Media Responds with Hyperbole to DNR Change in Climate Wording

The Wisconsin media was not at a loss for loaded verbs when reporting on a recent change in the way the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources addresses climate change on its website. The DNR, in December, changed this:

“Earth’s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat-trapping (‘greenhouse’) gases are the main cause.”

To this:

“as it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Department of Natural Resources.”

Not surprisingly, environmentalists expressed outrage at the change, claiming that human-caused climate change or global warming is a scientific fact not open to debate. In reporting on the change, few media outlets actually used the word “change” to describe what the DNR did to its website.  Several opted instead for much more loaded terms.

Like several outlets, the Marshfield News-Hearld said the DNR had “scrubbed” the existing language from its site. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Reported that the agency had “purged” the previous wording. The Wisconsin State Journal declared that the cause of climate change had been “wiped” from the site. Few, if any, sites opted for more neutral verbs, such as removed, deleted or edited.

Green Bay television station WGBA, as first noted by Wisconsin Media Check, described the change as dramatic and inaccurately reported that the “DNR is no longer acknowledging the existence of climate change.” The site clearly states that Earth’s climate has changed over time; it no longer states human activity as the cause. The NBC 26 report also provides comment from a global warming activist and none from a global warming skeptic.

The Wisconsin State Journal quotes the same activist as NBC 26, Keith Reopelle, as saying:

“The notion that this is a matter of scientific debate is ridiculous,” said Keith Reopelle, policy director at Clean Wisconsin. “The only people who say that are being paid by the fossil fuel industry.”

Yet, neither Reopelle nor the Journal provide evidence to back the claim that the only global warming skeptics are on the fossil fuel industry payroll. Most of the reporting on the issue does include an oft repeated claim that a 97% consensus of climate scientists agree human activity is heating the planet. That claim is challenged nearly as often as the scientific claims about global warming.

Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer, writing in the Wall Street Journal, called the percentage a myth:

Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.

Climate Change Dispatch cleverly reports:

97 Articles Refuting The “97% Consensus”

As for the contention that only Republicans or those paid off by big oil question human-caused global warming, an ever growing online petition now includes the signatures of 31,487 American scientists, more than 9,000 with PhD’s, who question the theory’s validity.

Finally, none of the articles nor their sources provide a scientific argument defending the theory of human caused climate change or global warming. Virtually all lean on either the “97% consensus” or have a source who simply states as fact that human activity is changing the climate.