Steven Milloy, the self-proclaimed critic of junk science at Fox News, rarely misses an opportunity to bash environmentalists. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he falsely claimed that the collapse of the World Trade Towers could have been delayed if only the builders had used more asbestos. He also has a habit of distorting other people's words when it serves his agenda. (A recent example of this was featured on RealClimate.org, a weblog for climate scientists.)
Milloy's response to the Asian tsunami is similar. In a column for Fox News, Milloy accuses environmentalists of exploiting the disaster by trying to blame it on global warming. In order to make this seem plausible, however, he has to misquote the environmentalists he is attacking.
"Two days after the tragedy," Milloy writes, "the executive director of Greenpeace UK told the British newspaper the Independent, 'No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree.'" He quotes a similar statement from Tony Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth. Milloy uses these statements as evidence that "Environmental activists are shamelessly trying to exploit last week's earthquake-tsunami catastrophe in hopes of advancing their global warming and anti-development agendas."
As Jim Norton points out, however, checking the Independent article (which Milloy does not link to) "shows that it was actually dated the day after the disaster. Which means that it was almost certainly written on the day of the disaster, if not earlier, and comments about the tsunami added at the last minute. With the disaster occurring on a Sunday that was also the day after Christmas, it is unlikely that anyone would be in their offices answering their phones. The quotes were almost certainly given before the disaster occurred. Indeed, neither of the environmentalists mention the tsunami, and it is clear from the context that they are talking about weather related events."
Indeed, the bulk of the article is about weather-related disasters that happened prior to the tsunami. It states, "Losses caused by natural disasters, most of them climate-related and headed by hurricanes in America and typhoons in Japan, leapt for the first time to more than $100bn (£52bn), according to preliminary estimates from the Zurich-based reinsurance giant Swiss Re."
Milloy also misinterprets a Reuters story by environmental correspondent Alister Doyle. It states that "global warming, poorly planned coastal development and other threats over which humans have some control are weakening natural defenses ranging from mangrove swamps to coral reefs that help keep the oceans at bay." Milloy interprets this to mean that "Environmentalists are looking to blame economic development for the devastation wreaked by the tsunamis in hopes of slowing down progress in the third world."
The quotations from Greenpeace, Tony Juniper and Reuters are similarly distorted by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that also employs Milloy and that opposes action to address global warming, as well as by the Cybercast News Service (which used to call itself the "Conservative News Service" before changing its name, in an evident effort to disguise its political agenda).