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Environment

PBS Gets Gored in Climate Debate

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 23, 2011 5:29 PM

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Oh, the irony. Yesterday, Rolling Stone magazine posted Al Gore's 7,000 word essay, which is critical of the media's (and President Obama's) handling of climate change. That same day, the highly respected PBS news show hosted a discussion of Gore's essay. Instead of inviting non-partisan environmental scholars or political scientists to analyze the essay's premises, PBS went with three agenda-pushing wonk/pundits that reflected the left wing/right wing spectrum. One of them was Ken Green, a resident scholar at the conservative/libertarian-oriented American Enterprise Institute. At one point in the discussion, Gwen Ifill, the PBS host, unintentionally gave him an opening to hijack the discussion. According to the transcript, here's the exchange where Green does his best Marc Morano imitation. What follows requires serious unpacking. But first read it through:

GWEN IFILL: Are we having the right argument? Is -- are the climate skeptics being given too much, too little attention? KENNETH GREEN: We're beginning to actually have the right argument, which is interesting. You have Andy Revkin at The New York Times, an environmental reporter, seriously upset over the fact that the U.N. IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, let a report on renewable energy be written by the Sierra Club. And this is a huge scandal of unprecedented proportions. GWEN IFILL: Is that true? KENNETH GREEN: And some in the environmental left reporting community are furious, they are livid over what's been done, and the discrediting that's going happen to the entire U.N. environmental movement. So, I think now we are beginning to have the right debate. It's no longer, oh, there's only a few cranks and, oh, there's a few people with tinfoil hats. There's a real problem with the politicization of climate science. And now, if we have that debate, I think that's...

DANIEL WEISS: But, Ken, that politicization has occurred on the right. The National Academy of Sciences just released a report two months ago that found that 96 percent of all the global warming studies that have been peer-reviewed by scientists were all pointed in one direction, increase...

KENNETH GREEN: But, Dan, it takes two to tango. It takes two sides to tango.

Yikes! Let's start at the top, when Ifill asks, "Are we having the right argument? Is -- are the climate skeptics being given too much, too little attention?" Hello, the debate was was supposed to be about Gore's essay.

Green, of course, thinks its a terrific "argument" to have. And then he uses Andy Revkin in an egregiously misleading fashion to help make his argument: "You have Andy Revkin at The New York Times, an environmental reporter, seriously upset over the fact that the U.N. IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, let a report on renewable energy be written by the Sierra Club." Just about everything about that statement is factually incorrect. Or as Revkin himself puts it:

I'm cited (inaccurately) by Green for my concerns on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on renewable energy. (He mashes up the Sierra Club with Greenpeace and misses my main concern about the report, which was over the lack of transparency, not the unsurprisingly involvement of an environmental group.)

In the next breath, Green grossly exaggerates: "And this is a huge scandal of unprecedented proportions." At this, Ifill's BS antenna goes up: "Is that true?" To which Green conveniently ignores her and moves right along to expand on this "huge scandal" and "why we are beginning to have the right debate. It's no longer, oh, there's only a few cranks and, oh, there's a few people with tinfoil hats. There's a real problem with the politicization of climate science. And now, if we have that debate, I think that's..." At this point, Daniel Weiss, who is director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, cuts in and soon the debate lapses into the both sides are guilty narrative. Game over. Green wins because a discussion that was supposed to be about whether Obama is doing enough on climate change morphs into a discussion of the latest "huge scandal" in the climate concerned community and the politicization of climate science by both sides. All in all, the exchange is a perfect distillation of not just the impoverished public climate debate (represented by ideological combatants on TV), but also the cynical tactics employed by some partisans.

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