Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy

Date: 
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 12:00am
Location: 
Washington, DC

Opening Statement By Chairman Brad Miller

Ronald Reagan said that facts were stubborn things. The topic of today’s hearing is a concerted effort by opponents of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to bully scientific facts into submission. And under intense pressure, the facts about global warming caved in, and proved much more elastic than Ronald Reagan had us believe.

At least, that is how it has appeared to the public.

According to the New York Times, opponents of the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 began recruiting scientists who believed--or at least would say--that evidence of global warming was insubstantial, and evidence that greenhouse gas emissions were a cause of global warming was especially dubious. Peer-reviewed studies by climate scientists were almost unanimous in finding that global warming was real and that greenhouse gas emissions were a major cause of it.

But in the popular press, the question was treated as controversial among scientists.

Television news programs usually featured one scientist who explained the overwhelming consensus view of legitimate climate scientists, and one made-for-television “expert” who took the opposite view. To the average citizen, it looked like a real debate between scientific peers.

In fact, the skeptics were in the indirect employ of the oil and gas industry, and that obvious conflict of interest was rarely disclosed. Few paid skeptics did any original research, many were not even trained in the fields in which they claimed expertise, and most simply specialized in attacking as “junk science” the careful, legitimate research that was published in learned journals and tested by rigorous peer review.

According to the testimony we will hear today, since 2001 the Bush Administration has been part of the effort to manipulate public debate about climate change.

The Bush Administration, at the urging of the oil and gas industry, muzzled government scientists whose research supported the consensus view of climate scientists, adding to the public impression that there was substantial doubt among scientists. Press officers whose experience was in politics, not science, edited or suppressed press releases about government research, acted as “minders” for government scientists during press interviews, and required that politically-reliable scientists speak to the press for each agency. The approved agency spokesmen sometimes treated as outlandish, as urban legend, the considered view of most scientists at the agency.

There is much at stake here. We need to rely on sound, dispassionate scientific research to inform our decisions. Scientific research should have no party affiliation.

Witnesses

Panel

0 - Dr. James J. McCarthy
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography Harvard University Board Member Harvard University Board Member
Download the Witness Testimony

0 - Sheldon Rampton
SourceWatch Co-Author of "Trust Us, We're Experts!" Co-Author of "Trust Us, We're Experts!"
Download the Witness Testimony

0 - Tarek Maassarani
Government Accountability Project
Download the Witness Testimony

0 - Jeff Kueter
President Marshall Institute Marshall Institute
Download the Witness Testimony

Witness Panel
Mr. Rampton testifies before the Subcommittee
Mr. Rampton
Dr. McCarthy testifies before the Subcommittee
Dr. McCarthy
Mr. Maassarani testifies before the Subcommittee
Mr. Maassarani
Mr. Kueter testifies before the Subcommittee
Mr. Kueter
For information on the witnesses, use the links at left
110th Congress