Diane Sawyer Uses Wind Disaster to Hype Global Warming: 'Weather Gone Wild'

World News' Diane Sawyer on Monday hyped a disaster at a rock concert in Indianapolis as an example of "weather gone wild" and linked it to global warming. Hyperbolically connecting the tragedy to other weather events, she proclaimed, "Something strange going on around the globe."

The anchor teased the segment by warning, "And tonight, the weather gone wild. Winds that come out of nowhere. Floods swelling streets. Heat breaking records in all 50 states. Snow where it hasn't fallen in decades." The program also hid the identity of a global warming activist. [See correction below.]

[See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Reporter Jim Avila covered the deaths of five people in Indianapolis due to freak wind causing a stage to collapse. He suggested they might be connected to climate change: "But, is it related to the heat around the globe?"

The journalist featured a clip of Heidi Cullen, who ABC simply labeled as a "climatologist." She announced, "When you crank up the heat, when you globally warm the planet, you're going to see more extreme events."  [08-17-11 Correction: ABC did have the words "Climate Central" in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Though, the network did not offer any explanation of the group's advocacy.]

Yet, Cullen is also the communications director for Climate Central, a group dedicated to "helping mainstream Americans understand how climate change connects to them, and arming our audiences with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their future."

Avila made no mention of her advocacy on this topic. Yet, on May 23, 2011, in another  World News piece by Avila, the network did identify Cullen's connection. (She also touted climate change as host of a now-defunct show on the Weather Channel.)

In that World News segment, Sawyer saw tornadoes as examples of climate change. She worried, "this is the evidence of a kind of preview of life under global warming?"

On July 23, 2010, ABC reporter Jon Karl ambushed Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, a global warming skeptic, and attempted to suggest that heat in the summer was evidence of climate change.

A transcript of the August 15 segment, which aired at 6:31pm EDT, follows:
 


DIANE SAWYER: And tonight, the weather gone wild. Winds that come out of nowhere. Floods swelling streets. Heat breaking records in all 50 states. Snow where it hasn't fallen in decades. Something strange going on around the globe.

6:31

SAWYER: As we begin this week, the weather across America has forecasters ripping up the record books. Stunning extremes tonight from coast to coast. And we are going to tell you what we have learned today about the freakish wind that hit the Indiana state fair. The wind that did not even show up on radar. More on that in a moment. But is it related to the heat around the globe? The heat so powerful, the Arctic sea ice is melting away, leaving the smallest amount of July ice at the pole since they started keeping track more than 30 years ago. To begin it all tonight, here's ABC's Jim Avila.

JIM AVILA: From the mid-Atlantic to New England, buckets of rain, a record ten inches fell on New York's Long Island yesterday.
                   
MAN: It's been wicked. We've been trying to get around all day. You can't get nowhere.

AVILA: If this was January, that storm would have dumped nine feet of snow. Instead, the north east flooding.

SECOND MAN: We've had rain. We've had flooding, but never anything that looks like this, no.

AVILA: Never had anything like this heat either. Triple digits across Texas again today. Halfway through August, 5,000 heat records have been broken across the country. Every state in the U.S. set a heat record, all 50. Waco hit 100 for the 63rd time this year, tying an all-time record. It was nature from another angle in Indianapolis over the weekend, straight-line winds, unseen on radar, out of nowhere, hit 70 miles per hour, knocked down the concert stage, killing five.

THIRD MAN: That is a monster tornado.
                               
AVILA: A summer of extremes. Tornadoes in Massachusetts. Dust storms in Phoenix. And this weekend, Wellington, New Zealand, of all places, got its first snowfall in 35 years. What is going on?

HEIDI CULLEN (Climatologist): When you crank up the heat, when you globally warm the planet, you're going to see more extreme events.

AVILA: How is this for extreme? The arctic sea ice is at its smallest ever. While globally, July was the seventh warmest ever. Making the drought in Texas easier to explain. 75 percent of America's second largest state, bone dry. Kemp, Texas' water tanks ran dry for days and farmers all across the southern tier are suffering. Crops from corn to soybeans are dying on the vine. And soon prices on vegetables and beef are expected to climb.

GERALD NELSON (International Food Policy Research Institute): Every farmer in the world will be affected by climate change one way or the other.

SAWYER: So, Jim, you say soon the prices will begin to rise. How soon?

AVILA: Well, hit hardest is corn and soybean. That's all the way from breakfast cereal to steaks. And that could start happening as soon as fall, certainly six months by now.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org