The Media's Moral Responsibility on Climate Science

Webster's Dictionary defines "sloppy" as something that is "careless" or "negligent." For the moment, I can't think of a better word to describe the background research CNBC reporter Joe Kernen did regarding the state of global warming science when Sheryl and I appeared on his program the other day.

If you saw the interview, you know that instead of focusing on the serious problems of global warming and what we need to do about it, Joe decided to put on the hat of naysayer to attempt to refute the consensus opinion of over 2000 scientists from over 150 countries including the US. He chose to refer to a recent 'documentary' out of Britain that attempts to refute the scientific consensus around global warming. The problem is that he failed to take into account the fact that this documentary has received no consideration in serious scientific circles and is shrouded in immense criticism and controversy.

Now normally I would choose to leave it at that, since it is a waste of my time to try to refute junk science. However, this particular one is too good to pass up. A quick survey of film's 'expert' contributors uncovers a virtual who's who of Exxon funded global warming deniers. Further, I uncovered numerous allegations of selective editing of interviews (apparently causing at least one scientist to threaten legal action), the use of mislabeled graphs, outdated and flawed data, not to mention that the list of 'experts' interviewed includes a who's who of Exxon's favorites. Worse is that when the film's creator was alerted to the fact that the data he was using in certain cases was outdated, misrepresented and flawed, he intentionally ignored it.

So this begs the question, why didn't Joe check into any of this to ensure that he wasn't using unsubstantiated and flawed material to attempt to refute the consensus of the most credible scientific study on the subject in the world? I would guess it is because he couldn't find anything else, so he hitched his wagon to the product of a man whose previous documentary was apparently found by a regulatory commission to have distorted the views of at least four participants through what the commission called 'selective editing'. Bang up prep job, Joe. Real thorough.

What steams me the most about this incident is that for years the media was legitimately misled by industry funded deniers and junk science, however, we are well past the point in time where anyone in the media can credibly say that the earth is not warming and that we are not to blame.

There comes a time when the media has a moral responsibility to accept the prevailing scientific consensus and leave behind the illogical need to create controversy where it does not exist. If they choose not to then that is their mistake, their shame, and their responsibility. What Joe Kernen did was not fair reporting. It was editorializing. On that note, the better word to describe Joe Kernen's actions is "irresponsible". I hope he looks it up.