AccuWeather's science for hire

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Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an industry front group that opposed mandates to prevent global warming, bolstered its case using "science for hire" provided by AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting firm.

GCC asserted that "science must serve as the foundation for overall global climate policy decisions and enhanced scientific research must be the first priority. A bedrock principle addressing global climate change issues is that science -- not emotional or political reactions -- must serve as the foundation for global climate policy decisions." In direct contradiction to these lofty goals, however, the GCC and individual members provided public platforms for the handful of scientists who are skeptical of the consensus that there is a human influence on the global climate. These scientists generally do not participate in the accepted process of publishing research in refereed journals in order to test hypotheses and conclusions. They also generally do not have expertise in the topic. Moreover, the GCC went even further than just providing public relations services for these skeptic scientists. They also attacked credible and preeminent scientists who are experts in the field.

An example of GCC's own sloppy approach to science occurred in early 1995, when a team of researchers from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, led by Tom Karl, documented an increase in climatic instability in the form of more extreme weather events in the U.S. during the previous two decades. The NCDC's study analyzed all the U.S. weather data compiled since the beginning of weather instrumentation. It found altered drought and rainfall patterns, significantly more rain and snow falling in intense, severe downpours, and nighttime low temperatures rising faster than daytime high temperatures. The NCDC study noted that the changes it documented were precisely what the current generation of computer models projected as the early stages of global warming.

The GCC responded by rushing out a study of its own, performed by AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting firm. The AccuWeather report contradicted the NCDC's findings, claiming that "temperature and precipitation extremes are no more common now than they were 50 to 100 years ago." Unlike the NCDC study, however, AccuWeather's report drew on temperature data from only three cities in the U.S. -- Augusta, GA, State College, PA, and Des Moines, IA -- hardly a broad-based sample. For precipitation, it drew on data from only one city -- Los Angeles, CA. Moreover, the AccuWeather study combined satellite and surface temperature data -- an error, because satellite data measures temperatures in a layer of the atmosphere that may be affected differently by changes in greenhouse gases.

GCC's public relations effort to get their side of the story into the media led to their press conference receiving much more attention than Tom Karl's vastly superior scientific efforts. Steven H. Schneider, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, attributed this disparity to what he called a "one fax-one vote syndrome" among journalists.

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  • Some of the information for this article was taken from "Global Climate Coalition," from the PR Watch Impropaganda Review. (Used with permission)