a compromise can be made, what form would it take?

    • melty says:

      Science does not compromise on its findings. You are asking something of science that could only be asked of philosophy, or religion, or politics. Why? Are you honestly interested in the truth, or just out to muddy the waters? Judging by the number of ill-founded talking points in your post, I have to conclude the latter — and that is despicable, really, isn’t it?

      • Dan Rogers says:

        I am not “out to muddy the waters.” I am just suggesting that compromise might be possible in order to get us humans into action with respect to the further climate change we can see coming. Are you saying that compromise is not possible?

    • John Ward says:

      Klem. The reason the interview was so upsetting is that Watts’s ideas have been thoroughly disproved and he has never answered the criticisms. Consequently, there were many questions that an interviewer who had done his homework should have asked him–if there was any reason to interview someone whose theory has not stood the tests to which it has been subjected and who has not be able to refute the evidence against it. The original idea was certainly worth testing. But after it failed, it is misleading to put it on the same footing as the overwhelming evidence for global warming as human-created and a threat that requires an immediate, forceful response. For the evidence that his idea was wrong, see my links three posts above.

  14. Jan O'Brien says:

    Thanks for some lively debate, but only comments pertaining to this article at-hand will now be accepted for posting. Please follow up with each other individually on other topics. Thank you! Jan (assistant editor/yaleclimatemediaforum.org)

  15. John Garrett says:

    Muller on Watts
    by Andrew W. Montford

    [Dr.] Richard Muller is interviewed in the current issue of Physics World (H/T Jonathan Jones). The article is not online as far as I can tell, but there are some interesting comments that I will reproduce here:

    lf Watts hadn’t done his work, we would not have reliable data today. The fact that he did that means he’s a hero; he deserves some sort of international prize.

  16. John Garrett says:

    0.6° C. over the last 120 years? Given the state of the climate/weather data gathering system, the adjustments ( cough, cough ) made by GISS, the urban heat island effect, Chinese ( cough, cough ) weather stations/data, Russian ( cough, cough ) weather stations/data, Sub-Saharan African ( cough, cough ) weather stations/data— among a multitude of other problems, that’s a rounding error— at best.

  17. Susan Anderson says:

    Some time ago I once got caught in the toils of Nullius’s complicated webspinning – no more. He (or she) is very good at obscuring the issues. I suggest the public ask themselves whether they want to believe their lying senses or be led by the nose by sophisticated arguments, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.

    If you check, you will notice a surprising consistency in the misleading arguments that would have you ignore the data and the surprising confluence of every major world organization tasked with investigating the facts and publishing the truth.

  18. Susan Anderson says:

    Each individual is capable of being attacked because none of us know enough to pronounce outside our limited experience and areas of expertise. But in fact the fake skeptics are eager to have you believe they know what you do not. Do not be misled. It is better to trust expertise than wallow in false information. In an older world ethic, this was the first sin: pride.

  19. Susan Anderson says:

    Nullius, I am sure you are aware that Watts’ pursuit of temperature station measurements has been answered in detail and in depth, and in fact the result was to show that they actually understate temperature. But don’t let the facts interfere with a good thesis.

  20. John Garrett says:

    It is beyond my comprehension that anyone claiming the name of “scientist” could possibly look at the highly ambiguous evidence purporting to underlie the conjecture known as CO2-based catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and believe it complies with the tenets of scientific method.

    It is equally incomprehensible that any self-respecting journalist would report on the area without acknowledging the fundamental uncertainties.