Ad Campaign Questions Global Warming Theory

Article excerpt

By Matthew L. Wald N.Y. Times News Service Coal-burning utility companies and coal producers, disturbed by public acceptance of the idea that burning fossil fuels will change the climate, are deciding whether to go national this fall with an ad campaign they tried in three markets earlier this year.

The advertising effort was tried out in Flagstaff, Ariz.; Fargo, N.D.; and Bowling Green, Ky.

The campaign produced nearly 2,000 requests to a toll-free telephone line for more information, said Gale Klappa, a vice president of Southern Co., a coal- using utility based in Atlanta.

The goal of the campaign, according to one planning document, is to "repos- ition global warming as theory (not fact)."

In Bowling Green, an ad showed a cartoon horse in earmuffs and scarf and said, "If the Earth is getting warmer, why is Kentucky getting colder?"

Another, with a cartoon man bundled up and holding a snow shovel, appeared in Minnesota and substituted "Minnea- polis" for "Kentucky."

"Those who are predicting catastro- phe have been very effective at getting their message across in national media, and in so-called `public service'& announcements," Klappa said in a telephone interview. "But there is another viewpoint, a substantial& viewpoint from a body of reputable scientists, and that viewpoint has really not been made available to a large majority."

The document was included in a packet of internal correspondence and other information relating to the cam- paign.

The packet was provided to The New York Times by the Sierra Club, the San Francisco-based environmental group that favors taking steps to reduce the risk of global warming. It had apparently been given the materials by someone who disagreed with the campaign's goals or approach.

Many climatologists are alarmed by the rising concentration in the Earth's atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other gases that they say will trap the sun's heat, raise temperatures and change rainfall patterns around the world. But scientists differ as to the extent of climate change or the speed with which it will occur.

The three scientists who form a "science advisory panel" for the cam- paign said in telephone interviews that the salient element in two of the ads, that some areas might be getting cooler, did not contradict the theory of global warming. But one of the three, Robert C. Balling Jr., director of the office of Climatology at Arizona State University, said in a telephone interview that the advertising campaign designers felt that an ad that simply discussed the contra- dictory state of evidence for global warming was "not punch enough."

Balling and another member of the panel, Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, Virgi- nia's climatologist and a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, have both asked to have their names removed from future mail- ings.

Balling, who taped radio ads used in Flagstaff, said some people who heard the ads "did not like the idea that I was coming on the radio" and acting as "a mouthpiece" for a private group.

Michaels said that with only three names on the mailing, people would identify him as the source of the information, while he was not, in fact, the author, and that the size of the panel was so small that it made the position appear scientifically unpopular. …