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Climate Change Heats Up Senate Hearing

Inga Kiderra | December 11, 2006

Are Hollywood and the news media too hot and heavy when it comes to global warming? That was the rhetorical question posed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in his final hearing as chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Naomi Oreskes
Naomi Oreskes
Click here for RealPlayer video of the entire hearing. Climate change discussion begins 21 minutes into the video.
Click here to download
the prepared hearing statements.

Convened Dec. 6 in Washington D.C., the hearing on “Climate Change and the Media” featured testimony by UCSD’s Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies.

Oreskes has been at the forefront of public discussion on climate change, including opinion pieces in major papers, since her 2004 study in the journal Science documented a scholarly consensus on two points: The Earth is warming and humans are the cause.

Inhofe, who in his four years as committee chair has held four hearings on global warming, said in his opening remarks: “Poorly conceived policy decisions may result from the media’s over-hyped reporting. Much of the mainstream media has subverted its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate.”

Pillorying “one-sided” coverage of the subject by The New York Times, as well as the documentaries of Al Gore and Tom Brokaw, Inhofe said, “It is unfortunate that so many are focused on alarmism rather than a responsible path forward on this issue.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who will be chairing the committee when the Democrats take over Congressional leadership in January, promised to push ahead on regulatory changes to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

She responded to Inhofe by saying:  “Attacking the press doesn't make the truth go away.''

Oreskes was one of two witnesses, along with Harvard’s Daniel Schrag, called to testify by Boxer.

“In recent months, the suggestion has been made that concern over anthropogenic global warming is a just a fad or a fashion. The history of science shows otherwise. Scientific attention to global warming has lasted over a century, involved thousands of scientists, and extended across six continents,” Oreskes said, before going on to outline the history of climate science and the conclusions of its leading scientists.

Testifying at the request of Inhofe were David Deming of the University of Oklahoma, Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia and Dan Gainor of the Business & Media Institute.

In the question-and-answer period that followed the prepared remarks, Oreskes said that if there was any bias in the media, she thought it went the other way, with reporters – in an effort to fulfill the mandate of balanced journalism – citing climate-change skeptics or deniers out of proportion to their representation in the scientific community.

Asked if technology could or should provide the solution, Oreskes said “yes” and drew an analogy to World War II and the Manhattan Project, urging Congress to mobilize and fund research now, as it had then, in response to a “clear and present danger.”

To read some of the media coverage of the hearing, see stories in The San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Times.

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