NBC & MSNBC Promote Brokaw's One-Sided Discovery Channel Global Warming Rant

Tom Brokaw's two-hour Sunday night special, Global Warming: What You Need to Know, may be airing on the Discovery Channel, but NBC News, a co-producer of the program, is adopting it as its own even as another reviewer has asserted it provides a one-sided presentation. At the end of Friday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams touted, “One quick program note here about a friend of ours: Tom Brokaw's special report on global warming airs this Sunday night on the Discovery Channel. That's at 9 Eastern time.” A bit later Friday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann previewed a clip of the cable special: "Tom Brokaw has faced right-wing attacks for his report on global warming. We'll give you your first look at his special report and about how the latest news is that the Earth's warming is leading to the deaths of polar bears." Countdown viewers were then treated to an excerpt from the show in which Brokaw presented one scientists' take on how global warming is harming polar bears in the Arctic which, Brokaw definitely declared, are “likely to become another statistic in one's database of a species on its way to extinction." The excerpt -- identical to the preview clip aired on Friday's Today -- was certainly one-sided, but Olbermann insisted Brokaw's special “is plenty balanced. It is the Earth's atmosphere that is not balanced."

Meanwhile, in a review posted Friday by Bloomberg News, Dave Shiflett concluded: “You'll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program.” (A transcript, excerpts and a picture of cute baby polar bears follow)

[UPDATE: Saturday's NBC Nightly News aired an excerpt which showed the special matches Al Gore's fear-mongering ]

[UPDATE, July 15 at 8pm EDT: Saturday's NBC Nightly News ended with an excerpt from Brokaw's Discovery Channel special. Brokaw warned of the “calamitous” impact of melting ice so that “in the coming centuries New York could be abandoned, its famous landmarks lost to the sea."

Anchor Lester Holt teased at the top of the July 15 newscast:
“Feeling the heat: Tom Brokaw on growing concerns about global warming. Is it too late?”
In the subsequent excerpt, which featured two of the most doomsday-oriented scientists, Brokaw asserted:
“About ten percent of the Earth's surface is covered by ice, most of that in the polar regions. But if enough of that ice melts, the seas will rise dramatically and the results will be calamitous. Scientists are keeping a watchful eye on the largest concentrations of ice on the planet: Greenland and Antarctica.”

Professor Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University: “If we lose a significant part of either of them, coastal civilization as we know it will disappear.”

Brokaw, over computer-generated video showing buildings and statues under water: “If this worst-case scenario should occur, in the coming centuries New York could be abandoned, its famous landmarks lost to the sea.”

James Hansen, PhD, Goddard Institute for Space Studies: “Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami -- they would all be under water.”]

A Friday MRC CyberAlert item recounted the “right wing” criticism, cited by Olbermann, which had simply relayed the take of a scientist who saw an advanced copy, and Olbermann's denunciation of those critics. A summary:
Don't expect balance in Tom Brokaw's two-hour Sunday night special on the Discovery Channel, produced in conjunction with the BBC and NBC News, Global Warming: What You Need to Know. A press release this week, from the majority staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, concluded that "Brokaw's partisan past and his reliance on scientists who openly endorsed Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and who are financially affiliated with left wing environmental groups, has resulted in a documentary that is devoid of balance and objectivity." The release reported that "former Colorado state climatologist and professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University, Roger Pielke, Sr, viewed an advance copy of the Brokaw's special and declared that it contained 'errors and misconceptions.'" Pielke asserted: "The show relied on just a few scientists with a particular personal viewpoint on this subject which misleads the public on the broader view that is actually held by most climate scientists." On Wednesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann ignored the substance of the criticism and awarded the press release writers his "worser" slam in his "Worst Person in the World!" for having "smeared" Brokaw.
Bloomberg News on Friday posted a review, “Brokaw Warns of Melting Glaciers, Greenhouse Gases, “ by Dave Shiflett. An excerpt:
Tom Brokaw's special on global warming claims to have "no agenda,'' though some viewers will quickly suspect he's out to make us sweat.

If mankind doesn't change its polluting ways, New Yorkers will soon be snorkeling to work. That's the basic message of 'Global Warming: What You Need to Know,' which airs on July 16 at 9 p.m. New York time on the Discovery Channel.

Brokaw, like former Vice President Al Gore and many prominent scientists, is convinced that carbon-dioxide emissions are the main cause of global warming and that without serious change we should expect gondoliers in San Francisco. The former NBC anchorman delivers the bad news in his trademark solemn monotone and travels widely to marshal his argument.

In the ice fields of Patagonia, glacier expert Stephan Harrison explains that ice is melting at an incredible rate. In Montana, the 66-year-old Brokaw says Glacier National Park may be glacier-free “in my lifetime.''

Geologist Mark Serreze takes us into the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, where core ice samples reaching back 600,000 years provide a startling fact: heat- trapping carbon-dioxide levels have reached an all-time high, which bodes ill for the planet's health.

In the Amazon rain forest, tree harvesting, farming and drought are reducing the ability of the “Earth's lung'' to cleanse the air of CO2. In China, growing energy demands are being met by large-scale production of CO2-belching, coal-fired power plants.

Then there's the U.S., world leader in C02 emissions thanks to our love of the internal-combustion engine, large appliances and jet travel.

Brokaw relies largely on a handful of experts in the two- hour show, particularly NASA's James Hansen and Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer. Both support Brokaw's view of global warming and consider the scientific debate closed.

Brokaw scoffs at the notion that there are “any remaining doubts humans are behind temperature rises,'' while Hansen says “99.5 percent of scientists say we know what's going on.''

You'll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program, which would have benefited from contrarian views, perhaps from MIT's Richard S. Lindzen or William Gray, the world's foremost expert on hurricanes and a critic of global- warming orthodoxy. Both are serious scientists, yet neither appears to be in Brokaw's Rolodex....

If we don't act soon, Brokaw says, we may reach a “tipping point'' of no return: New York and other coastal cities will be submerged, while Bangladesh will vanish beneath the waves. We're also told there could be mass extinction of wildlife, a plague of disease-bearing insect swarms, extreme weather and famine causing mass starvation.

A powerful presentation, to be sure, though certainly one with an agenda.


The MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked Olbermann's Friday night promotion of Brokaw.

An Olbermann upcoming segment plug, at 8:40pm EDT:
"Tom Brokaw has faced right-wing attacks for his report on global warming. We'll give you your first look at his special report and about how the latest news is that the Earth's warming is leading to the deaths of polar bears."
Another plug from Olbermann during a commercial break:
"Global warming warnings. Dying polar bears is the latest sign the Earth is heating."
Olbermann set up the eventual July 14 Countdown segment by claiming “nobody has seen” the special when, in fact, the Senate staffers he had denounced two nights before were simply quoting a scientist who had watched the show in advance:
"When the Republican staff of a Senate committee put out a news release blaming a global warming documentary nobody has seen yet on Tom Brokaw's lack of objectivity and balance, you knew the issue was already one of those out of control snowballs rolling down the hill of politics. And in our number two story in the Countdown, when the Mark Jacobs clothing stores are selling 'Give'em Hell, Al' shirts and caps, and the Al is Al Gore, but he's posed in such a way that you would first think it's Che Guevara without the beard or the beret, you know what the snowball is rolling toward. It's mainstream cultural debate. Thus we offer you tonight, no, not a free T-shirt, nor a pair of Mark Jacobs shoes, sorry ladies, but a preview of Mr. Brokaw's work for the Discovery Channel."

Tom Brokaw narrating over video of polar bears: "At the tip of South America in the vast ice fields of Patagonia, glaciers that have survived since the last ice age gripped the Earth have lost 10 percent of their mass in just the last seven years. And in the Arctic, here the melting ice may spell disaster for its most famous inhabitant, the polar bear."
Brokaw proceeded to outline the catastrophic views of one scientist:
Dr. Nick Lunn, Canadian Wildlife Service: "The size of the population has declined from about 1200 back in the 80s to now its 900, 950, so a decline of about 22 percent, and it's directly linked to early breakup of sea ice."

Brokaw: "Polar bears rely on sea ice to survive. For a few short months in spring, the bears hunt on the edges of the melting ice, where seals come up for air. For the bears, this is their last chance to feed before the long summer fast. But the ice is now melting earlier in the year and at a faster pace. The bears simply don't have enough time to hunt all the food they need to survive....Lunn has watched the average weight of these bears decrease by some 15 percent since the 1980s. Within the next six years, female bears may not have enough body fat to reproduce. The chances that these triplets will survive to adulthood, let alone make it till next fall, are slim. They're likely to become another statistic in one's database of a species on its way to extinction."

Lunn: "It makes me sad to think that I might be the last person working on this population and be known as a polar bear historian."
Olbermann, who it is doubtful had yet watched the entire two hours, nonetheless then insisted it is balanced:
"Always root for the bear. Global Warming: What You Need to Know with Tom Brokaw premiers Sunday at 9 Eastern on the Discovery Channel, and it is plenty balanced. It is the Earth's atmosphere that is not balanced."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center