Newsweek's cover story this week is a long opinion piece on "Global Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine," written by Sharon Begley with the assistance of Eve Conant, Sam Stein, Eleanor Clift, and Matthew Philips. The thesis is that political action to address global warming has been stymied by a mighty global warming denial machine.
CEI, of course, is a prominent part of this alleged effort, and so we were contacted by one of the contributors. It's perhaps illustrative of the sloppiness of the whole piece that the story gets details wrong which I discussed with the contributor. The story says that in 2001, I rang Robert Novak as soon as we heard that President Bush in his address to Congress might call for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. As I told the Newsweek researcher, CEI President Fred Smith rushed off to ring Novak and others who might want to investigate this rumor.
That's just a small detail, but there are many others. For example, in the next paragraph the story claims that, "Bush not only disavowed his campaign pledge. In March (2001), he withdrew from the Kyoto treaty." I wish he had, but he didn't. He did just what President Clinton had done: He declined to send the treaty to the Senate for ratification. It's too bad he didn't send Kyoto to the Senate. It would have been defeated overwhelmingly -- and still would be today.
On top of all the factual errors, the thesis is ridiculous. The idea that those opposed to global warming alarmism are well funded is easily disproved. Begley and her crew could have spent 10 minutes on the web comparing the annual budgets of the alarmist groups with the anti-alarmist groups. CEI has one of the larger efforts on our side, which amounts to less than one quarter of our annual four million dollar budget. Grist, the online environmental news and opinion outlet, this year quoted an unpublished foundation study that estimated that the alarmist groups have been spending $100-150 million a year to promote their cause. That's not counting all the free media coverage and promotion or the outlandish scaremongering of scientists like James Hansen of NASA.
The reason that Begley can regurgitate propaganda as if it were established fact is because the alarmists' megaphone is so large and ours is so small. As several Hill staffers have told me, Members of Congress have to be uncommonly brave to resist the global warming bandwagon because the alarmist message is pounded into them. Back home, their constituents are swayed by multimillion dollar advertising campaigns, which are echoed by Newsweek, Time, CBS, ABC, etc.
It would be nice to assume that Begley and her crew have been victims of the alarmists' propaganda machine. But Newsweek, like Time, has a long history of promoting the party line. They are not victims, but willing collaborators in the Big Lie. The fine scientists and principled public figures trashed in this Newsweek article are right to be outraged. I should be too, but I find the alarmist fellow travelers in the media are more pathetic than reprehensible and consequently hard to get worked up about.