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Scientist Denounces TV Ads for Deliberately Misleading Public on Global Warming

Oil Industry-Financed Ads Misrepresent Global Warming Research Results


Canada, Manitoba, Churchill, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) standing on top of iceberg in Hudson Bay on summer evening
Paul Souders/Stone/Getty Images
A senior scientist whose research is being cited in television ads that challenge the reality of global warming has denounced the ads as a “deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public” and says the group that produced the ads is misrepresenting his work to support its false claims.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit public policy that is partially funded by large oil companies, is running a series of national television advertisements claiming that warnings about global warming are “alarmist.” The ads were timed to coincide with theatrical release of An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film starring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore that provides scientific evidence of global warming and urges people to take action to help reduce it.

Ads Misrepresent Research Results
To bolster its claims, CEI references scientific research that supposedly refutes the large body of science that supports global warming. Among the scientific work cited by CEI is research conducted in the Antarctic by Curt Davis, director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri-Columbia. (View the ads.)

According to the ads, Davis’ work shows that global warming is not causing ice sheets to shrink, but Davis has issued a statement saying that CEI is misrepresenting his research for its own purposes, and a senior editor at the journal Science (which published Davis’ research) backs him up.

"These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate," Davis said. "They are selectively using only parts of my previous research to support their claims. They are not telling the entire story to the public."

"The text of the CEI ad misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers and our current state of knowledge by selective referencing," said Dr. Brooks Hanson, deputy editor, physical sciences, Science.

Scientific Consensus on Global Warming
Prior to Davis' 2005 study, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if global warming were occurring, increased precipitation in Antarctica's interior would likely result. In his study, Davis reported growth in the interior East Antarctica ice mass. He said this growth was probably caused by an increase in precipitation, and made it clear in his study that growth of the interior ice sheet is “a predicted consequence of global warming.” Davis said his study did not include the coastal areas of Antarctica, which are known to be losing mass at a rate that could easily offset or outweigh increases in the interior areas.

"On one of those ads, they [CEI] chose to use the result I published last year to basically say the ice sheets are growing and not shrinking," Davis said in an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune. "It’s a blatant misuse of our result to create confusion where confusion does not exist."

"Our result is specific to one part of the ice sheet," Davis said. "You can’t use that to say the whole continent is growing. It’s undisputed in the scientific community that global warming is occurring.”

In an interview with The Independent, a British news publication, Davis was asked if he doubted the evidence of global warming. He replied: "Personally, I have no doubts whatsoever."

Oil Industry-Backed Group Known for Misleading Information
Environmentalists have repeatedly accused the CEI of producing misleading information about global warming and the degree to which human activity, including the increased use of fossil fuels, contributes to climate change. In reality, there is a broad scientific consensus that the planet is warming rapidly and that human activity plays a significant role in causing global warming.

David Doniger, the climate policy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Independent that climate change skeptics do not even represent "the minority...they're the fringe.”

"It's the same as with tobacco,” Doniger said. “To claim that fossil fuel emissions don't cause global warming is like saying cigarettes don't cause cancer."

See Page 2 for the rest of the story.

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