Al Gore’s 1994 ABC News Nightline ‘Crooked Skeptics’ Name-Calling Failure

You couldn’t ask for a more damaging report to reappear against Al Gore and enviro-activists’ collective notion that ‘skeptic climate scientists are on the payroll of Big Coal and Oil’ — inexplicably posted to Youtube just weeks ago by Kert Davies, one of the main promulgators of that accusation. Quoting Nightline host Ted Koppel in this February 24, 1994 “Is Science for Sale?” program, starting at the 1:06 point,

A number of years ago, I ran into then-Senator Al Gore at LaGuardia Airport … Senator Gore used the occasion to sketch out on a napkin one of his chief ecological concerns, depletion of the ozone layer. Ever the environmental activist, Senator Gore was proposing a Nightline program on the subject. He’s the Vice President now, of course, but he is still proposing. A few weeks ago, Mr Gore called to draw our attention to some of the forces, political and economic, behind what he would regard as the anti-environmental movement. The Vice President suggested that we might want to look into connections between scientists who scoff at the so-called greenhouse effect, for example, and the coal industry.

Things go downhill from there.

Koppel noted at the 2:17 point,

Fred Singer is one of the people that Gore is concerned about.

And, after exploring an angle provided by Gore’s office about a questionable church association, Koppel described Dr Singer’s science credentials, noting at the 4:59 point,

You can see where this is going. If you like Dr Singer’s views on the environment, you mention his more impressive credentials. If you don’t, it’s ‘Fred Singer and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.’

At the 6:08 point, the Nightline program referred to a majority of science opinion favoring the idea of ozone layer depletion and man-caused global warming, but then inadvertently illustrated a reason why the environmentalist side might resort to the tactic of character assassination against skeptic climate scientists:

But environmentalists are worried about even the appearance of a scientific dispute.

[Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund]: If they can get the public to believe, that ozone wasn’t worth acting on, that they were led in the wrong direction by scientists, then there’s no reason for the public to believe anything about any environmental issue.*

(* Dr Oppenheimer’s alarm isn’t the first – Newsweek reporter Sharon Begley’s alarm predated this by four months, in an October 1993 hit piece aimed at – guess who? – Dr Singer.)

So, how could Al Gore and enviro-activists prompt the public and reporters to ignore such skeptics out-of-hand? Plant a notion that these skeptics are shills of the fossil fuel industry.

Koppel sets up the situation this way, with a clip from a very famous conservative radio show host at the 12:13 point:

[Rush Limbaugh]: I can produce as many scientists who say there is not global warming as they can produce scientists who say there is. Pat Michaels from the University of Virginia is one that I rely on.

[Koppel]: Professor Michaels is also editor of the World Climate Review, which is funded by the Western Fuels Association, a consortium of coal utilities.

[Pat Michaels]: Whether or not Western Fuels funds the Review has nothing to do with with what was published long before* they funded it.

[Koppel]: On the other hand, you wouldn’t expect the folks at Western Fuels to be too upset if the scientists they’re funding were to conclude that, far from causing global warming, emissions of CO2, one of the so-called greenhouse gases, is actually good for the environment.

(* Regarding Dr Michaels’ point about the pre-existing science viewpoints, I’ve already detailed that situation in my May 12, 2016 blog post.)

After basically providing Nightline viewers with video clips of Dr Sherwood Idso detailing how CO2 is beneficial, Koppel set up the situation at the 13:33 point of an Al Gore Senate hearing clip where Gore didn’t dispute what Dr Idso said, but instead had this to say:

Just for the record, your film, which has been widely circulated by the coal industry and by OPEC was financed by the coal industry, is that correct?

Koppel continued on the Western Fuels funding angle for another minute, and then offered the following situation:

But what to we have here? Is this a case of industry supporting scientists who happen to hold sympathetic views, or scientists adapting their views to accommodate industry? Remember Dr Fred Singer? He has received consulting fees from Exxon, Shell, ARCO, Unocal, and Sun.*

(* Remember that Koppel was prompted to air this program after receiving documents from Al Gore’s office. Among those documents may have been the Singer v. Lancaster libel/slander lawsuit containing that list of oil companies in that exact order … since an affidavit related to the lawsuit noted Lancaster’s association with Al Gore. Much more on that situation here.)

Dr Singer basically shot down the insinuation about associations with oil companies:

Every environ­mental organization I know of gets money from Exxon, Shell, Arco, Dow Chemical, and so on. … If it doesn’t taint their science, it doesn’t taint my science.

Koppel then spent an extended time examining the faulty side of science-based predictions. It was at the end of that section where he offered his first zinger against Gore, at the 22:50 point:

The important thing that seems to be getting lost these days is the examination of data with an open mind. Depending on what you’ve been conditioned to believe, you can come to the wrong conclusion consulting a supercomputer, or the atmosphere.

[Montage of grim heating news announcements]

That was back in the summer of ’88, when an unusual heat wave seemed to foreshadow the arrival of the greenhouse effect. But what are we going to conclude now, that the winter of ’94 has been colder than usual.

Koppel then had a knockdown punch in his conclusion, at the 25:31 point

There is some irony in the fact that Vice President Gore, one of the most scientifically literate men to sit in the White House in this century, that he is resorting to political means to achieve what should ultimately be resolved on a purely scientific basis.

… and finished with this knockout at the 28:27 point:

The issues of global warming and ozone depletion are undeniably important. The future of mankind may depend on how this generation deals with them. But the issues have to be debated and settled on scientific grounds, not politics. There’s nothing new about major institutions seeking to influence science to their own ends. The Church did it, ruling families have done it, the Communists did it, and so have others in the name of anti-communism. But it has always been a corrupting influence, and it always will be. The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth. That’s the hard way to do it, but it’s the only way that works.

It is exactly that “hard way to address the science” — or the lack thereof by the mainstream media following this broadcast, that causes me to be skeptical of the idea of global warming being primarily caused by fossil fuel emissions. The above-featured EDF’s Michael Oppenheimer, subsequently associated with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has appeared on the PBS NewsHour multiple times without ever having his viewpoints “immersed in the acid of truth” by opposing scientists of equal stature, as I demonstrate in ongoing fashion here.

I’m not a climate scientist, I have no climate science expertise, thus I can’t say with any authority whether Dr Oppenheimer or Dr Singer is correct. The other main reason for my skepticism is the way Al Gore and other pro-global warming people tell the public not to listen to skeptic climate scientists who ‘on the payroll of Big Coal & Oil.’

Back in 1994, ABC News and Ted Koppel exposed Gore’s embarrassingly clumsy and intellectually ludicrous attempt at character assassination for what it was, a desperate effort to con the public and journalists into ignoring skeptic climate scientists’ detailed science-based assessments.

It’s probably the last time any prominent journalist in the mainstream media held Al Gore’s side accountable. That situation, after Koppel’s broadcast to the present time, is arguably journalistic malfeasance of epic proportions.