NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 4, 2006

Some 85 percent of Americans say global warming is probably happening, and 62 percent say it threatens them personally. The National Academy of Sciences says the rise in the Earth's surface temperature has been about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last century. Did 85 percent of Americans notice? Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism calculated to produce it, says columnist George Will.

Scientists and the news media, however, have a poor record at predicting global catastrophe, says Will:

  • When measuring the planet's temperature, 1 degree might be the margin of error, however, taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.
  • Some 30 years ago, most were concerned with global cooling; Newsweek asserted ("The Cooling World," April 18, 1975) that meteorologists "are almost unanimous" that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said "may mark the return to another ice age."
  • In fact, the Earth is always experiencing either warming or cooling, but even if the earth is warming as a result of human activity, we are not sure the consequences of climate change will be bad.

Perhaps the problem is not big oil or big coal, both of which have discovered there is big money to be made from tax breaks and other subsidies justified in the name of combating carbon. Perhaps the problem is big, crusading journalism, says Will.

Source: George Will, "The Experts Once Were Sure That..." Star Telegram, April 2, 2006.


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