The hour-long report on the fossil-industry and right-wing climate science denial movement broadcast on PBS Frontline Tuesday night raises a key issue. Did deniers win their fight to stop action on global warming by killing it in Congress and keeping it out of the presidential campaign?
"On Tuesday Night, PBS's Frontline aired an hour-long special on the climate saga over the past four years—focused centrally on the skeptics themselves, whom PBS's John Hockenberry depicts as victorious in stopping any policy action. Touring Heartland Institute conferences, hearing plentiful sound bites from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, we learn that these folks are basically high-fiving right now as the presidential campaigns studiously ignore the climate issue. And yes, they really do think the science is on their side, and that they're winning on the intellectual merits.
Not that Hockenberry agrees—one of the gems of 'Climate of Doubt' is a deft explanation of how climate skeptics come up with the bizarre assertion that the planet hasn't been warming lately. As NASA's Gavin Schmidt nicely explains to Hockenberry, all you have to do is go back over the noisy temperature record and 'pick the endpoints' of your analysis—and you can promptly uncover numerous temporary cooling periods. 'But actually, the whole thing has been moving up,' Schmidt explains—warming over the course of many decades.
Hockenberry then steps in with a wonderful analogy: Skeptics, he explains, are 'going down the up escalator.' Yup, that's right: The 'very factual' arguments of climate deniers—as one North Carolina state legislator captured in the program puts it—really are that weak.
Ironically, though, 'Climate of Doubt' is itself is involved in picking endpoints—in this case, the endpoints of how it narrates the climate story. The program is heavily focused on the last four years, and on relating how momentum was lost by those who call for climate action, and gained by a small band of skeptics who rallied the tea party grassroots and forced the issue off the agenda, especially after the 2010 midterm election."