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