PBS’s “Climate of Doubt”, tomorrow night

October 22nd, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Since my “talking mouth” is in the trailer for Frontline’s Climate of Doubt, airing tomorrow evening (October 23), I suspect I’ll be in this show.

Here’s how the website introduces the special:

Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably. Politicians either ignore it or proclaim their skepticism. Whatís behind this massive reversal? On Oct 23, FRONTLINE goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment to shift the direction of the climate debate.

Now, I’ve been giving public talks all over the country for a lot longer than four years, and I can tell you that mainstream America has always been skeptical of the theory that humans are killing the planet with our CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, politicians and the popular press tend to control the narrative, and for a long time the public was misled about the strength of the science behind global warming theory.

Note I said the public was misled about “strength of the science”, not “strength of scientists’ beliefs”.

And may I remind you that we let politicians, especially Al Gore, tell us what the scientists believed? Many scientists didn’t like the way Gore presented his case, with such certainty, and making connections that couldn’t really be made (like hurricanes and global warming).

Anyway, I fear this will be a hit piece against skeptics in general, that we are a bunch of Big Oil or Koch brother-funded hacks. I hope I’m wrong. (Personally, I am still waiting for some of that Big Oil or Koch money to come my way.)

Finally, I wonder whether PBS will even address what really killed public concern over anthropogenic global warming: even if Al Gore was right, it’s the economics that ends up killing global warming policy. As it is, current “green” policy is driving up petroleum prices and helping Big Oil make even more money, since we can’t live without petroleum. We’re “addicted to oil” in the same way we are “addicted to food”.

So, the “Climate of Doubt” isn’t as much doubt over the science (which the PBS special will emphasize) as it is doubt over the ability of any energy policy change to produce a net beneficial outcome.

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