CBS Touts Showtime's 'Groundbreaking,' 'Well-Done' New Series Hyping Climate Change

Friday's CBS This Morning set aside almost six and a half minutes of air time to promote Showtime's upcoming series about climate change, which features liberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and CBS's Lesley Stahl. Charlie Rose heralded the "groundbreaking new documentary series," and let Friedman spotlight Arab environmentalists, who supposedly "understand that there's no Shiite air or Sunni air. If we don't protect the commons, nobody's going to breathe."

Rose, along with co-anchor Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King also turned to Stahl, who ballyhooed how "all these floods we've heard about – much more disastrous than they have been in our lifetime. That's because the ice is melting. It's affecting the seawater all along the eastern shore of the United States." King fawned over the new TV series, and set up Friedman to speculate about "climate change skeptics" might react to it: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

GAYLE KING: ...How do you think that the climate change skeptics will react to what they're going to see on this series? It's fascinating and so well-done.

TOM FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I can't predict – you can't talk someone out of something they haven't actually been talked into. You know, so much of this is, I think, emotional reaction.

King previewed the segment with Friedman and Stahl by trumpeting how "the biggest names in Hollywood and journalism combine for a new documentary series on climate change. It features everybody from Matt Damon and Harrison Ford to Tom Friedman and Lesley Stahl." Moments later, Rose continued with his "groundbreaking" label of the series, titled Years of Living Dangerously, and played a clip from the documentary where Friedman interviewed a man in Syria about the drought there that apparently contributed to the lead-up to the ongoing civil war.

The veteran PBS host continued by asking the columnist to explain "the connection between drought and the war in Syria." Friedman noted the "droughts in the Middle East since the Bible" and wondered if "the Mediterranean region [is] warming and making the droughts more frequent or more intense. And there are a lot of scientists who believe they do – that's what's happening...beginning in 2006 and lasting until 2010, Syria experienced the worst drought in its modern history....The drought didn't cause the revolution, but when the revolution came, all these farmers and herders could not wait to join."

King followed up with a softball question to her guest: "Tom, you know this area very well. You've been covering it for many years. What did you learn that surprised you most working on this documentary?" Friedman replied with his focus on the Middle Eastern environmentalists:

FRIEDMAN: ...I actually spent, you know, all these weeks traveling through the Middle East only talking to Arab environmentalists, and they're a remarkable community – small but extremely able – and it gave me a whole new perspective on the region. You know, because one thing young Arabs will tell you is, 'Hey, we've tried everything. We tried nationalism, socialism, Communism, Islamism, capitalism, liberalism, and nothing worked.' And I always tell them there's actually one 'ism you haven't tried, and that's environmentalism. And that's actually not a joke. Because environmentalists start with the commons. They understand that there's no Shiite air or Sunni air, if we don't protect the commons, nobody's gonna breathe.

O'Donnell then played a clip from the series of Stahl witnessing ice falling off a glacier in Greenland, and where the correspondent played up how "Greenland is melting at a pace that is hard to fathom – five times faster than it was just twenty years ago." The CBS This Morning host then asked her colleague, "Lesley, this is so fascinating because no place on Earth has seen the effects of global warming as the Arctic has, right?" She answered, in part, by claiming that "not only are the glaciers falling into the ocean, but they're melting from the top."

Rose then wondered what were the "consequences for the rest of the world." Stahl replied with her line about the "floods we've heard about – much more disastrous than they have been in our lifetime, that's because the ice is melting, it's affecting the seawater all along the eastern shore of the United States."

Near the end of the segment, the hosts, along with their guests, brought up the climate change skeptics and how, supposedly, the reason that there's still many of them is because the media hasn't hyped the issue enough:


KING: ...How do you think that the climate change skeptics will react to what they're going to see on this series? It's fascinating and so well-done.

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I can't predict – you can't talk someone out of something they haven't actually been talked into. You know, so much of this is, I think, emotional reaction. But I think the power of this series is that it tells the story through the experiences of real people, you know, living in real communities. Al Gore did an amazing job with An Inconvenient Truth, but that was one man telling millions. What this series is about is actually millions telling many more millions about how climate change is impacting their real lives.

O'DONNELL: And Lesley, there's been a lot of talk that the media has not focused on climate change.  

STAHL: Right, well, this is a series that focuses on it.

But to your question [pointing to King] – Don Cheadle, the actor, has what I think is one of the most powerful pieces, because he goes down into the South – and he is remarkable as – no opinion. He just is on a quest to find out why so many people in the South don't believe climate change. And he finds this Christian scientist who goes into churches to persuade them that science and religion can live together. And it's really an emotional, wonderful part of this series.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center