1994 Nightline Special “Is Science for Sale?”


On February 24th, 1994, ABC’s Nightline aired a news segment titled, “Is Science for Sale?” Its host, Ted Koppel, explained the piece was prompted by a conversation with then Vice President Al Gore. The segment features many prominent climate change deniers including:

Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project,
Ron Arnold of the Wise Use Movement,
Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute,
Richard Lindzen of the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute,
Sherwood Idso of CO2 Science, and
Roger Maduro of 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine.

The comments in this segment reflect some of the most common arguments used by climate deniers attempting to discredit the scientific consensus on climate change such as:

  1. Current science is unable to tie increases in greenhouse gases to human activities;
  2. We should rely on present observations rather than inaccurate climate models which are unable to predict future climate scenarios effectively;
  3. Climate policies are unnecessary and would hurt the economy, endanger people, and harm our way of life.

On air, Koppel reported the financial ties of his guests, largely comprised of fossil fuel entities, including consulting fees to Fred Singer from Exxon, Shell, ARCO, Unocal and Sun Oil (14:50); funding to Patrick Michaels and Sherwood Idso from the coal interest group Western Fuels Association (12:20; 13:30) ; and support of Ron Arnold’s Wise Use Movement from corporations like Exxon (5:30). The segment also included a clip of Rush Limbaugh, referred to as the “archdeacon of conservatism” boasting, “I can produce as many scientist that say there is not global warming as they can produce that say there is.” He referred to Pat Michaels as “one that I rely on” (12:15).

The segment featured environmental advocates Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund and Vice President Al Gore, however, Jerry Mahlman, previous director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the only scientist interviewed who challenged the opinions of deniers like Fred Singer, of whom Koppel also referred to as a “scientist.”

Despite the segment’s lack of scientists representing the global consensus on anthropogenic climate change, Koppel comments:

“This is not, you understand, a close call. It’s not as though US scientists are evenly divided or even close to being evenly divided on issues like the greenhouse effect or depletion of the ozone layer. But environmentalists are concerned about even the appearance of a scientific dispute.” (6:09)

Partial video transcription, organized by speaker, below:

Fred Singer
(2:20) “What’s puzzling is, that there hasn’t been any noticable warming of the climate that can be ascribed to the human caused increase in greenhouse gases.”

(2:50) “1993 is the year of the backlash about environmental hypes and hoaxes. The quality papers, that is the New York Times, the Washington Post, finally, had articles that questioned some of the assumptions about environmental disasters and pointed out for the first time that there were other views, that the scientific community was not in agreement on many of the issues and that perhaps the policies were based on incomplete or shaky science.”

(14:55) “Every environ­mental organization I know of gets funding from Exxon, Shell, Arco, Dow Chemical, and so on. If it doesn’t taint their science, it doesn’t taint my science.”

(22:10) “So obviously, the atmosphere, the real atmosphere, doesn’t pay any attention to these people who do mathematical models. And I think it’s time for the people who do mathematical models to start paying attention to the real atmosphere. That’s the way it should work. In other words, its the atmosphere that’s more important than the models.”

(23:30) “What concerns me, in a very general sense, is not only that the politics or the policies can get ahead of the science but that the policies become, as it were, cast in concrete. So that if the science changes, and often science does change, the policy simply marches on.”

Ron Arnold
(5:20) “We intend to destroy the environmental movement once and for all by offering a better alternative: ‘The Wise Use’ movement.”

(5:45) “We think that people really want man and nature to live together in productive harmony not to be subservient to nature or someone’s idea of nature.”

Patrick Michaels
(11:45) “The planet has not warmed up nearly as much as the computer forecasts that are used as the basis of this doom and gloom scenario suggest that they should have”.

(12:02) “The Polar regions should be so warm now, as a result of the enhancement of the greenhouse effect that we wouldn’t even be talking here. It would be obvious. That’s the region where the most warming was supposed to occur. There isn’t any!”

In regards to the Western Fuels Association funding his journal, “World Climate Review”:
(12:31) “Whether or not Western Fuels funds the review has nothing to do with what was published long before they funded it.”

(15:15) “It’s the war between what you think should happen and what is happening, if you will. It’s war between the dynamic and the empirical, between the forecast and the facts.”

Richard Lindzen
(15:30) “What we need is a public that is mature enough to accept that you know, there can be this prediction, it’s probably wrong, you’re going to have to wait until you’re sure because if you act in response to that, your action is probably going to be irrelevant to the problem and so it’s going to be action just for its own sake.”

(21:30) “At present, models are giving you rain where there are deserts, deserts where there’s rain, the temperature of the earth has to be put in, it can’t calculate it. I mean there are plenty of big weaknesses.”

(25:09) “We would have to cut emissions, not to 1990 levels, but somewhere between 40-70 percent below 1990 levels and there’s no one who has figured out how’d you’d do that without virtually demolishing society as we know it.”

Clips from “The Greening of Planet Earth”
Koppel reported that Idso helped create a film for the Western Fuels Association titled, “The Greening of Planet Earth.” The full video can be found here.

(13:00) Sherwood Idso: “A doubling of the CO2 content of the atmosphere will create a tremendous greening of planet earth.”

(13:06) Herman Mayeux“A better world. A more productive world.”

(13:11) Gerd-Rainer Weber: “Our world will be a much better one.”

(13:20) Sherwood Idso: “In very general terms you should see a real greening of the desert. You should see grasses and small shrubs moving out onto areas where they could not live and survive and reproduce before”.

Roger Maduro
(06:40) “There is no scientific evidence to indicate that the ozone layer has either increased or decreased over the past 20 to 30 years”.

Michael Oppenheimer
(23:55) “What they’ve done, is try to take scientific understanding and try to put it on the same level as political opinion. After all, if scientific understanding is the same as political opinion, then everybody’s opinion is equally valid. There are no facts and if there are no facts, there is no extra validity to acting on environmental problems than not acting.”

Jerry Mahlman
(21:10) “The models admit to being imperfect because they are trying to do something that is extraordinarily difficult, that is to mimic this very complex mother nature we call earth and its atmosphere-ocean system… If you wish to trash the models what you really are saying is that you wish to throw away the classical interaction between theory and observation because models are the only way to check that. The earth is not a laboratory you can run over under controlled experimental conditions. Basically the mathematical model gives one a way to check what’s going on.”

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