THE BLOG
10/17/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2013

Rosen Joins Hands With Coffman and Puts Head in Sand on Global Warming

I try not to miss any of the fact-checks of political ads on local TV. But somehow 9News' Aug. 21 "Truth Test" of an ad attacking Rep. Mike Coffman got by me. It was the ad showing photos of ostriches and claiming that Coffman has his head in the sand about global warming.

9News' Brandon Rittiman concluded that, even though part of the ad is an "overstatement," it's "fair to say" Coffman questions whether "we can do much" about climate change, because he's "said repeatedly that 'climate change is naturally occurring' and it's still up for debate how much of an impact people are having."

Rittiman reports:

"Despite saying on his website that he wants to reduce carbon emissions, Coffman does have a solid record of voting against controls for carbon."

"Bottom line, if you want someone in office who will vote for more control of carbon emissions, Mike Coffman isn't your guy."

Rittiman's analysis of the ad demonstrated basic integrity and attention to detail that was nowhere to be found in the work of Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen, who also critiqued the ad.

Rosen starts his Aug. 11 Denver Post column by writing that the ad, paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, "dishonestly attacked Rep. Mike Coffman," and "absurdly calls Coffman an anti-science extremist."

But where are the dishonest attacks on Coffman? Rosen never tells us. Instead, he just writes that "science is never settled," and it's "highly speculative" whether humans are causing global warming.

Rosen doesn't try to defend Coffman for being the climate-change denier that the ad accurately says he is. Instead, Rosen holds hands with Coffman and questions whether humans are causing climate change. Rosen asserts that the ad falsely claims that "97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real."

Rosen: The league charges that Coffman is out of step, claiming "97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real." Of course climate change is real. Coffman doesn't deny that. The Earth's climate perpetually changes. Ice ages and warm ages predated human existence. Yes, global temperatures have increased since 1800. That was the low point of what's called the "little ice age." And the increase was driven by solar radiation, not SUVs. But notice the League of Conservation Voters' sneaky wording. It didn't say that 97 percent of scientists agree that "human activity" is a primary cause of global warming, because the survey it cites made no such claim. And the impact of human activity is the key, disputed variable.

Actually, the survey cited in the ad says that 97 percent of scientists do, in fact, agree global warming is "very likely due to human activities." They didn't assert that it's absolutely positively the primary cause, but "very likely" sounds like agreement to me.

That's probably why Rittiman also found the ad's fact that 97 percent of scientists believe climate change is real "to be true, among climate scientists."

Rittiman reported:

CLAIM: 97 percent of scientists agree climate change is happening and NASA says it's worsening extreme weather. VERDICT: TRUE

The ad should have specified that the figure represents agreement specifically among climate scientists, but it is a well documented figure, backed up by reputable research.

You can also find articles from NASA discussing extreme weather as it relates to climate change and worsening fire conditions, too.

It turns out, surprise, Rosen denies climate-change science just like Coffman does.

So, ironically, in trying to defend Coffman, Rosen reinforces the basic facts in the ad, which were affirmed by Rittiman, that scientists agree humans are causing global warming and Coffman doesn't believe mainstream scientific opinion on the topic.