NBC Predictably Asks: 'Is Global Warming to Blame for Storm Damage?'

Right on cue following Hurricane Sandy devastating the east coast, correspondent Harry Smith appeared on Thursday's NBC Today to sound the global warming alarm: "First it was Hurricane Irene, then last October's freak snowstorm, and now Sandy. Mother nature has put an unprecedented strain on the power grid and some experts are wondering if climate change is to blame." The headline on-screen wondered: "Is Global Warming to Blame for Storm Damage?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Previewing an upcoming report for Thursday's Rock Center, Smith warned viewers: "There is a growing consensus that this is all part of a new normal....Many a climate scientist say there is a reason this is happening." A sound bite followed of Ben Strauss from Climate Central: "We're seeing more and more extreme weather events. Leading to greater and greater economic damages. And I'm very suspicious that climate change is an important player for many of these."

Smith even resorted to urging Co-Ed Power senior vice president John Miksad to weigh in on the matter with his non-expert analysis: "In your view, not science, just your gut, are we living in a time that's unlike times in the past?" Miksad gave his "gut" feeling: "The simple answer is absolutely. I've never seen anything like this. I mean, we're having an annual storm of the century. It is just crazy."

At the end of the segment, Smith acted as an amateur climatologist himself as he further pushed the global warming meme: "And there's a piece in the paper trying to figure out is it climate change, what's going on? The temperature in the western Atlantic, 5 degrees above normal for the end of October. There's something going on."

Smith has a long history of global warming activism in his reporting, here are just a few examples:

CBS's Smith to Bloomberg: 'Manhattan Will Be Underwater by 2050'

CBS’s Harry Smith Is Al Gore Jr.?

Gore Reads Poem, Harry Smith Swoons: 'Wow...I’m Happy to Hear it in Your Voice'

On Wednesday's Today, correspondent Keir Simmons touted global warming possibly becoming a factor in forecasting hurricanes.


Here is a full transcript of Smith's November 1 report:

7:34AM ET

MATT LAUER: This is the third straight day of no electricity for millions of Americans impacted by this storm. In fact, it's the third storm in just a year that seems to have crippled the northeast power system. NBC's Harry Smith takes a closer look at that story for Rock Center with Brian Williams. Harry's here this morning, hi.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Aftermath of Sandy; Is Global Warming to Blame for Storm Damage?]

HARRY SMITH: Good morning, guys. First it was Hurricane Irene, then last October's freak snowstorm, and now Sandy. Mother nature has put an unprecedented strain on the power grid and some experts are wondering if climate change is to blame. The images from across the eastern third of the nation are still a little difficult to comprehend. But for millions of Americans, they are all too real. Lines down, nerves frayed, power out. Monday night, New York City was on edge, and Con-Ed, the city's electrical supplier, was gearing up for the worst. The man at the center of the storm, senior vice president John Miksad.

JOHN MIKSAD: The tides that we are showing back on the board up there are forecasted to somewhere between 11 to 12 feet peak, and that would be the highest tides the city has ever seen.

SMITH: By 8:00, Miksad decided he had no choice but to shut down power to lower Manhattan. High water was about to inundate underground power supplies. So high, it caused an explosion at a Con-Ed substation. Today, people like the Schmidt family have to take the stairs, 13 flights to get to their apartment.

MRS. SCHMIDT: I was in my daughter's bedroom and just staring out at the building across the street in great envy watching the lights there.

SMITH:8.5 million households and businesses lost power in 19 states, and today, over 6 million are still waiting for the lights to go back on. Sandy's relentless wind, rain, and storm surge laid the power grid to ruin. And there is a growing consensus that this is all part of a new normal.

ANDREW CUOMO: Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think, is denying reality.

SMITH: Many a climate scientist say there is a reason this is happening.

BEN STRAUSS [CLIMATE CENTRAL]: We're seeing more and more extreme weather events. Leading to greater and greater economic damages. And I'm very suspicious that climate change is an important player for many of these.

SMITH: Whatever the reason, these storms put the power grid at risk. And for the time being, massive power outages are an inevitable reality. In your view, not science, just your gut, are we living in a time that's unlike times in the past?

MIKSAD: The simple answer is absolutely. I've never seen anything like this. I mean, we're having an annual storm of the century. It is just crazy.

SMITH: I spoke with an official at the Electric Powers Research Institute. He said building a power grid that could withstand these kinds of storms is just not economically feasible. So how best to deal with these changes remains to be seen.

LAUER: Go back to those numbers for a second. He predicted a surge of...

SMITH: 11 ½ feet, which would have been the highest ever, it was closer to 14. And there's a piece in the paper trying to figure out is it climate change, what's going on? The temperature in the western Atlantic, 5 degrees above normal for the end of October. There's something going on.

LAUER: Harry Smith. And by the way, Harry's gonna have more on a special Rock Center with Brian Williams that's devoted to the recovery from Sandy. Tonight, 10/9 Central, right here on NBC.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC