Scamming the Media
Last week we read or heard stories that said “Arizona’s global warming pollution increased by 61 percent since 1990, according to a new analysis of government data released today by Environment Arizona.” The “pollution” referred to is carbon dioxide.
Those stories are a good example of Mark Twain’s observation: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”
The press release by Environment Arizona spun their findings to maximize sensationalism. It is clear from the media stories, that most reporters either did not read the full study, or chose to report only the headline-grabbing, but misleading statistic.
The study itself says that Arizona per capita carbon dioxide emissions are below the national average. It also says that Arizona per capita emissions have decreased by 6% since 1990. Why didn’t that last statistic make the headlines?
Along with statistics gleaned from the EPA, Environment Arizona spouts the tired propaganda of global warming alarmists such as: “Temperature increases of only 3.6° F higher than pre-industrial levels could have catastrophic consequences—and 1.4° F of warming has already occurred.” Regular readers of this blog will know that we are currently in an interglacial period of an ice agethat the “normal” temperature of this planet is about 18 F warmer than it is now, and that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide for most of the planet’s history has been 3- to 10 times higher than now. (See chart below, see also my seven-part series on geological history, Natural Climate Cycles, and other blogs in the climate change category.)
Environmental Arizona claims that carbon dioxide is the “leading global warming pollutant.” But carbon dioxide is insignificant compared to water vapor as a greenhouse gas. The term “pollutant” is both emotive and erroneous. The dictionary defines a pollutant as “a harmful chemical or waste material discharged into the water or atmosphere.” Carbon dioxide, however, is vital to life. Without it, there would be no life on this planet, and geological history shows that life is more abundant and robust at concentrations above 1,000 ppm, three times the current concentration.
Environment Arizona is one of the many branches of Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), founded by Ralph Nader in the 1970’s as a consumer advocacy organization. PIRG seems to have morphed beyond that cause.
In researching this article, I found some stories which show that PIRG has been less than honest in its fund raising and advocacy.
A Boston Globe story (http://www.jeffjacoby.com/4818/stopping-pirgs-scam ) says: PIRGs collect huge amounts of money through a dishonest scheme called a “negative checkoff.” Each semester, students are automatically charged for a “donation” to PIRG of several dollars; the charge is included in their tuition. It isn’t mandatory, but a student who is unwilling to finance PIRG’s left-wing political agenda must affirmatively refuse to pay. PIRG figures that many students — and many parents — won’t realize the fee is optional or even notice it on the bill. Sure enough, amid the tumult of each new semester, most students just pay up — and PIRG grows ever richer. In New Jersey last year, NJPIRG used the negative checkoff to milk students for an estimated $200,000. In Florida, the take was about $320,000. In Massachusetts, $400,000. (In some states, the PIRG “donation” is mandatory. New York students were euchered out of $800,000 — forced to subsidize NYPIRG’s political objectives whether they agreed with them or not.)
A recent report by the Reason Foundation (a libertarian think tank) accuses PIRG of issuing misleading reports on transportation: “The always anti-privatization Public Interest Research Group has just released its second report criticizing the growing trend of state governments turning to long-term public-private partnership (PPP) deals to attract private investment into their ailing highway systems. The worst distortion of what’s going on is the way the PIRG report blurs the distinction between leases of existing toll roads and similar long-term deals that create brand new (and much-needed) toll roads via private capital investment.” (http://reason.org/blog/show/pirgs-misleading-report-on-pub)
The Competitive Enterprise Institute today (April 6, 2000 ) accused the U.S. Public Interest Research Group of misleading the American public about the ramifications of global warming. U.S. PIRG’s new report, Storm Warning: Global Warming and the Rising Costs of Extreme Weather, is yet another attempt to link global warming to events where there is no link to be made. http://cei.org/gencon/003,02595.cfm
Yes, I realize that stories detrimental to PIRG come mainly from more conservative sources, perhaps because more liberal publications don’t usually print the stories.
The conclusion I draw from this affair is that many news organizations publish by press release without checking the full story and the potential biases of its source.