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NewsBusted: The Sheppard File, Global Warming Division

NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard posts claims attacking global warming that hide the agendas of those critics and ignore the full story.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/21/2007

We know that NewsBusters blogger Noel Sheppard is eager to mislead and smear on many topics, so it's no surprise that global warming is one of them.

Indeed, Sheppard has issued dozens of posts on the subject. But many of them either baselessly attack global warming proponents or downplay or ignore the flaws in anti-global warming arguments or the dubious records of their promoters.

Bashing Gore

Needless to say, chief among Sheppard's targets is Al Gore, whom he regularly insults. Bashing a Washington Post article about Gore's unusual path from failed presidential candidate to subject of the award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth" and chief advocate of a response to global warming, Sheppard declared in a Feb. 25 post that the article was "sickening," asserting that "the text despicably read like a tabloid story about Britney Spears' shaved head or Elvis sightings in Las Vegas," finally sneering, "Had enough? I have. Those that are interested can read the rest at their own risk. I’ve got to go wash my hands, and disinfect my keyboard."

In a Feb. 26 post, Sheppard called "An Inconvenient Truth" a "schlockumentary" (an epithet he had used earlier in a Jan. 23 post, adding that it was a "farcical political advertisement") and after excerpting a section of Gore's Oscar acceptance speech, he added: "Can someone point me in the direction of the nearest water closet?" In the comments section, Sheppard elaborated: "He's a charlatan who doesn't believe in anything but himself and attaining power. And, he's commiting a fraud on the population for his own benefit, not yours, and certainly not mine." Sheppard offered no evidence to support this claim.

A Feb. 19 post by Sheppard regurgitated Fox News host Sean Hannity's attack on Al Gore for purportedly not be as "carbon-neutral" as he has proclaimed himself to be. But as NewsHounds pointed out, Hannity conflated "global warming" with "climate change" and confused "carbon imprint" with "carbon neutrality." Hannity's complaint that flying in a private jet, which he claims that Gore prefers, "does more than four times the carbon emission damage to the environment than flying a regular commercial jet" falls hollow given Hannity's own taste for the Gulfstream lifestyle, something Sheppard failed to note. Further, as Wonkette added, if there is no such thing as human-based global warming, as Sheppard appears to believe, how can Gore be causing it?

Dubious track records ignored

Sheppard's chief tactic is to uncritically repeat any suggestion that counters the idea that humans cause global warming without noting any potential problems in those claims.

In a May 22 post, Sheppard promoted, as he had previously, the British film "The Great Global Warming Swindle," which according to Sheppard "presents the other side of the climate change debate the media and folks like soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore don’t want you to hear." But Sheppard did not mention dubious claims in the film and others made by its director, Martin Durkin. Media Matters reported that, in an April 25 article in the UK's Scotsman, the film is "under fire" for claiming "that the world was hotter during the 'Medieval Warm Period' based on a graph that ended in 1975, and that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than humans."According to one study, volcanoes produce about 2 per cent of the emissions from human use of fossil fuels." According to Media Matters, Durkin made a film in 1999 which argued that silicone implants reduce the incidence of breast cancer, as well as a 1997 Channel 4 series called "Against Nature" that, according to The Guardian, "compared environmentalists ... to Nazis, conspiring against the world's poor" and caused the UK's Independent Television Commission to "hand down one of the most damning verdicts it has ever reached: the programme makers 'distorted by selective editing' the views of the interviewees and 'misled' them about the 'content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part'. Channel 4 was forced to make a humiliating prime time apology."

In a March 21 post, Noel Sheppard signed on to do the bidding of global warming-bashing Sen. James Inhofe by reliably regurgitating Inhofe's press release claiming that, during his Senate testimony about global warming, Al Gore "refused" to take Inhofe's "Personal Energy Ethics Pledge," in which he demanded that Gore "consume no more energy for use in [his] residence than the average American household by March 21, 2008." In fact, Inhofe, apparently forgetting that he was no longer a committee chairman, repeatedly interrupted Gore as he tried to answer Inhofe's demand that he take the pledge -- one Inhofe showed no evidence of following himself, by the way -- as he explained his purchase of wind energy and other green energy that does not produce carbon dioxide, his efforts to be "carbon neutral" and to install solar panels at his home, all of which meets Inhofe's requirement of "reducing ... fossil fuel-based home energy usage."

A March 16 post declared that global warming skeptics "beat the believers" in a debate. Sheppard's source for this claim? A post by Inhofe's director of communications, Marc Morano, not exactly an objective source. Morano, by the way, is a former reporter who is best known as the co-author of a 2006 hit piece on Rep. John Murtha. (Shortly before leaving CNS for Inhofe, he promoted the allegations of disgraced ex-NASA spokesman George Deutsch -- who was resigned his post after it was revealed that he had not graduated from college as his resume claimed -- in an attempt to discredit NASA global warming scientist James Hansen.)

A March 12 post repeated a New York Times article on global warming skeptics, commenting: "Amazing. The New York Times is suggesting that Dr. Gore might have exaggerated his claims and gone beyond scientific evidence? Somebody other than Punch should pinch me." But as Media Matters detailed, several of the skeptics cited in the Times article have have records of misinformation on the issue.

A March 19 NewsBusters post by Sheppard touted (along with and NewsMax) a challenge by Lord Monckton, "a former advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher," to Al Gore to hold "an internationally televised, head-to-head, nation-unto-nation confrontation on the question, 'That our effect on climate is not dangerous.' " But Sheppard doesn't tell us the rest of the story: According to The Raw Story website, Lord Monckton (aka Christopher Monckton, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) has no scientific credentials, holding degrees only in classics and journalism. So why is he in any way authoritative on the issue of global warming? His apparent main claim to fame is a lengthy article in the British paper the Telegraph claiming that, in the words of British Guardian columnist George Monbiot, "climate change is a hoax perpetrated by a leftwing conspiracy coordinated by the United Nations." Monbiot calls Monckton's article "a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation and pseudo-scientific gibberish," adding, "There is scarcely a line in Lord Monckton's paper which is not wildly wrong."

A March 1 NewsBusters post by Sheppard misrepresented an anti-global warming theory as mainstream when, in fact, it's merely one man's idea. In what he called an "absolutely startling report about climate change," Sheppard cited a National Geographic News report on a claim by Russian scientist Habibullo Abdussamatov that global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun, not by man. While Sheppard did excerpt a segment of the article calling it "one scientist's controversial theory," he went on to state, without offering evidence, that "To be sure, Abdussamatov is not the first scientist to make this claim."

However, Sheppard was vague in describing the criticism of the theory in the article: "In a piece that debunked what the supposed consensus believes on this issue, the magazine spent almost the bulk of the space alloted citing scientists that don’t buy Abdussamatov’s conclusions starting with, 'Abdussamatov's work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.' " But Sheppard did not detail the specific -- and serious -- criticisms of Abdussamatov's theory contained in the article. Chief among them: Not only did Abdussamatov apparently fail to take into account changes in Mar's orbit and tilt that would affect changes in Mars' climate, the article adds: "Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in Abdussamatov's theory is his dismissal of the greenhouse effect, in which atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide help keep heat trapped near the planet's surface."

Hidden backgrounds

To nobody's surprise, Sheppard used NewsBusters posts on May 3 and May 4 to tout claims made by various global warming skeptics during CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck's anti-global warming special. Also to no one's surprise, Sheppard doesn't say a thing about the energy industry links and previous misleading claims made by those same skeptics Beck featured in his special.

One of them is Timothy Ball, whose claims Sheppard touted in posts on Feb. 5 and Feb. 14. But as the DeSmog Blog noted, despite promoting himself as "the first Canadian PhD in Climatology," the record suggests a paucity of published scholarly research on the subject. Another entry makes the point clearer, claiming that "Dr. Ball has not published any research in a peer-reviewed science journal in the last 20 years."

Another is Bjorn Lomborg, whose claims Sheppard noted in his May 4 post. As Media Matters noted, Lomborg wrote a book that purported to conduct a "non-partisan analysis" of environmental data, concluding that claims about global warming were overblown. But in January 2002, Scientific American ran a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists that lambasted Lomborg's book for "egregious distortions," "elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit," and sections that were "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes."

A June 5 post by Sheppard claimed that the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change -- which published a "detailed analysis" attacking claims by NASA's James Hansen about "a dire global warming future" -- is a "scientific organization." Sheppard adds: "Think this study will get much air or print space tonight or tomorrow? Neither do I." Nowhere does Sheppard mention the main reason the study will not get the attention he thinks it deserves -- the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has close ties to the energy industry, which typically funds global warming skeptics like the Center. The organization's principals -- Sherwood Idso and his sons, Craig and Keith, have all worked for the Western Fuels Association, a cooperative that supplies coal and transportation services to consumer-owned electric utilities in the western United States. Further, the organization has received $90,000 from ExxonMobil Corp. between 1998 and 2005. Sherwood Idso has defended receiving such funding, insisting that "the mere existence of funding, whether from private or public sources, does not, in and of itself, prove malfeasance on the part of the funds' recipients" (italics his)., though, reported that the Center "does not reveal its funding sources," which makes it difficult to judge whether how believeable Idso is on this subject.

Bogus 'state climatologists'

In a Feb. 7 post, Sheppard touted the case of Oregon "state climatologist" George Taylor, who was to be stripped of his "job" because he didn't "buy into the junk science of anthropogenic global warming." In fact, as Think Progress reported, there's no official Oregon "state climatologist," Taylor is not trained in climatology, and losing the honorary title will not cost him any income or his current job as a college instructor. (WorldNetDaily's Craige McMillan and also repeated the bogus claims about Taylor's position.)

In a Feb. 23 post -- after citing the bogus claim about the Oregon "state climatologist" -- he repeated an article claiming that Delaware's "state climatologist," David Legates, has been ordered by the governor to "stop using his title in public statements on climate change." Sheppard added by way of weak qualification, "I haven’t been able to identify how long Legates has held this title, but it doesn’t appear to have been given to him by her." In fact, according to the newspaper article he cited (but doesn't include in his excerpt for his post), the "state climatologist" position carries no state salary or authority.

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