HOT POLITICS [home page]

join the discussion - What are your thoughts on this history of how three U.S. administrations failed to take bold action on global warming? Are you hopeful things will change in the future?

atmospherepro-coal protest

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for producing a comprehensive overview of American politics relationship with global warming over the past three administrations. I found it very informative. However I am very concerned about your characterization of Al Gore's presidential campaign as attempting to not make an issue of global warming.

Five minutes of internet research yielded two very high profile mentions of global warming; Al Gore's acceptance speech of the democratic nomination, and during the second presidential candidate debate. While this is only two instances, I would be hard pressed to offer larger podiums and audiences than these two events to raise issues important to a candidate's campaign.

Finding this information was quite dismaying. Is there a backing for Frontline's contention that the Gore campaign sought to downplay global warming? Overall I was very pleased with the program, but the issue of prominence of global warming in Al Gore's campaign shakes my faith in Frontline's reporting.

A response would be appreciated, as I would very much like to be able to continue to depend on Frontline as a source of insightful, moving and factual reporting.

Jamil Farbes
Arlington, VA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The producers of Hot Politics respond:Yes, your internet research is correct, and Gore did mention global warming then. In his nomination acceptance speech, Gore spoke for about 51 minutes, delivering a speech of over 5800 words, but on this subject said only, "We must reverse the silent rising tide of global warming, and we can." Out of the three presidential debates, the subject was raised only in the second and only in response to a question by the moderator, Jim Lehrer. To be fair, Vice President Gore mentioned global warming in several other speeches as well, but given his history on the issue we believe our statement to be accurate.Al Gore has been arguably the most effective and accomplished spokesman for the cause of global warming. Yet relative to his demonstrated interest in the subject both prior to and following his run for President, he rarely made global warming an issue in his campaign. Thus, after noting that he had a reputation as the strongest environmentalist ever to run for president we state that "Candidate Gore rarely mentioned global warming or talked about mandatory carbon caps." Others have observed even more pointedly that he downplayed his passion in order to avoid making himself a bigger target to conservative criticism. One example of that is a Time Magazine article of April 30, 2006 that began: "During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore's political consultants counseled him to quit talking about the issue that, since his college days, had stirred his passions more than any other. Voters didn't care about global warming, his political brain trust told the then-Vice President, and going on about it would make him look like the kind of fuzzy-headed extremist that George Herbert Walker Bush had once mocked as "Ozone Man." Gore took that advice, which may help explain why he came up short in that race."Thank you for an excellent question, and we hope that you maintain a continued faith in Frontline as a source for reliable and insightful reporting.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I always enjoy the product quality of your shows. However- I was disappointed with your complete lack of balance this show presented. I had read your earlier Editor's response that the show was more about the politics than the science of global warming. This answer is borderline absurd. The whole basis of your show was that science has completely proven that Global Warming is a man made event and any actions by any politician that did not reduce CO2 is dangerous and deceitful. Your show presented non-stop interviews of individuals commenting about the science of global warming all of whom's views supported the CO2 theory of warming. These views in turn supported every political viewpoint your show presented. Thus, your claims that the show was about politics not science is disingenuous. For me- this topic is too important for the media not to present all viewpoints. I am sorry to say your show was not a documentary but a well produced agenda. When scientists start telling me any scientific debate is over, I then stop calling them scientists and start calling them politicians.

Darin Haugland
Inver Grove Heights, MN

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

As reported in the film, and in additional material published here on the companion Web site, international scientific studies over the past two decades have shown that the earth is warming, the warming is due to the presence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the amount of warming observed cannot be explained solely by natural causes. Since its inception in 1988, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a variety of reports on global warming - their assessments document notable change in global temperatures over the last century, the increased acidity of the seas which have absorbed excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the spread of vegetation towards the poles, and note that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." You can read the IPCC's four full reports and other assessments here. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report on climate changes over the last 2000 years. Their analysis, which included study of other factors that could contribute to planetary warming (such as volcanic activity and solar radiation), concluded that these factors cannot explain the warming trend and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." The report is readable online. Given what arguably seems an international consensus by scientists that mankind is influencing global warming, our program examined the political and economic forces that have prevented the U.S. from addressing this threat.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Once again you put together a program that reflects your opinions rather than researching all sides to a story. Your refusal to include the skeptic views blatantly shows your ignorance on the issue. No mention of the Manhattan Declaration or the list of scientists that reject the IPCC report, no mention of the growing list of issues that points to the fact that the IPCC report as well as its review process is flawed, or the fact that many of the 'scientists' that back the IPCC report are invested financially either in 'Green' technology or that their current and future funding of research grants or budgets depend on them making a case for their existence.

Edwardsville, Illinois

Dear FRONTLINE,

Between the idealistic biologists, vested model-makers, well-meaning but ignorant hippies, maneuvering politicians, and capitalist hating socialists, there is still no conclusive evidence that anthropogenic activity is the tipping point for the global climate system. Neither is there any conclusive evidence that the Greenhouse Effect in toto is the prime mover of climate change on the planet. I wish you would have addressed the following issues:

1. The climate models, for all their complexity, have all the probative value of an astrological chart. The fact that whatever change occurs (warming, cooling, dryness, wetness) is attributed to "global warming" (or rather now "climate change", already a more general term) is testament to the fact that this is a politically charged pseudo-scientific issue. Our true understanding of global climate systems is akin to a baby's understanding of quantum physics

2. Consensus is not science, and never was. Public opinion is absolutely irrelevant. The public believes in acupuncture, crystals, the Bible, Allah, etc., in the absence of any rigorous proof, and this is no different. The fact that public opinion is presented as relevant illustrates that this is a political issue, not a scientific issue.

3. Any time someone predicts what MAY happen in the future, even if they are a scientist, they are engaging in speculation. What MAY happen, also MAY NOT happen. After all, according to the environmental scientists of the first Earth Day, we should all be dead already. Yet here we are, still dealing with this chicken little hysteria.

4. The IPCC is a political body within the United Nations. The scientists who signed off on the report, only signed off on the tiny portions each contributed to the science section of the report. Their signatures were not an endorsement of the summary report, which is almost an entirely political construct.

5. The fact that you put all the pressure on the United States when China is the largest polluter and also rejects Kyoto is more evidence of the political nature of this issue. India, rapidly becoming the #2 polluter, also rejects Kyoto. It would be economic suicide to participate in any global environmental plan that does not include India or China.

6. Even in the absence of conclusive evidence, proponents claim that action "must be taken now" due to the potential for calamity and destruction. Yet your own beloved IPCC already said nothing can be done. Also, by this twisted logic you should support such actions as a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran because of the potential harm they could do to us in the future.

7. Katrina has nothing to do with issue, and that it is presented as such is no better than Soviet or Nazi propaganda. This is not science. The "consensus" was hurricanes in 2006 and 2007 would be even worse. Consensus wrong, and still not science.

There are enough real, significant, and actionable environmental issues in the world, and we are wasting our time and resources on a phantom menace.

Scott Zeppa
Eugene, OR

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am disgusted (but not amazed) that you already have a flood of posts that claim the science is not settled on the basic question of human-caused global warming. I can point you and them to a Nobel prize winner who disputes that HIV causes AIDS but we don't let such outliers anywhere near public policy on health and for good reason. So, sure, you can find some astrophysicist at MIT that has a few well-chosen weasel words and a heap of misdirection intended to undermine certainty around global warming. But an individual shouldn't give them more than a few glances before they look at the statements from NASA, EPA, Scripps Oceanography, National Academy of Sciences, The Pentagon, George Bush (even), NOAA, every national academy of science in every developed country in the world, every major government in the world, IBM, GE, Johnson&Johnson, and even Shell, ChevronTexaco, BP, and ExxonMobil. Every single one states that man is warming the planet and this is a problem. Meanwhile a few increasingly desperate special interests are trying to make this a debate. It is not. It is science. One side is right and the other is wrong - finding out which is called increasing mankind's knowledge. If you don't like it go into theater. So the basic science (it's happening, we're doing it, it's a problem) is in. The fact that anyone thinks it is not decided is a result of the terrible and immoral deceit that your program highlights. And also to the paid and fanatical special interests that post misdirection and deception on discussion boards like this.

Quentin Prideaux
Wellesley, MA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

May 18, 2007: For those unconvinced that global warming is happening and caused by human activity, New Scientist magazine has posted an article on its Web site debunking the most prominent skeptical arguments.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Deeply divided sides on global warming will continue for years. One side will argue for major action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while the other side will continue to argue for minor or little action. The sides could come together with exceptional leadership in the White House, government agencies and the private sector. Without that the people will continue to flounder as the catastrophe and world chaos unfold.

Pat Neuman
Chanhassen, Minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although I thought it was a terrific program, I just wanted to express my disgust at the events surrounding the original global warming press conference. Whether or not you accept global warming as an objective truth, the lengths at which certain individuals went to ensure the conference would be 1.) on the hottest day of the year and 2.) with no air conditioning, is a morally corrupt action and should be frowned upon, NOT celebrated. This is the kind of ammunition skeptics use to show how environmental alarmists exploit the issue and manipulate public opinion with scare tactics. If you disagree, imagine how you've felt when witnessing the manipulative and exploitive actions of our current administration. The high road is always the right road.

James McCormack
New York, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

The science is in once and for all on this subject, at least to those of us who live in a modern scientific world.

It is sad to see that the right is able to continue to stall action on this issue using its powerful speakers, and intimidated resources. This broadcast was novel in its attempt to understand the nature of this stalling.

I am greatly concerned and disturbed at the lack of compelling and inspiring arguments made by the american scientific community! I am even more disappointed with Democratic leaders who have failed to inspire action on this issue. There are tremendous economic benefits that go hand in hand with action on global warming! Innovation! Health! Competitive advantage with asian business rivals! the list goes on and on. These advantages create limitless jobs and wealth for our nation. Yet the case remains to be sold? Save for one or two weakly spoken interviews and senate hearings, where is the strength in our tech and scientific community to get these points across to the American public once and for all?

Gregory Grigoriou
San Diego, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline:

I caught your program on T.V. the same day I toured the Wabash IGCC power plant. The IGCC clean coal technology has come along way but still has along way to go. The clean coal technology does a good job of reducing NOX, SO2 and mercury but I am not sold on the CO2 yet. I am in favor of a new clean power technology but until it happens, we need to keep everyone's lights on.

Todd Lamal
Green Bay, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wow. Frontline produced a report about global warming that doesn't mention methane, ozone, or water vapor. It doesn't mention deforestation, swamps, or rice farming. It actually interviews ranchers but doesn't mention the methane emissions their ranches produce. It doesn't give a history of the climate before the 1800s (the temperature was 2�F warmer in 1000 A.D. than today). It doesn't say what effect implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would actually have. (Even if we reduced CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature would continue to rise for centuries.) It doesn't discuss how CO2 is a product of perfect combustion and that pollution-control devices can only prevent other pollutants like nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide. It doesn't discuss the melting of glaciers and how long that process will actually take. It discusses public OPINION on Katrina, but not how most scientists believe that it wasn't related to global warming. Most of the people interviewed were political commentators. I guess the American people will never know very much about the subject. All of this in an hour-long special. Incredible.

Richard Maxwell
Fort Collins, Colorado

Dear FRONTLINE,

To those who still, incredibly, believe there has not been enough debate or scientific peer review of climate change assertions: if you don't grasp the threat, the challenge and the opportunity now, I doubt you ever will. The debate has ended. We are quickly running out of time to take action that can make a difference for the global environment and begin to reduce the myriad risks of our nation's energy insecurity. If anything, we should see the economic opportunity that is being seized by foreign countries and their companies to do something about it. We're surrendering more and more of those with each passing month.

Jim Pierobon
Silver Spring, Maryland

Dear FRONTLINE,

It appears that the opinions on this message board range from "real scared" to "total denial". It is sad despite being an educated democracy we are so deeply divided on these issues. In every other part of the world, I sense a genuine concern about global warming at the grassroots level. However, there may not be a national commitment or courage to do something about it.

The American people in contrast have the ability to do wonders once they are convinced about the cause. However, we as a nation have allowed ourselves to be sharply divided by ideologies. We have lately learned to "suspect" the coldest facts if it is coming from a source that we discredit because of its "left" or "right" leanings ! The left won't believe anything that comes out of Fox News and the right wont believe anything that anybody but Fox says !

We as a country have stopped believing in ourselves. To me this is more dangerous than global warming!

Nitty Rao
Saint Louis, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

In my opinion, President Bush is opposed to the concept of Global Warming because he is a Conservative Evangelical Christian. He believes that (1) Scientists developed the concept of Global Warming (2) Scientists teach evolution and therefore are contradicting the teachings of the Bible (3) The Bible is the word of God (4) Scientists are therefore atheists (5) Global Warming doesn't exist and should be ignored by "people of faith".

It seems logical to me that if coal deposits have been forming for 300 million years, since the Carboniferous period, and have been extracted and burned in huge quantities in only the last 200 years, that there is bound to be some effect on the earth's environment. But I am only an amateur scientist.

Jeremiah O'Shaughnessy
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,I am frankly astounded that I have never heard one other person, including news commentators, mention the phenomenon of "global dimming". I thought the FRONTLINE program "The Dimming Sun" helped to explain clearly why the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide emissions is less than expected.

The eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Phillipine Islands, mentioned in "Hot Politics" contributed to "dimming".

All this makes me think that there are not enough people interested in real science but who are more ready to hear political discussions and take sides. Your programs are an excellent source of fact for those interested in the truth rather than political fiction. Thank you for these outstanding programs.

Andy BazarScottsville, NY

Andrew Bazar
Scottsville, NY

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Dimming Sun is actually a NOVA program. Click here to go to the program's Web site.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I agree that global warming is the most serious problem facing the entire world. I believe that greed is the significant contribution to global warming. I would like the map to have had a third component, emissions per capita in each state.

Michael Lowry
Electric City, Washington

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

For more statistics on greenhouse gas emissions, visit the EPA's climate change Web site. You'll also find a personal emissions calculator so your can size up your own carbon footprint.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Well after watching the program, I think our government is way out of touch with reality. They are worried about cutting carbon emissions with the false reality that it will cut jobs by changing some industry. I don't think they see that as of now, that just about everything thats made is from China and other countries. They are already passing us due to failure of fair trading policies. What we need to do is find ways to make us more Green and to start this now before its too late to reverse. Then go back and look how we trade with these countries and change that. Then the jobs will be back here where the belong.

Jeffrey Wertz
Columbia, SC

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posted april 24, 2007

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