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NBC’s failed sweeps stunt: The snowjob of Kilimanjaro

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 24, 2008 04:02 AM

Let’s start your Monday morning off with a triple-snort.

It was ratings sweeps week last week and NBC’s Today Show decided to dispatch its celebrity journalists to all the corners of the Earth to show us that the planet’s melting and it’s all our fault.

Ann Curry must have drawn the short straw because NBC decided to send the 52-year-old Today Show anchor — an inexperienced climber with less than three weeks to prepare — to race to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in time for a dramatic, end-of-the-week ascent. Why Kilimanjaro? It’s the pet cause of Al Gore and his alarmist acolytes who blame humans for purportedly retreating snow caps there. The inconvenient truth is, as University of Washington climate scientist Philip Mote, put it: “Kilimanjaro is a grossly overused mis-example of the effects of climate change.” But that wouldn’t have reeled in sensationalism-seeking viewers for sweeps week.

Curry was expected to produce fresh, new photographic and video evidence of the man-made snow cap calamity for NBC’s green initiative. But her much-hyped interview segments turned into tragi-comic medical updates and plaintive wails as she and her large crew were slowed by fatigue and altitude sickness. The sweeps stunt bombed. Curry moaned:

“This is like climbing a Stairmaster for six hours a day with 20 pounds on your back,” Curry said in a telephone interview from her tent following Saturday’s climb.

She’s hardly an experienced climber. The last mountain she scaled was half the size, and she did it while in college, said Curry, who turns 52 on Wednesday. She learned of the assignment only three weeks ago, giving her little time to train…

“I miss my family,” said Curry, whose clothes were clammy and wet from a rainstorm Saturday. “And also warm showers. And I could really use a stiff drink.”

The exhausted NBC crew failed to summit and instead turned back with their 100 local tribal porters (nice of them to help the local economy, though those fired NBC/Weather Channel employees might question the expenditures).

Curry will be back today to try and save face. But as Marc Sheppard points out in a must-read blow-by-blow of the disaster, NBC execs have major egg on theirs. The network put the green agenda ahead of its employees’ well-being. And for what? Viewers were left as ill-informed as they were before Ann Curry took a single step:

With no grand eco-finale to deliver on Friday, Today producers were left with an anticlimactic recap of their tepid non-story and the announcement that Curry would return on Monday. Meanwhile, the audience was left to only wonder just how sick they were, and how much pressure was applied to drive them onward and upward. For her part, Curry declared the journey a success, “We’ve done our job. We’ve shown the problems.”

The Today website agreed, proclaiming the pictures they took “evidence that she and her team had completed their assignment.” After all: [my emphasis]

“The pictures show the ice cap on the verge of extinction and confirmed what researchers have been saying: More than 80 percent of Kilimanjaro’s famous ice cap has disappeared in the last 100 years.”

So a TV anchor and her crew may have risked severe injury and perhaps death to take pictures of mountain peaks readily available on-line, including here here here and here to confirm the established conclusions of qualified scientists. And for what? The straw man tactic of suggesting proof of melting is proof of warming-induced melting is equally absurd to suggesting proof of global warming is proof of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

…The debate has never been whether or not the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting, but rather what force is driving the phenomenon.

The canard of global warming has been a favorite media culprit, despite being widely disputed long before and ever since Al Gore used the diminishing white peaks as poster child for warming alarmism in his eco-sci-fi movie. In fact, the Goracle’s Mount K assertions were among the nine statements in the film a UK judge ruled unsupportable by mainstream scientific consensus. The ruling compels British school teachers including the mockumentary in their curriculum to identify it as “a political work [which] promotes only one side of the argument.”

And there was no shortage of evidence on which to base that decision.

In an October of 2003 Nature Magazine piece, Betsy Mason explained why researchers blamed not global warming, but deforestation:

“Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.”

A June 2007 study published in American Scientist, found that Kilimanjaro’s melting had been going on for more than a century and most had occurred prior to 1953, when atmospheric CO2 levels were quite low. “Complex interacting factors” including a process called sublimation, which “occurs at below-freezing temperatures and converts ice directly to water vapor without going through the liquid phase” were cited.

…[I]n Curry’s November 13th blog entry, she wrote that “climate change is the lead suspect” in the melting. And that’s the very point her expedition set out to convey. Yet nothing she found or reported up to 16,000 feet advanced that arbitrary premise. Of course, having likely never heard the words “deforestation” or “sublimation” in this context, particularly from the MSM, most viewers simply assumed they were watching more proof of the ravages of AGW.

So you’ve got to wonder — just what imagery did NBC hope to showcase at the summit that might have really hit their misleading message out of the park?

Whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly have merited such reckless disregard for the safety of their crew.

NBC’s botched climb would be comedy gold — worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit and endless Jay Leno mockery — if lives and truth weren’t at stake. Let NBC’s Snowjob of Kilimanjaro be an object lesson in the deadly serious consequences of enviro-nitwittery.

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