Networks Tout White House Report on Global Warming; Hype the Perils of Climate Change
The broadcast networks all took a climate change study released by the White House and ran with it on Tuesday evening, advancing the administration's narrative by hyping the threats of climate change while barely quoting any critics.
ABC's coverage was so soft that correspondent Ginger Zee bragged like a groupie that President Obama asked a question of her: "And then something interesting happened, Diane. The President actually asked me a question. He wanted to know which storm was the worst that I had ever covered." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
She also relayed the administration's "excitement" over its agenda: "I spent the whole day here at the White House, and the President and the staff tell me they're most excited about this, because they think it's going to help people plan and respond to disasters."
CBS, meanwhile, devoted three segments to the peril of climate change, heralding extreme droughts in Texas and flooding in Miami. "No region of the country will be spared," Major Garrett ominously declared.
NBC furthered the White House narrative as correspondent Peter Alexander hyped the consequences for the new generation: "If the projections are right, newborn Nia Codrington at Brooklyn's Maimonides Hospital will witness big environmental changes during her lifetime." Alexander added that rising sea levels could bring "a lifetime of potentially dramatic changes for Nia Codrington and a new generation."
The networks gave little voice to critics. ABC quoted but failed to identify a man who scoffed at the proposals. "I think the changes that are attempting to lessen those punches will have much less of an impact than teaching us sort of how to avoid getting hit square by those punches in the first place," he told ABC.
Both CBS and NBC spent only a moment citing GOP criticism that the report was "alarmist." The rest of the time, the networks were hyping the problem of climate change and touting the White House's plan to deal with it, a liberal wish-list as ABC's Ginger Zee reported:
"Reduce emissions from coal plants. Help communities brace for extreme weather that will only grow worse. And to lead other nations like China, which has surpassed America in damaging CO2 emissions. But while U.S. makes up just five percent of the world's population, we still consume 24 percent of the world's energy."
Below are transcripts of the segments:
6:31 p.m. EDT
DIANE SAWYER: We begin with at the White House today with some big news. The President and 300 experts giving their answer to a question a lot of us have been asking. Is this extreme weather all around us global warming or not? The President's answer is yes, and it's underway right here, right now. ABC's meteorologist Ginger Zee at the White House where she spoke with President Obama today.
GINGER ZEE: (voice over) The message in this new report, it is already happening. Extremes of today will become even more extreme. In the Northeast, torrential rains and devastating floods like those from Hurricane Sandy.
(Previous video) Huge waves, crashing up and over. Did you see that one?
In the Southeast, coastal flooding.
(Previous video) The storm surge has been pushing up and over, flooding this highway.
In the farm belt, longer growing seasons. And in the Southwest, it means more heat waves and exceptional drought. Bringing those wildfires. All of it according to the National Climate Assessment report, is from the impact of a warming planet.
(On camera) The new report, the climate situation that we're in, seems pretty dire. What do you think you can get done in the next two years?
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: The good news is, is that we've already taken some big actions, whether it's increasing fuel efficiency standards on cars, increasing fuel efficiency on appliances, but we're gonna have to do more. We also have a chance to turn back these rising temperatures if we take some bold actions now.
ZEE: (voice over) All part of the aggressive plan laid out by the White House. Reduce emissions from coal plants. Help communities brace for extreme weather that will only grow worse. And to lead other nations like China, which has surpassed America in damaging CO2 emissions. But while U.S. makes up just five percent of the world's population, we still consume 24 percent of the world's energy.
While there were more than 300 scientists and authors behind this new report, and even two oil companies, there are definitely those who don't agree.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mother nature won't stop throwing punches. That's what she does. And I think the changes that are attempting to lessen those punches will have much less of an impact than teaching us sort of how to avoid getting hit square by those punches in the first place.
(End Video Clip)
ZEE: I spent the whole day here at the White House, and the President and the staff tell me they're most excited about this, because they think it's going to help people plan and respond to disasters. And then something interesting happened, Diane. The President actually asked me a question. He wanted to know which storm was the worst that I had ever covered. My answer, Hurricane Sandy and Katrina.
6:34 p.m. EDT
SCOTT PELLEY: In another important story this evening, a new study says that climate change is being felt today in all 50 states. The National Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress, said the average temperature in the U.S. has risen by nearly two degrees since 1895, most of that increase since 1970. Sea levels are projected to rise by one to four feet by the end of the century. Our team of correspondents is looking into this. First, Major Garrett at the White House with what the report predicts.
MAJOR GARRETT, CBS News chief White House correspondent: (voice over) Heavy weather now and more to come. Harsher hurricanes, hotter summers, longer droughts and higher sea levels. Those are the ominous warnings of the new climate change report, written by more than 250 scientists and experts with input from the oil industry. Dr. Jerry Melillo is one of its lead authors.
Dr. JERRY MELILLO: Climate change is happening now. It is not an issue that you can think about 20 or 30 years into the future.
GARRETT: No region of the country will be spared. The Northeast could see more heat waves and coastal flooding, with some areas experiencing two additional months of 90-degree weather a year. The Southeast could have significantly more 95-degree weather days and rising sea levels that could threaten many coastal cities. In the Midwest, warming will extend the growing season, but higher temperatures and humidity could lead to more heat-related deaths. Warmer water could threaten aquatic life in the Great Lakes. Lake Huron's summer temperatures rose five degrees between 1968 and 2002. The Southwest has suffered its hottest decade on record with no sign of easing. That's triggered drought, insect infestations, and has added to the threat of wildfires. And then there's Alaska. It has warmed twice as rapidly as the rest of the country over the past 60 years. That's meant earlier spring snow melts and widespread glacier retreat.
MELILLO: The report makes it clear that all Americans, in some way, either directly or indirectly, are currently being affected by climate change, and as we look to the future, will continue to be affected by climate change.
(End Video Clip)
GARRETT: Republicans dismissed this report as an election year ploy to scare voters and pave the way for pollution regulations that sidestep Congress. Scott, this is the third report of its kind. Congress first ordered periodic climate assessments in 1990.
[6:36 p.m. EDT]
SCOTT PELLEY: Now, some parts of the Great Plains are in extreme drought. Drier than the dustbowl of the 1930s, when drought and poor farming practices caused millions of acres of soil to blow away. Anna Werner is in North Texas.
ANNA WERNER: Wichita Falls, Texas is suffering its worst drought since record keeping began. Rainfall here is close to four feet below normal since 2010, so city manager Darron Leiker turned to the only viable, quick option he had – treating the city's sewage water and turning it directly into drinking water.
(On camera) You've been reassuring people this water will be perfectly safe, but are you facing the yuck factor?
DARREN LEIKER, city manager, Wichita Falls: Somewhat, yes, but not as much as you would expect. They may not love the fact, but they understand that they'll have water to shower in.
WERNER: (voice over) Five million gallons a day will be pumped to the city taps, and other communities might consider it, too.
LEIKER: Several communities around the country, actually around the world, they're watching us closely. A lot of eyes are on Wichita falls right now.
WERNER: (on camera) That back there behind me that looks like a pond, that's what's left of the water. Now, the city plans to begin reusing waste water later this summer, but even with that, Scott, in a worst-case drought scenario, the city could run out of water in two years.
PELLEY: Anna Werner, high and dry in what used to be a reservoir. Anna, thank you very much.
[6:38 p.m. EDT]
SCOTT PELLEY: It is the exact opposite in south Florida, where rising seas are threatening Miami Beach. Vicente Arenas is there.
VICENTE ARENAS: (voice over) Not far from tourist hot spots, Miami Beach has started construction on underground pumping stations to protect the city from flooding caused by rising sea levels and extreme storms.
[7:04 p.m. EDT]
BRIAN WILLIAMS: A new White House report on climate change is out tonight. And it's not about if or when, but the point of this report is to show it's happening here and now in this country. The report warns that climate extremes will become increasingly common. Some point to places like lake Piru north of L.A. where all the green you're seeing used to be covered by water, which is now at a 30-year low. One more symptom of a devastating drought. And according to today's report, the kind of thing the next generation should be prepared for. We get more tonight from NBC's Peter Alexander.
PETER ALEXANDER: (voice over) If the projections are right, newborn Nia Codrington at Brooklyn's Maimonides Hospital will witness big environmental changes during her lifetime. Just think of all the extreme weather headlines in the last nine months. Floods, tornadoes, record cold, and record drought. Today's new White House report, the National Climate Assessment it's called, warns if we do nothing temperatures could rise up to ten degrees this century. President Obama with NBC's Al Roker this afternoon.
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now.
ALEXANDER: Across all regions. In the Northeast, heavier rainfalls and more heat waves predicted. Short winters are already affecting harming Vermont maple syrup farmer Burr Morse.
BURR MORSE: It didn't quite get cold enough at night.
ALEXANDER: In the Northwest, less snow and warmer more, acidic ocean waters cutting into oyster fisherman Bill Taylor's catch.
BILL TAYLOR: The whole shellfish industry is at risk.
ALEXANDER: In the Midwest, the benefits of longer growing seasons may be wiped out by more extreme weather. More droughts and floods, which could affect harvests and food prices. The Southwest will only get hotter and drier, extending already devastating wildfire seasons and forcing water restrictions. Finally in the Southeast, an increased risk of hurricanes and coastal flooding.
ANNE THOMPSON, Pensacola, Florida: (on camera) The price tag for flooding alone could run as high as $325 billion with more than a third of those damages happening here in Florida. This is what last week's torrential rains did to Pensacola's Piedmont road.
ALEXANDER: Global sea levels that rose eight inches in the last century could rise one to four feet more by the year 2100, putting nearly 5 million Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of property at risk. A lifetime of potentially dramatic changes for Nia Codrington and a new generation.
SOPHIA CODRINGTON, Nia's mom: I just hope that for Nia's sake that she would be able to experience some of the joys that we have. Taking long walks, going to the beach, enjoying life.
(End Video Clip)
ALEXANDER: And critics are already referring to this document as being alarmist. One Republican lawmaker, Brian, today saying that he dismissed it as a political document that is intended to frighten Americans.
WILLIAMS: Peter Alexander on the south lawn of the White House for us tonight. Peter, thanks.