COMMENTS: Hide the Decline & It is a Travesty

NBC's Anne Thompson was in Copenhagen to cover US diplomacy at the United Nations conference on global warming. She saw Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, lead a "full-court press to convince the world that America is serious about cutting carbon emissions."

Back inside-the-Beltway opponents of controls on greenhouse gases generated publicity on all three newscasts. Their hook was last month's publication of thousands e-mails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at England's University of East Anglia. David Wright called the e-mails "an inconvenient scandal" on ABC's A Closer Look: they "threaten to undermine the political effort under way in Copenhagen." CBS' Wyatt Andrews cited the expose's nickname: "To anyone skeptical about the science of global warming, Climategate is the biggest scandal ever." NBC's Thompson quoted from an op-ed written by former Gov Sarah Palin in the Washington Post, asserting that the e-mails "reveal a highly-politicized scientific circle pushing policies in Copenhagen that will not change the weather."

NBC's Thompson played a soundbite that Al Gore gave to her colleague Andrea Mitchell: "The leadership of the modern Republican Party has really gotten into a global-warming-denier posture." CBS' Andrews came to a similar conclusion: "To many Republicans Climategate proves that global warming is a deception." Meanwhile, NBC's Thompson reminded us that Palin was no such denier: "We know that it is real," was her soundbite from the campaign trail last year.

Both ABC's Wright and CBS' Andrews focused on two phrases from the thousands of messages: "We cannot account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we cannot" and "he has used a trick to hide the decline." CBS' Andrews showed us the fun: "The phrase Hide the Decline is now so infamous it is being spoofed on YouTube." During the course of his report, Andrews was imprecise about his definition of opponents of carbon restrictions. Initially he referred to scientific skeptics; then he used that phrase about a "deception," which is close to Gore's "deniers;" finally he characterized "Climategate advocates" as seeking political traction from "any uncertainty over manmade global warming," which is milder even than skepticism.

ABC's Wright overstated his case when he concluded that, because of the e-mail controversy, "the consensus about making the tough choices to curb carbon emissions threatens to crumble." There is no evidence that such a consensus ever existed.


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