On Tuesday night, all three network evening newscasts ran with stories on a newly released government report blaming man-made climate change for recent extreme weather. ABC's World News led the charge, as anchor Diane Sawyer sounded the alarm: "Hot planet. The world is heating up. And for the first time, a U.S. Government-backed report ties that searing heat, those epic storms, to man-made global warming."
Sawyer cited a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a "major alert about the speed of climate change on this planet" and wondered if the study represented "a tipping point" on the issue. Turning to weather editor Sam Champion, Sawyer hoped there was "still time to do something." Champion proclaimed: "I would say is, now is the time we start limiting man-made greenhouse gases if we're starting to see that that is exactly what other studies are showing."
On NBC's Nightly News, correspondent Anne Thompson used National Climatic Data Center Director Tom Karl to blame "human activity" for "increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere" and leading to more extreme weather. Thompson then added: "Gases like carbon dioxide, created when we burn fossil fuels. Gases that trap heat and warm the earth."
On the CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley explained to viewers: "We've been reporting on a lot of extreme weather. And today, for the very first time, government scientists are saying that these events are likely connected to man-made climate change." Correspondent Wyatt Andrews followed by declaring: "The report says last year's record drought in Texas was made roughly 20 times more likely because of man-made climate change, specifically meaning warming that comes from greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide."
Strangely, Andrews concluded the segment by telling Pelley: "You're going to see a lot of scientists criticizing this as a guess, but NOAA for the first time is arguing, Scott, that this is science." What made that statement so odd was that no such critics were featured in the coverage. Such skeptics were also absent from ABC and NBC.
In addition, the networks completely ignored a new study published in the journal Nature that actually showed a cooling trend over the centuries.
Here is a full transcript of the July 10 World News report:
6:30PM ET TEASE:
DIANE SAWYER: Hot planet. The world is heating up. And for the first time, a U.S. Government-backed report ties that searing heat, those epic storms, to man-made global warming.
6:31PM ET SEGMENT:
SAWYER: We begin with a new report and a major alert about the speed of climate change on this planet. Hundreds of scientists from around the globe saying today there is evidence that global warming is accelerating. Sea levels rising, greenhouse gases mounting, glaciers melting. And for the first time, a government-backed report links the recent wild weather to man-made causes. So is this a kind of tipping point? ABC's weather editor Sam Champion begins by breaking it down for us.
SAM CHAMPION: The extreme weather of 2011.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, gosh that is a monster tornado.
CHAMPION: The worst drought in a decade. Even the recent headline of the hottest 12 months we've ever lived through. All are a global concern. Areas of the world are getting hotter and dryer. Flood zones getting pummeled. Extreme weather becoming the rule, not the exception. And according to many scientists, global warming is a cause.
HEIDI CULLEN [CLIMATOLOGIST, CLIMATE CHANGE]: What we know really well about global warming is that it increases the likelihood of more extreme events.
CHAMPION: Today, hundreds of scientists from 48 countries released their annual State of the Climate report, which shows the trend toward a rapidly warming planet has been accelerating. The study examined headlines, like rising temperatures both on land and in our oceans. And examined disappearing sea ice. 2011 showed the second smallest area of ice on record. Also noting glaciers around the world continue to shrink. Greenland has one of the largest ice bodies in the world. And pictures now show Greenland's glaciers are melting 30 times faster than they were a decade ago.
Over the last century, sea levels have risen about ten inches. But by 2050, scientists predict the levels will increase another foot. If that holds true, parts of cities like Miami and New Orleans will be under water.
For the first time in its history, this study says 2011 weather extremes are connected to man-made global warming. This study does not make predictions for the future, but it begs the question, have we reached the tipping point? Scientists tell us, not yet.
CULLEN: There may not be a tipping point this year or next year. But the odds just keep growing. And it's one of these problems where the sooner you deal with it, the easier it is.
SAWYER: And I want to turn to Sam Champion right now. So Sam, how did they link this to man-made causes for first time?
CHAMPION: In looking through the report, Diane, the one thing they won't do is say that that particular thunderstorm or that particular flood event was caused by global warming, but what they do say is that all of these greenhouse gases are on the rise, and at the largest and highest levels that they've seen since they've been keeping records. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. They also say that they were not able to detect natural rises in greenhouse gases.
SAWYER: So these are man-made gases they're seeing and not natural gases?
CHAMPION: For the first time, that's what the report says.
SAWYER: Now we've heard it's not yet the tipping point. So still time to do something?
CHAMPION: Well, in my – if you want my opinion, Diane, what I would say is, now is the time we start limiting man-made greenhouse gases if we're starting to see that that is exactly what other studies are showing.
SAWYER: Alright, well this will start a lot of conversation. Big new report today. Thanks, Sam.