Newsweek's global-warming cover story purports to reveal the "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry," which for the last two decades "has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." It's the same story run repeatedly in mainstream media: The overwhelming majority of scientists believe the debate on global warming is over -- but if there are any dissenting scientists left, they've been bought.
Here's the rub: If dissent is so rare, why do global-warming conformists feel the strong need to argue that minority views should be dismissed as nutty or venal? Why not posit that there is such a thing as honest disagreement on the science?
As for the overwhelming majority of scientists believing that man is behind global warming, former NASA scientist Roy Spencer, now at the University of Alabama, told me, "It's like an urban legend. There has never been any kind of vote on this issue." He referred me to a 2003 survey in which two German environmental scientists asked more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries if they thought humans caused climate change: 56 percent answered yes, 30 percent said no.
What really frosts me about the Newsweek story is that it concentrates on industry funding for skeptics while ignoring the money that pours into pro-global-warming coffers. That focus ignores where the big grant money goes -- to pay for crisis-mongering research. Or as Reid Bryson, the father of scientific climatology, told the Capital Times in Madison, Wis., "If you want to be an eminent scientist, you have to have a lot of grad students and a lot of grants. You can't get grants unless you say, 'Oh, global warming, yes, yes, carbon dioxide.'"
That's not to say that industry does not liberally fund political efforts. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope told me, "If you look at the cumulative public-relations weight of those who don't want action on climate change, such as the think tanks and trade associations, it vastly dwarfs what has been spent on the side of those who want action."
Pope cited American automakers' fight against tougher fuel-efficiency standards. Also, the campaign to defeat Prop. 87, the 2006 California ballot measure to tax oil production in order to fund alternative fuel development, outspent Prop. 87 proponents by two to one.
Newsweek leads with the revelation that a conservative think tank that had been funded by ExxonMobil offered scientists "$10,000 to write articles under cutting" a U.N. International Panel on Climate Change report that there is a 90 percent chance global warming is due to the burning of fossil fuels.
Ooooh, $10,000. After the billions that have gone into pro-global-warming research, that's (pardon the pun) rich.
What critics call a $10,000 "bounty" could be seen in the research community as the equivalent of a 25-cent tip. As Steven Hayward, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, explained, his think tank was "asking very busy and prominent people to wade through as much as 5,000 pages of material and write original papers on it, and people think they're going to do that for free?"
Spencer told me he had been writing on global warming for years before he started writing for TCS Daily, which received ExxonMobil money, three years ago. He said TCS Daily now provides some 5 percent of his income. And: "All I was doing was being paid for writing things I believed in anyway."
Global warming guru James Hansen, a NASA scientist, received $250,000 from a foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry. Hansen endorsed John Kerry for president in 2004. But I wouldn't dream of suggesting Hansen was bought.
The science doesn't follow the money, the money follows the scientist. If you're a researcher on either side of the issue, eventually you'll get money from that side -- or be unemployed.
I guess all skeptics are supposed to work for free.
True believers appear to be afraid of a fair fight. In March, when the audience was polled before a New York "Intelligence Squared U.S." debate, 30 percent agreed with the motion that global warming is not a crisis, 57 percent disagreed. After the debate, 46 percent agreed with the motion, while 42 per cent disagreed.
After all the Newsweek-like stories announcing the debate is over, it took one debate to flip the audience. No wonder they want to muzzle dissent.