Democrat, Greens Fume Over NBC’s Global Warming “˜Debate’

Senators had angled for stronger coverage of climate change, but NBC’s planned climate-science tussle is ruffling feathers in the environmental movement.

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.
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Ben Geman
Feb. 15, 2014, 10:45 a.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats re­cently joined a long-stand­ing lib­er­al co­ali­tion of me­dia crit­ics to de­mand that ma­jor news net­works up their cov­er­age of cli­mate change.

This is not what they had in mind.

Sunday’s epis­ode of NBC’s Meet the Press will fea­ture a “cli­mate-change de­bate” between celebrity sci­ence edu­cat­or Bill Nye (“the sci­ence guy”) and Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn of Ten­ness­ee.

For the polit­ic­al co­ali­tion — and, in­deed, for the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of cli­mate sci­ent­ists — the con­nec­tion between hu­man green­house-gas emis­sions and cli­mate change is settled sci­ence, and they were hop­ing the net­works would cov­er the ef­fects of that change. But Black­burn has dis­puted the sci­entif­ic con­sensus on hu­man-in­duced glob­al warm­ing, and the seg­ment’s crit­ics fear the epis­ode will fea­ture a he-said/she-said vibe that’s at odds with the sci­ence.

Greens may take solace in the oth­er ma­jor net­works — ABC and CBS will both de­vote por­tions of their Sunday news shows to cli­mate change and re­cent ex­treme weath­er like Cali­for­nia’s drought and the East Coast snowstorms — but they’re rip­ping NBC’s seg­ment be­fore it even airs.

“Ser­i­ously? Host­ing a de­bate on the sci­ence of cli­mate change? Shame on [Meet the Press],” tweeted Becky Bond, polit­ic­al dir­ect­or of Credo Mo­bile.

“Next week’s de­bate: Do ci­gar­ettes cause can­cer? An on­co­lo­gist de­bates a to­bacco ex­ec­ut­ive!,” writes en­vir­on­ment­al­ist Miles Grant on his blog. Grant does com­mu­nic­a­tions work for the Na­tion­al Wild­life Fed­er­a­tion but stresses that items on his per­son­al blog rep­res­ent him alone.

Both Grant and Bond, among oth­ers, high­lighted a Fri­day piece about the NBC seg­ment by Salon‘s Alex Pareene. His sub­head­line: “If it’s Sunday, it’s the over­whelm­ing con­sensus of the sci­entif­ic com­munity be­ing treated as a par­tis­an ar­gu­ment.”

“Un­for­tu­nately, Meet the Press can­not deal with any is­sue without fram­ing it as a bin­ary de­bate between two op­pos­ing par­tis­ans, with the as­sump­tion be­ing that ‘the truth’ lies dir­ectly between their views,” Pareene writes.

NBC News did not re­spond to an email about the seg­ment.

A month ago, nine Sen­ate Demo­crats wrote to NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS call­ing for more cli­mate cov­er­age on the Sunday shows. They flagged a study by the watch­dog group Me­dia Mat­ters for Amer­ica, which found that the Sunday pro­grams last year de­voted just 27 minutes to cli­mate change.

Sen. Bri­an Schatz, a Hawaii Demo­crat, spear­headed the let­ter with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“While its good to see Meet the Press wak­ing up to the fact that cli­mate change is an is­sue — the de­bate is over,” Schatz told Na­tion­al Journ­al in a state­ment Fri­day even­ing when asked for com­ment on the Meet the Press seg­ment.

“Cli­mate change is a pub­lic health threat. Giv­ing sci­ent­ists and cli­mate change den­iers equal time is like hav­ing to­bacco ex­ec­ut­ives de­bate doc­tors on the safety of ci­gar­ettes,” Schatz said. “It’s time to move on from treat­ing cli­mate change as a de­bate and talk about what we can do about it for people’s lives and busi­nesses.”


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