Time Throws Down Global Warming Gauntlet

Global warming has been a hot topic here at Public Eye, thanks to Scott Pelley's two "60 Minutes" reports on the subject. Now Time magazine has weighed in on the topic in a cover story, the thrust of which can be summed up in the tagline that graces the cover: "Be Worried. Be Very Worried."

Pelley, as regular PE readers know, told me "60 Minutes" has not given any time to global warming skeptics in his two stories because "[t]here is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about global warming." He also said that "It would be difficult to find a scientist worth his salt in this subject who would suggest this wasn't happening. It would probably be someone whose grant has been funded by someone who finds reducing fossil fuel emissions detrimental to their own interests." His comments sparked serious debate in our comments section, with many arguing that Pelley was off base. Wrote "Grypho1":

Can it be fairly deduced that anyone who contradicts what Pelley believes to be 'the prevailing opinion in the scientific community' is, by Pelley's definition, not worthy of respect, scientifically? Is dissent grounds for exclusion by virtue of loss of respect? If so, this intellectually dishonest circular logic assures Pelley and other crusaders of some hollow and meaningless propaganda victories by default.
Now Time's Jeffrey Kluger has taken much the same position as Pelley. He writes in the cover story:
Environmentalists and lawmakers spent years shouting at one another about whether the grim forecasts were true, but in the past five years or so, the serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming, even most skeptics have concluded, is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it.
The public's beliefs, however, are somewhat different. Most people do believe global warming is real, writes Kluger:
For years, popular skepticism about climatological science stood in the way of addressing the problem, but the naysayers--many of whom were on the payroll of energy companies--have become an increasingly marginalized breed. In a new TIME/ ABC News/ Stanford University poll, 85% of respondents agree that global warming probably is happening.
But they do not necessarily think humans are responsible for it. Look at the Time poll. When asked, "Is the temperature increase caused mostly by things people do, by natural causes, or by both equally?," 31% of respondents said "humans," 19% said "nature," and 49% said "both."

In addition, most Americans do not believe that there is a scientific consensus on the issue, contrary to Pelley and Kluger's assertions. 64% told Time that there is "a lot of disagreement" between scientists about global warming.

It's interesting to watch as the story of global warming, which in recent years has been framed, at least in part, as a debate, starts to get treated as something more akin a crisis in the mainstream media. Just consider the tagline on Time's global warming essay: "Global warming is happening, and the proof is all around us." Time also has a story arguing that "the worst is yet to come" and another on what you can do about global warming. It's a far cry from the "he said/she said" coverage that often arises on issues such a global warming, which are framed by politics and have vocal advocates on opposing sides.

There are those who will disdainfully argue that "60 Minutes" and Time are mainstream media outlets pushing an agenda, and dismiss their reporting on global warming as – forgive the pun – a whole lot of hot air. It will be interesting to see what effect reports like Pelley and Kluger's will have on conventional wisdom. Most scientists may see the issue as mostly settled, but plenty of Americans, real and fictional, do not. "I would like to live long enough to see the effects of global warming," said Homer Simpson on a recent episode of "The Simpsons." "I've got an inside tip that it's all a load of crap."