Former German public television meteorologist anchorman Dr. Wolfgang Thüne has a harsh commentary on the state of climate science communication by journalism.
Photo: Dr. Wolfgang Thüne
In a nutshell Thüne claims journalism has failed in its ethical duty to inform the public on the climate issue and accepted the role of playing useful idiots and stooges on behalf of activist scientists.
Thüne begins by reminding journalists of the importance of being cautious about what they report, and “to not stand on the same the same level as the inventors and propagandists of the greenhouse effect and climate catastrophe“.
He calls on journalists to get back to more investigative journalism instead of swallowing without question everything institutionalized science feeds them.
The veteran meteorologist writes that fighting the weather and climate is a totally a futile endeavor, reminding that it is a natural chaotic phenomenon that cannot be fought by man:
A ‘global transformation’ and the creation of a ‘world government’ will do nothing to change the general circulation and weather variety of the earth.”
When it comes to climate catastrophes, Thüne calls them the Saturnalia of journalists. The climate catstrophe for German journalists was born on January 22, 1986 at the Hotel Tulpenhof in Bonn:
On this day the German Physical Society e. V. had invited journalists in order to present to them the ‘warning of the threatening climate catastrophe’. […]
Explained was CO2’s role as a potential source of danger for global climate changes. The effect of CO2 was compared to the glass cover of a greenhouse that is ‘heated’ only by solar radiation. With a doubling of CO2 concentration, the temperature would increase 2°C in the tropics, 4°C at ‘our latitudes’ and about 8°C at the polar regions and cause a shift in the climate zones. If the ice floating at the Arctic and the ice on the Antarctic continent disappeared, then the sea level would rise successively up to 60 meters.”
Thüne writes this is where journalists dropped the ball. He writes:
That would have been the ideal hour for critical journalism, however the journalists froze, intimidated by the wisdom of the physical science prominence represented by physics professors K. Heinloth (Bonn) and J. Fricke (Wurzburg). Not a single journalist dared to question the physicists about climate, which is statistically derived from weather and thus only depicts and reflects the historical weather change.”
Here Dr. Thüne writes that journalists in general have three choices when receiving news of an imminent catastrophe from experts:
1. Should they accept the information as is and distribute it, simply playing the role of fetch and carry.
2. Should they look at the supplied news critically, and check it out?
3. Or should they take it, and dramatize it to increase the effect on the public?
Unfortunately, Thüne writes, news magazine Der Spiegel chose the latter option in its August 11, 1986 issue, whose front cover donned a powerfully emotional image of a semi-submerged Cologne Cathedral. Here Der Spiegel grossly crossed the boundaries of responsible journalism in implying an upcoming Biblical wrath of God – brought on by the sins of man. Not only did Spiegel play the role of stooge for a dubious science, but had engaged in an orgy of sensationalistic journalism that would make even the shoddiest of tabloids blush.
The rest of Germany’s media unhesitatntly followed Spiegel’s example. Thüne writes that while the German Physical Society brought us the misnomer of ‘climate catastrophe’, it was Spiegel who popularized it.
To summarise, Thüne cites journalism experts H.-P. Peters M. Sippel:
Not the environmental movement, not the catastrophe – rather it was the warnings of scientists who publicly and politically exposed themselves who were the international godfathers of the climate debate.”
Thüne also adds that the American media also gladly accepted the fetch-and-carry role on behalf of an activist sicence, slamming James Hansen:
In the hot summer months the media over-proportionately reported on the greenhouse effect. Especially the hot summer of 1988 was used by James Hansen (NASA) to dramatize the consequences of the greenhouse effects and to manipulate the psychological climate of Congress.”
Thüne sums up:
More humility by journalists would boost their reputation when it comes to credibility.