Here is a slightly critical review of Tom Brokaw's Discovery Channel special on global warming, noting that the program only presents one side of the story. Note a key figure is Jim Hansen of NASA.
Brokaw Warns of Melting Glaciers, Greenhouse Gases: TV Review
By Dave Shiflett
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Tom Brokaw's special on global warming claims to have ``no agenda,'' though some viewers will quickly suspect he's out to make us sweat.
If mankind doesn't change its polluting ways, New Yorkers will soon be snorkeling to work. That's the basic message of ``Global Warming: What You Need to Know,'' which airs on July 16 at 9 p.m. New York time on the Discovery Channel.
Brokaw, like former Vice President Al Gore and many prominent scientists, is convinced that carbon-dioxide emissions are the main cause of global warming and that without serious change we should expect gondoliers in San Francisco. The former NBC anchorman delivers the bad news in his trademark solemn monotone and travels widely to marshal his argument.
In the ice fields of Patagonia, glacier expert Stephan Harrison explains that ice is melting at an incredible rate. In Montana, the 66-year-old Brokaw says Glacier National Park may be glacier-free ``in my lifetime.''
Geologist Mark Serreze takes us into the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, where core ice samples reaching back 600,000 years provide a startling fact: heat- trapping carbon-dioxide levels have reached an all-time high, which bodes ill for the planet's health.
In the Amazon rain forest, tree harvesting, farming and drought are reducing the ability of the ``Earth's lung'' to cleanse the air of CO2. In China, growing energy demands are being met by large-scale production of CO2-belching, coal-fired power plants.
Then there's the U.S., world leader in C02 emissions thanks to our love of the internal-combustion engine, large appliances and jet travel.
Brokaw relies largely on a handful of experts in the two- hour show, particularly NASA's James Hansen and Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer. Both support Brokaw's view of global warming and consider the scientific debate closed.
Brokaw scoffs at the notion that there are ``any remaining doubts humans are behind temperature rises,'' while Hansen says ``99.5 percent of scientists say we know what's going on.''
You'll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program, which would have benefited from contrarian views, perhaps from MIT's Richard S. Lindzen or William Gray, the world's foremost expert on hurricanes and a critic of global- warming orthodoxy. Both are serious scientists, yet neither appears to be in Brokaw's Rolodex.
Brokaw does ask Oppenheimer why critics ``refuse to believe it's a fact.'' Oppenheimer says some may find the issue too ``frightening,'' while others have a ``financial interest'' in the status quo. In other words, critics are stooges for industry. Does that mean Brokaw is a stooge for environmentalists?
While the show claims some of the damage is ``irreversible,'' Brokaw holds out hope that personal and political action can bring about significant change. Americans can greatly reduce their CO2 output by driving smaller cars, taking the bus, using fluorescent light bulbs and exercising a bit more thermostat discipline.
Brokaw praises the Kyoto Protocol, which sets goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in industrialized countries. The Bush administration opposes the agreement, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy and not have much impact in heavily polluting countries like China.
The program offers a host of possible solutions, including wind farms, solar energy, increased use of ethanol and buildings that utilize recycled material and energy saving-technology.
If we don't act soon, Brokaw says, we may reach a ``tipping point'' of no return: New York and other coastal cities will be submerged, while Bangladesh will vanish beneath the waves. We're also told there could be mass extinction of wildlife, a plague of disease-bearing insect swarms, extreme weather and famine causing mass starvation.
A powerful presentation, to be sure, though certainly one with an agenda.