NBC Documentary Ignores Skeptics, Insists ‘97 Percent’ Agree on Climate Change

The “Green is Universal” network is at it again, warning about the threat of man-made climate change. Ann Curry’s latest NBC production, “Our Year of Extremes” was billed as a documentary even though it was thoroughly alarmist and ignored plenty of scientific disagreement.

In the hour-long program Curry, kept up the hype about a connection between “extreme” weather events and global warming, presented “controversial” science about ice melt and staved off skepticism with claims of a 97 percent “consensus” on the issue of climate change.

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Curry, a former anchor of NBC’s “Today” who warned about the threat of global warming for years on the network, promoted that notion of scientific consensus that climate change is man-made “for most scientists the debate is over. Ninety-seven percent agree that as humans burn fossil fuels ... the planet warms.” While Curry included the NASA scientists Tom Wagner to bolster this claim, she didn’t address complaints about the research methods used to derive the 97 percent figure.

The April 6 broadcast glossed over the question of human involvement in climate change in favor of weather anecdotes and no scientists skeptical of man’s role in climate change were included. Curry insisted there was “virtually no debate among climate scientists” and “no doubt that the planet is getting warmer.”

The show also focused on a series of “extreme” weather events such as droughts, polar ice melt and Hurricane Sandy which they linked to man-made global warming in spite scientific disagreement.

The broadcast began with long, dramatic clips of forest fires, floods, blizzards and catastrophic storms. While narrating, Curry connected these images by hyping the “powerful, new evidence” that climate change is causing extreme weather events. She declared that this past year “Mother Nature has thrown everything at us.”

However, this connection between extreme weather and climate change is controversial, a fact that the dramatic opening ignored. While Wagner admitted to Curry that “you can’t attribute any one single event to climate change,” he still asserted that “extreme weather is a sign of climate change.”

Undeterred, Curry spent much of the broadcast discussing the drought in California, extreme winter on the East Coast and Superstorm Sandy, connecting each event to global warming.

Yet, in many respects including hurricanes, wildfires and even extreme heat, 2013 wasn’t an extreme year for the United States. According to an October 2013 analysis from the SI Organization, 2013 was “a year with minimal extreme weather events in the US.”

There is also much disagreement regarding claims that global warming causes more and worse hurricanes.

The 97 Percent Problem and ‘Controversial’ Science

Curry used the 97 percent consensus figure without letting on at all that the statistic is misleading.

The most recent origin of that claim is from geologist James Powell, who presented it in a study in January 2014, but even he admitted that his methods were subjective. Marc Morano of the website Climate Depot criticized Powell for failing to define what “accepts man-made global warming” meant, making his characterizations of scientific studies meaningless.

In fact, thousands of peer-reviewed studies cast doubt on man-made climate change and many scientists have differing views. In 2010, Marc Morano released a collection of more than 1000 scientists who “challenged man-made global warming claims.” Similarly the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change aggregated “thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that do not support” man-made climate change.

Curry ignored that and instead rushed to connect climate change and extreme weather events by interviewing multiple scientists who supported man-made climate change.

She interviewed environmentalist Prof. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Francis discussed her “bold and controversial” research into how polar ice melt causes extreme weather elsewhere on the planet.

Francis said Hurricane Sandy might be evidence her hypothesis is correct. This claim, of course, fit neatly into the media’s obsession with linking Sandy to climate change which meteorologists like Joe Bastardi have called “nonsense.”

At no point in the broadcast did Curry include a scientist skeptical of man-made climate change, which is standard practice for the broadcast networks. The closest she came was including comments by Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr. a political scientist and environmental professor with the University of Colorado Boulder.

Pielke, who accepts man-made climate change, expressed doubt that extreme weather events are caused by global warming. Liberal outlets and left-wing websites have attacked Pielke for that view. In March 2014, Think Progress slammed his “confusionist views” while Slate called him “an embarrassment.”

But Pielke’s other remarks helped Curry push climate activist politics. Pielke said that the “key” to fixing climate change problems lies in “the big sources of energy.” Specifically, he promoted a “tax on fossil fuels,” though admitted that “consumers would end up paying.”

Curry said nothing about how much that could cost consumers. Instead she interviewed Jason Box, a climatologist who studies Greenland’s ice sheet. Box compared the struggle against climate change to World War II. He said “it’s like putting a man on the moon, or going into World War II. These are things that Americans rallied around and felt patriotic about.”

Curry has been making alarmist claims about climate change for years. In 2007, she linked pre-teen children’s stress levels to “the effects of climate change.” Curry also gushed over former Vice President Al Gore in 2007, urging him to run and saying “without you there will not be the political will in the White House to fight global warming.”

In 2008, Curry incorrectly cited Mt. Kilimanjaro as an example of global warming-related ice melt, despite alarmist scientists disagreement with this assessment. More recently, in 2013, Curry reported that “we in the industrialized world are using more than our fair share and that our children and our grandchildren will pay the price.”

Sean Long
Sean Long is a former writer for MRC Business.