The Media Spin: Bring Out the Tea Leaves
Global warming is in
fashion today, but veteran journalist David Goodnow remembers when
we once feared another ďlittle ice age.Ē
August 31, 2005
Tea leaves and global warming: there is no end to unintended
entertainment by activists. Keep those tea leaves at hand. Itís
always show time and the media are there to trumpet the style and
forecasts of the moment.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Thundering predictions of future outcomes are always
with us. It is the stock in trade of the politician, the political
activist and some others who worry about all sorts of coming
disasters, social or otherwise. Some appear to get involved as a
hobby. Others, who are serious about their worries, will stay the
course for someone apparently needs to worry.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Todayís seers are fearful of global warming. The talk
shows abound with dire predictions about the earthís rising
temperature, most recently blaming the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina on warmer waters. When was the last time you heard of a
prediction that wasnít dire? It couldnít have been in 1975, when
there were dire predictions in the media about global cooling. Yes,
cooling was the great fear and network news Ė cable wouldnít be
around for another five years Ė made things sound as if we were in
¬†¬†¬†¬† The networks werenít the only doomsayers. Newsweek
published an article that year appearing to sum up conclusions of
scientists that not only was global cooling a possibility but that
resulting crop failures would be catastrophic. The article could
have had many an activist break into a cold sweat of agreement.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Newsweek quoted a scientistís opinion that the
temperature decline had taken the planet about a sixth of the way
toward the Ice Age average. The article said other scientists
thought of the cooling as a return to the ďlittle ice ageĒ between
1600 and 1900. Not only did the scientists and seers make their case
then for cooling, but this was accompanied by as much technical
jargon and seeming proof as we see today about warming. They thought
this could begin within, say, ten years.
That was 1975. No cooling yet.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The media meisters should occasionally read their own
archives. Future embarrassing gaffes would be thus avoided. But they
have forgotten all that business about global cooling. The style now
is global warming.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Some Russian scientists say global cooling, not
warming, will happen and theyíre putting their rubles on the line.
Thus, there is some agreement among scientists who are not afraid of
being seen as mavericks or being drummed out of a scientific
organization or two for heresy.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Activists understand the need to demand things far
beyond what they hope to achieve. But human inertia means the
changes take time or may never happen at all. The outcome may
actually prove all the sturm und drang was far off the mark.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† How can one believe to the bottom of oneís soul
that there is something to the arguments when scientists on both
sides of the issue are never far from a talk show? Much yelling and
interrupting results and we are left still wondering about the true
facts of the subject.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Cooling and heating are all part of the earthís natural
cycle and itís due to the sunís periodic changes, say some
scientific thinkers. Their detractors believe they have been sitting
too close to a microwave oven and point to human intervention on an
unprecedented scale. But when cooler heads debate, heating and
cooling cycles sound believable enough to take to the bank.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The belief of the moment is like slow-motion hysteria
with strong political overtones. How much we should believe of all
the science we see, read and hear about is a difficult thing to
know. How much is ďjunk scienceĒ and how much holds water is central
to the discussion. Donít depend on the media to shine the light of
understanding on any of it; theyíre too busy arranging the next
¬†¬†¬†¬† It may be fashionable to believe that global warming is
presently upon us. It was fashionable in 1975 to believe just the
¬†¬†¬†¬† Opinion leaders lead the fashion of the moment for
various reasons. I tend to think people may have become just
skeptical enough of some of the drumbeaters and certain media to
think for themselves and look more closely into the subject.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Warming to this present idea may give cold comfort when
the next fashion rolls around.
And so the media spin.
David Goodnow is a veteran reporter and former CNN anchor. He serves
as an adviser to the Free Market Project.