ABC’s Harris: Climate Scientists ‘Embattled’ by ‘Controversial’ Skeptics ‘Despite Compelling Evidence’ of Global Warming

On the Wednesday, December 22, Nightline on ABC, inspired by recent extreme weather, correspondent Dan Harris filed a report on global warming in which he gave attention to the views of a proponent of global warming theory, while giving a lesser amount of attention to two skeptics, one of whom he labeled "controversial."

Harris related that, "despite all that compelling evidence" of global warming, climate scientists "feel more embattled than ever," taking heat from "politicians on the right." He even went so far as to highlight examples of reported harassment of climate scientists, including anti-Semitic insults.

Harris also concluded his report passing on a warning from scientists that there will be more "extremely deadly weather" in the future "if the world doesn’t act very quickly":

Corbyn is now predicting a mini ice age in the coming years. However, the vast, vast majority of climate scientists disagree and say, if you like this year’s extreme and extremely deadly weather, you’ll likely get much more if the world doesn’t act very quickly.

After beginning the report with a look at weather forecaster Piers Corbyn - calling his methods "unorthodox" because he uses magnetic fields to predict weather - Harris moved to global warming theory proponent Professor Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University:

That’s Princeton scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who says climate change is like loading the dice or tilting a pinball machine, making it more likely that we'll have heat waves, intense rainstorms and higher sea levels. It’s not a pretty picture.

The ABC correspondent passed on complaints by climate scientists that they "feel more embattled than ever," taking heat from "politicians on the right":

It might feel cold outside of your house tonight, but 2010 may well turn out to be the hottest year on record. And, in fact, the last decade was definitely the hottest on record. Despite all that compelling evidence, climate scientists say they now feel more embattled than ever. And some of their biggest opponents, they say, are politicians on the right.

Harris tried to embarrass global warming skeptics by including clips of two public figures - incoming House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Congressman John Shimkus - who expressed doubts that were either flawed or not based on scientific reasoning, before sympathetically returning to Oppenheimer to make his case, even highlighting examples of reported harassment toward global warming theory proponents. Harris:

Meanwhile, the FBI tells us it has seen a spike in threatening e-mails to climate scientists, and a white supremacist Web site recently ran pictures of scientists with the word "Jew" next to them. Michael Oppenheimer says he’s sure this interview will result in angry e-mails.

After a clip of Oppenheimer complaining about a "disinformation campaign" funded by industry, Harris got to global warming skeptic Dr. Fred Singer, whom the ABC correspondent called "controversial," only giving a couple of brief soundbites for the University of Virginia professor emeritus to say that global warming theory proponents are "wrong." Introducing Singer, Harris related:

Their foe, they say, is a well-funded campaign to confuse. Led by people like Dr Fred Singer, a controversial scientific skeptic with whom I conducted this combative interview several years ago, which was heavily criticized by many in the skeptics community.

After noting that Corbyn is also a global warming skeptic, Harris got to his conclusion which dismissed doubters and passed on the call for action, presumably meaning more government regulatoins. Harris:

Corbyn is now predicting a mini ice age in the coming years. However, the vast, vast majority of climate scientists disagree and say, if you like this year's extreme and extremely deadly weather, you'll likely get much more if the world doesn't act very quickly.

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Wednesday, December 22, Nightline on ABC:

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Good evening, I’m Cynthia McFadden. We begin tonight with the weather. Winter so far has brought the kind of storms that interrupt and even endanger lives, with days of rain and flooding in the Southwest, record snowfall in the North, and conditions harsh enough overseas to shut major transportation hubs. This, after a summer of even more dangerous waves of heat and water. Tonight, Dan Harris talks with a forecaster who saw it all coming, and who has less than promising news for what’s coming next.

DAN HARRIS: It’s hard not to be impressed when you see entire houses being swept away by flood waters in the West. Part of the same storm that, tonight, is creating road closures, evacuations and widespread fear of mudslides. Meanwhile, tonight, the madness continues over in Europe, where the snow and freezing temperatures that paralyze major cities is only now starting to relent. There is one person who is happy about all of this, though.

PIERS CORBYN, WEATHER FORECASTER: I’m extremely pleased that it’s very cold and it’s very cold in Europe as well.

HARRIS: This rather odd-looking man is Pierce Corbin, who actually predicted this nasty weather, which the British government failed to do.

CORBYN: We predicted that this winter in Britain and Europe would be the coldest for 100 years.

HARRIS: Corbyn’s methods are, to say the least, unorthodox. He forecasts based on the magnetic connection between the sun and the earth. Although many people say his correct forecasts are just a fluke, he remains supremely confident, and now says the weather will only get worse - and very soon.

CORBYN: In the coming period between Christmas and the New Year, as I said, we are expecting blizzards in Europe and the eastern parts of England. We’re expecting blizzards in the Northeast USA.

HARRIS: Maybe Corbin’s right, maybe he's not. Either way, we are certainly coming to the end of a year of crazy and often lethal weather, most notably that unprecedented heat wave over in Russia and that huge and lethal episode of flooding in Pakistan. And, of course, every time we have a year like this, people always ask the same question. This has been a, by any stretch, pretty crazy year in terms of weather. Is there anything in what you’ve seen this year that makes you think that we’re seeing climate change at work?

PROF. MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: You can never attribute the cause of individual weather events to a long-term trend like the global warming trend brought about by the buildup of the greenhouse gases. What you can say is that certain types of weather are made more likely by the buildup of the greenhouse gases.

HARRIS: That’s Princeton scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who says climate change is like loading the dice or tilting a pinball machine, making it more likely that we'll have heat waves, intense rainstorms and higher sea levels. It’s not a pretty picture.

OPPENHEIMER: Over the long-term, it’s not. And if we don’t act to stem the emissions of the gases, eventually, it gets disastrous because Earth simply just keeps warming.

HARRIS: It might feel cold outside of your house tonight, but 2010 may well turn out to be the hottest year on record. And, in fact, the last decade was definitely the hottest on record. Despite all that compelling evidence, climate scientists say they now feel more embattled than ever. And some of their biggest opponents, they say, are politicians on the right. In one congressional hearing, John Shimkus from Illinois quoted the Bible, arguing God promised the earth would stay safe for mankind.

REP. JOHN SHIMKUS (R-IL): I believe that’s the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it’s gonna be for his creation.

HARRIS: And here’s what our incoming Speaker John Boehner told George Stephanopoulos:

JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER-DESIGNATE: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.

HARRIS: What is your reaction?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, first of all, no one is asserting that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen. The assertion is that it should be classified as an air pollutant. A warmer world is not a good world for people. This is nonsense, it’s politically motivated and completely detached from the scientific reality.

HARRIS: Meanwhile, the FBI tells us it has seen a spike in threatening e-mails to climate scientists, and a white supremacist Web site recently ran pictures of scientists with the word "Jew" next to them. Michael Oppenheimer says he’s sure this interview will result in angry e-mails.

OPPENHEIMER: I recently, just last week, spoke at a meeting and I read out some of my e-mails, and people in the audience were astonished. Some people have gotten death threats. I haven’t.

HARRIS: What types of things have people called you?

OPPENHEIMER: I’d rather, you can’t use the more amusing ones on family television, even in this late hour.

HARRIS: Now climate scientists, including Professor Oppenheimer are fighting back, forming rapid response teams to counter what they describe as a vast disinformation campaign.

OPPENHEIMER: There’s no question that going back almost 20 years that certain segments of industry got together and started funding disinformation campaigns, just like the tobacco industry did with smoking, in order to create doubt in the public’s mind that the science was firm enough on global warming to actually act on it. But this is a device we’ve seen before.

HARRIS: And it worked for a little while.

OPPENHEIMER: And it did work. It delayed action. We see the same thing here.

HARRIS: Their foe, they say, is a well-funded campaign to confuse. Led by people like Dr Fred Singer, a controversial scientific skeptic with whom I conducted this combative interview several years ago, which was heavily criticized by many in the skeptics community.

HARRIS: There are so many scientists who disagree with what you’re saying, the IPCC, NASA, NOAA, the National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the America Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society. We’re talking about scientists-

PROF. EMERITUS FRED SINGER, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: What can I say?

HARRIS: -all over the globe.

SINGER: What can I say? They're wrong.

HARRIS: We should say that Piers Corbyn, that guy who claimed to have predicted Europe’s current weather woes, he, too, is a climate skeptic.

CORBYN: I know there are certain people in the global warming cult, and that’s what it is, it’s a religious cult. They believe that everything that happens is caused by global warming. Look, this is sheer madness.

HARRIS: Corbyn is now predicting a mini ice age in the coming years. However, the vast, vast majority of climate scientists disagree and say, if you like this year’s extreme and extremely deadly weather, you’ll likely get much more if the world doesn’t act very quickly. For Nightline this is Dan Harris in New York.