Piers Morgan Lets Lib Journalist Bully His Global Warming Opponent

On his Monday show, CNN's Piers Morgan let liberal journalist Mark Hertsgaard bully fellow guest Roy Spencer for being skeptical of how much human activity is to blame for global warming.

"I don't think that we should be talking to climate deniers about climate stories. That is journalistically irresponsible," Hertsgaard insisted of Spencer, a former NASA climate studies senior scientist. Spencer hadn't denied global warming; he was skeptical of how much of it was manmade.

"The earth is a little warmer right now. We're not exactly sure whether it's 100 percent due to mankind or 50 percent due to mankind, 50 percent due to nature and by chance," Spencer had claimed.

Yet Hertsgaard repeatedly interrupted him and ripped into Piers Morgan for the "journalistic malpractice" of having him on CNN. This is the same journalist who accused the White House press corps of being "on bended knee" for President Reagan.

Hertsgaard tied the calamity in the Phillippines, which CNN was currently covering, to Spencer's position:

"But to deny that there's some kind of connection is, at this point, I think very irresponsible, and does not do justice to the terrible suffering we're seeing on the air right now on your program."

"Do you deny that you stand in opposition to the overwhelming scientific consensus on this? If so, you need to read more scientific papers, sir," he lectured Spencer.

And when Spencer accused him of selectively interviewing scientists on global warming, Hertsgaard fought back:

"See this is the conspiracy thinking that you must retreat to in order to say in the year 2013 that climate change is not manmade, happening now, and causing great suffering in the Philippines, great suffering. And we have not dealt with this for 20 years because of this kind of nonsense, talking about how there's no human fingerprints on this. That is not what 97 percent of the scientists on this planet say. And Piers, I repeat, journalistically this is malpractice to have on somebody pretending that this is 50 percent and 50 percent when nobody in the scientific community takes the view that climate change is not related to stronger storms."

Finally, after twice being accused of journalistic malpractice, Morgan intervened: "I think it's actually journalistically malpractice to not have a fair debate actually, with all respect to you, Mark Hertsgaard."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on November 12 on Piers Morgan Live at 9:21 p.m. EDT:

PIERS MORGAN: Let me start with you Dr. Roy Spencer. They're saying that this is the biggest recorded tropical cyclone that's ever been recorded in history. What is that tell us, coming on the back of Hurricane Sandy and other monster storms that we've seen. Is it really getting worse or is this a predictable weather pattern that recurs from generation to generation?

ROY SPENCER, former NASA climate studies climate studies senior scientist: Well, first of all, this wasn't the biggest. Probably Typhoon Tip from 1979 was the biggest in terms of shear size and the lowest pressure in the center of the storm.

This one was probably up near the top for the highest peak wind speeds. They really don't know because we've suspended the flights of aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, into typhoons many years ago. So, their estimates of the wind speeds in these systems is just based on the appearance of cloud-top temperatures, which are reasonably accurate for this kind of storm. But I think there's going to be a debate over exactly how strong the storm was. But it was one of the strongest.

Now on the subject of can we expect worse storms, you know, the consensus of opinion in the meteorological community and in the climate research community is still out on that one, as far as the effect on hurricanes and typhoons, because so far we really haven't seen a long term trend. We thought we did in 2005, which was a very active year. And then, since then, global cyclone activity has dropped off considerably, and we're near record lows globally. I mean the news hasn't been reporting on the fact that we only had a couple of hurricanes this year in the Atlantic.

MORGAN: But Mark Hertsgaard it's an ongoing debate. It's a very vocal debate on both sides as to whether the climate change is playing a part in these monster storms. Many scientists believe it is. Many believe though that it's not and that actually what you're seeing is no different to previous centuries. What is your view?

MARK HERTSGAARD, author and journalist: Well, my view is that of a journalist who interviews a lot of scientists. And I would beg to differ when you say that many scientists believe it is not. The fact of the matter is is that there's an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is manmade, it's real, it's happening now, and that it is going to produce far more powerful storms as we go forward. Now, is it too soon, we don't know yet exactly how we will – the scientists will finally come out on this particular typhoon. How much it was caused by global warning. But at this point in 2013, because global warming is so advanced, every weather event on the earth has some relationship to that. And certainly all of the climate scientists and the consensus opinion that just came out again from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would lead us to expect exactly what we're seeing.

Last year with Hurricane Sandy, now with Typhoon Haiyan and on and on and on. We have overheated the atmosphere, and we're going to be seeing far stronger storms. How much of this storm was because of global warning? Is it 10 percent? Is it 90 percent? That's something we need more scientific research into to find out. But to deny that there's some kind of connection is, at this point, I think very irresponsible, and does not do justice to the terrible suffering we're seeing on the air right now on your program.

MORGAN: Well, indeed. Let's play a clip here from George Clooney, the actor, who was talking about this today.

(Video Clip)

GEORGE CLOONEY, actor: If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you you are sick, and one percent that says "You're fine." You probably want to hang out with an – check it up for the 99, you know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we're in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What's the worst that's going to happen? Yyou know, we clean up the earth a little bit?

(End Video Clip)

MORGAN: Dr. Roy Spencer, final word to you. I mean, isn't that a good point – you can overcompensate, but what's the problem of that? Isn't under compensating, under reacting denying climate change in the end more dangerous?

SPENCER: Well, even though I'm a skeptic, I don't know of anyone that denies climate change. The climate has always changed. George Clooney's analogy to medical issues I think is misplaced because we have millions of examples of diseases that we've studied, that we know when they occur, what causes them, how to cure some of them, how not to cure some of them. In the case of global warning, we have one patient, the earth.

The earth is a little warmer right now. We're not exactly sure whether it's 100 percent due to mankind or 50 percent due to mankind, 50 percent due to nature and by chance. Today we have at new paper –

HERTSGAARD: Mr. Spencer, that is not true, sir. That is not true. You are misstating with facts. As a scientist –

SPENCER: Which part is not true, Mark?

HERTSGAARD: – you should not do that, sir. To say that we don't know. Listen to what the IPC just said – IPCC just said in its report that humankind's activities are now responsible for most of this. I frankly don't know why, Dr. Spencer, I believe that you don't even agree that climate change is manmade last time I checked. And if you've revised your position I'd love to hear about it.

SPENCER: Well, you're wrong about that. I believe that we don't know – I don't believe that we know how much is manmade versus natural.

(Crosstalk)

HERTSGAARD: So you stand against the 97 percent of scientists who say this. And, Piers, I have to tell you as a journalist, you know, we don't talk to tobacco scientists any more when we do cigarette stories. I don't think that we should be talking to climate deniers about climate stories. That is journalistically irresponsible.

SPENCER: Mark, did you know I'm one of the 97 percent you're talking about, because that 97 percent statistic included people who believe that some portion of climate change is manmade. And I do believe some portion of it is.

HERTSGAARD: You think it's a very small portion, sir. Do you deny that you stand in opposition to the overwhelming scientific consensus on this? If so, you need to read more scientific papers, sir.

SPENCER: I got a feeling I have read more than you have, Mark.

HERTSGAARD: Well, I suspect you have, but I think I have interviewed a lot more scientists than you have, sir, and it is -- I think –

SPENCER: And I think based on your job I know which kind of scientists you interview, because your job depends on the interviewing the kind on one side of the story –

HERTSGAARD: Sir, sir – see this is the conspiracy thinking that you must retreat to in order to say in the year 2013 that climate change is not manmade, happening now, and causing great suffering in the Philippines, great suffering. And we have not dealt with this for 20 years because of this kind of nonsense, talking about how there's no human fingerprints on this. That is not what 97 percent of the scientists on this planet say. And Piers, I repeat, journalistically this is malpractice to have on somebody pretending that this is 50 percent and 50 percent when nobody in the scientific community takes the view that climate change is not the related to stronger storms.

MORGAN. Okay, well look, listen, it's an interesting debate. I think it's actually journalistically malpractice to not have a fair debate actually, with all respect to you, Mark Hertsgaard. But thank you very much for the lecture on journalism.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014