Among the Intellectualoids

Newsweek: Alarmed by Deniers

A useless newsweekly settles for groupthink and intolerance.

By 8.9.07

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Now even the partisan-resistant public must acknowledge what conservatives have known for a long time: that Newsweek is driven by a leftist agenda, even if they won't acknowledge it themselves.

That can't be illustrated more clearly than by the magazine's cover story this week, titled "Global Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine." Science writer Sharon Begley writes proudly and passionately in what she obviously thinks is an eye-opening expose' about the conspiring entities who "deny the science of climate change." Her Woodward and Bernstein-like prose tracks money passages from big energy producers to intellectual skeptics, who exist to undermine what she says is the consensus view: that human-induced worldwide warming is a threat to the planet's existence. Begley bemoans the results of a new Newsweek poll that "finds the influence of the denial machine remains strong," with respondents split about human influence on the greenhouse effect. She blames the "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks [disclosure: that's me!] and industry" for creating "a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change."

In other words, those of you still with reservations have been duped. What else could be the explanation, since Begley claims rock-solid resources that uncontrovertibly nailed down the left's climate change dogma?

One proof she characterized as "the verdict." It came from "a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries" that said, "warming of the climate system is unequivocal." What was the report? Who were the scientists? I have no idea -- apparently all that matters are the number of experts (probably no larger than the amount of scientists working at a large state university), the number of countries (all friends of the U.S., right?), and the word "unequivocal." And what do you think were the philosophical leanings of "governments, academia, green groups and (unidentified) businesses?" Consensus indeed.

Upping the ante, Begley also cited the most recent update from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which "was written by more than 800 climate researchers and vetted by 2,500 scientists from 130 nations" and attributed at least part of global warming to human causes. Again, strength in numbers, but what has the IPCC really said? If you haven't read it yourself you don't really know, because Begley doesn't dig into it.

The truth is, read any legitimate scientific study on climate -- including IPCC's -- that suggests human influence is the dominant cause for global warming, and you will discover dozens of qualifiers like "could," "possibly," "potentially," and "may." For all the certainty and consensus that global warming fear-mongers assert, those sound a lot like weasel words.

When taking that into consideration, you realize that both camps are in the "maybe" category on climate change. It's just a matter of degrees (there's a fortunate pun). But the consensus claimers are all too happy to let the allegation "they deny the science of global warming" to stand alone, making the undiscerning believe that global warming skeptics reject the clear evidence that the earth is warming. Both sides generally agree that the planet has increased in temperature by one degree in the past 100 years; the so-called "deniers" simply question the cause and whether there is a need for the costly remedies that the green groups want.

But Newsweek ignores that uncomplicated nuance. Instead Begley and her reporter helpers (including that paragon of objectivity, Eleanor Clift) largely avoid any substantive discussion over the scientific views both sides hold in the debate, and instead snipe at those who doubt Newsweek's panic agenda. Their opponents consist of industry and associations "representing petroleum, steel, autos and utilities," who "sow doubt about climate research just as cigarette makers had about smoking research." The contrarian curmudgeons' scientists, like MIT's Richard Lindzen and Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels, are dismissed as obstinate folks who don't do their own climate research but instead "kibitzed about other people's" (like most in the climate change caution camp). The intellect and credentials of the doubters are irrelevant in Newsweek's eyes.

At the heart of it all, of course, is the deniers' money. Begley emphasizes repeatedly how big oil and utilities feed the opinions from conservative think tanks. But what about the flow of cash that sustains the nonprofit-driven eco-movement? The dollars pushing global warming paranoia, coming from wealthy foundations like those established by Merck, the Rockefellers and Ted Turner, dwarf the skeptics' resources. But Begley and Newsweek show prejudice only against certain shades of green -- both monetary and ecological.

Begley's piece should surprise nobody. Anyone who has subscribed to Newsweek in recent years could not help but notice the near-weekly articles promoting the global warming scare agenda, and "what can be done about it."

This story reflects Newsweek's newest paranoia: the "skeptics" are finally getting traction on an issue dear to the hearts of the leftist media. Expect the attacks on the "denial machine" to escalate.

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About the Author

Paul Chesser publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, a news aggregator for North Carolina, and is a contributor of articles, research and investigative reports for both national and state-level free-market think tanks.