Left-leaning, Bush-bashing newspaper engaged in distortion: Global-warming believers taking in by sexed-up climate-change report
Wednesday 25 February 2004
The Sunday Observer section of Britain's Guardian newspaper this past weekend blared "Now the Pentagon tells Bush: Climate change will destroy us."
The accompanying story claimed "a secret report, suppressed by U.S. defence chiefs ... warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
"As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.
"The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists," the Guardian concluded.
Note the repeated use of "will" rather than "may." According to the Guardian, this "censored" Pentagon report is dead certain: The world is on the brink of ecological Armageddon.
But the left-leaning, Bush-bashing Guardian "sexed up" its purported scoop.
The report is not secret, for one thing. Fortune magazine had a copy a month ago, and described it as an "unclassified report ... that the Pentagon has agreed to share ... ." Hardly sounds as though it is being guarded in a vault and "suppressed by U.S. defence chiefs."
The Guardian also misstated the occupation of one of the reports co-
authors, in what is an example either of lazy reporting or a deliberate attempt to make the co-authors sound more diverse and deeper inside the U.S. government than they really are.
Both co-authors are employees of an unconventional consulting company from California -- Global Business Networks -- that specializes in concocting "alternative" images of the future that encourage its corporate and institutional clients to be ready in case extreme surprises emerge.
One author, Doug Randall is an MBA; the other, Peter Schwartz is a self-
described "scenario planning futurist," who "helps organizations think the unthinkable by creating alternative stories or scenarios about how the future might pan out."
Hmm, "think the unthinkable" and "alternative" futures -- like, say, creating an alternative story about an unthinkable future climate catastrophe that is more alarmist than even the wildest predictions by David Suzuki or the UN?
The Guardian misrepresented Schwartz as a CIA analyst and never mentioned he is the founder of GBN and currently serves as its chairman. He has consulted with the CIA, but is not employed by them.
Nor did the Guardian see fit to mention that Schwartz is a frequent script consult on Hollywood sci-fi movies or that his 1999 book, The Long Boom, predicted the dot.com boom could continue for decades.
No reader would know any of this from the Guardian's sensationalist story, nor would they have much of a clue that neither co-author is a climate scientist. The story doesn't say they are, but it doesn't state they're not, either.
The Guardian also conveniently failed to explain that the Pentagon branch that commissioned the report -- the internal think-tank known as the Office of Net Assessment -- is responsible for "modelling" and "gaming" worst-case scenarios for American national security, then assessing whether the U.S. military is up to the challenge of defending against such possibilities, in manpower, training and equipment. Indeed, the ONA is not mentioned until the 23rd paragraph of a 25-paragraph story, and even then its role as the Pentagon's brainstorming arm, where all sorts of out-there and fringe ideas are rolled into fantastical storylines to test the military's ability to adapt, is never explained.
The paper's reporters also sought comments on the report only from prominent global warming believers, too: Rob Gueterbock, a professional protester from Greenpeace U.K.; John Schellnhuber, head of Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (which is almost as thoroughly corrupted by the notion that manmade climate change has begun and will be catastrophic as are the UN and our own Environment Canada climate change secretariat); Sir John Houghton, the former chief of Britain's meteorological service who once said the threat of climate change exceeds the threat of terrorism; and Bob Watson, the World Bank's chief scientist and the former head of the UN's climate change organization.
Maurice Strong mustn't have been home when the Guardian called.
Watson, who has long been at war with the American administration over its refusal to ratify the Kyoto accord (another little fact overlooked in the Guardian's coverage), asked "Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It's going to be hard to blow off this sort of document. It's hugely embarrassing."
For a sense of the state of Watson's prejudices, consider his claim there are only "two groups the Bush administration tends to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon," and his assertion that this report will help Democrat John Kerry defeat Bush this fall.
Neither of the co-authors nor GBN nor the ONA is responsible for this hype.
They each just performed their "scenario-building" tasks. It's the Guardian that engaged in distortion.
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, National Post
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