Ed Driscoll

The Brief Reign Of Acid Rain: The Original "Hide The Decline"

On Wednesday, Hugh Hewitt posited to Mark Steyn:

Mark, I want to close by going up to 30,000 feet, beginning with Rathergate and the attempt to steal the 2004 presidential election with fake documents, through this one. Again and again, we find the left shading, falsifying, simply inventing narratives that they need in order to advance their political agenda. At some point, does the public say I’m simply not going to trust anything those people say, in other words, to go to the credibility level that they’ve been trying to pin on the center-right for decades?

Over at NRO’s “Planet Gore” blog, Henry Payne looks back at the brief reign of “acid rain”, the debunking of which was one of the now-largely forgotten mile markers on the way to Climaquiddick:

In fact, like global warming science today, the “consensus” science in 1990 — which argued that Midwest power plants were destroying Northeast lakes with acid rain — was bunk. So how can Skole (and his allies) boldly stake their claim? Because Washington politicians and their media parrots covered up the scientific evidence in 1990 so that it would not derail the regulation they had long sought. It is a cautionary tale for those who think that truth will win the day after the newly released Climate Research Unit e-mails — a.k.a., Climaquiddick — have revealed fraud in global-warming science.

The NAPAP (National Acid Rain Precipitation Assessment Project) study published in 1989 — which took ten years and cost $500 million, the most comprehensive federal study ever undertaken — proved that acid rain was a minor nuisance and that passing expensive regulation would do little to address the supposed problem.

I briefly covered the story in Washington at the time having read alternative media reports in the Washington Times by Warren Brookes and Reason magazine. But, as in Climaquiddick today, the MSM buried the storys tawdry details. In 1989, I spoke with two journalists who knew of the report’s conclusions, but who refused to report on it lest it jeopardize passage of the Clean Air Act. I interviewed then-EPA Chief Bill Reilly (a green Bush appointee) who dismissed the report. Congress, despite having spent half-a-billion, quashed the inconvenient science. Only one brief hearing was held.

Months after the regulations were voted into law, 60 Minutes became the first MSM outlet to look into the allegations that acid rain science was a hoax.

Acid rain “science” was a hoax? Gosh, there’s a shock. (But still, read the whole thing.) Acid rain was one of those mid-to-late-1980s-era media stalking horses whose use routinely went unchallenged in the pre-Rush, pre-Fox, pre-Blogosphere era of the waning days of mass media as they fought against the successes of the Reagan administration. In addition to “acid rain”, these included such MTV-era cliches as claiming everyone was one paycheck away from being homeless, when the vast majority of homeless were mentally ill, substance abusers, or both. Or the myth of heterosexual AIDS, as Michael Fumento bravely challenged. All of these were societal phenomena that the media assumed had to be true, if only they repeated it enough times.

Luckily, the alternative press has grown since 1989 and today there are prominent news outlets like Fox and the blogosphere to help report the inconvenient Climaquiddick facts”, Payne writes.

Or as Mark Steyn replied to Hugh Hewitt’s query at the top of this post:

I find it interesting that the somnolent, American media, the dying monodailies of American cities, have done their best to cover up this story and not to cover it. And what is interesting to me is if you look at the comment section on papers like the Boston Globe and the Houston Chronicle, the so-called environmental correspondents are all doing their ‘there’s nothing to see here’ stories, or they’re saying that the real threat is that Boston is going to be underwater, apparently, by the year 2015, or whatever. And in the comments section, readers are actually saying you idiots have missed the story here. So if you go to the Boston Globe website, or you go to the Houston Chronicle website, in effect, you’re getting more news from the comments section than you are from the environmental correspondents.

Which makes sense: just as Winston’s Smith’s job in the Ministry was Truth was to manipulate the past to fit the day-to-day-whims of his superiors inside the Inner Party, the role of the elite journalist is, paradoxically now to keep news out of the general public’s eyes. Fortunately, to paraphrase Karl Rove’s famous take on illegal immigrants, bloggers and other new media types are there to do the job that the American media no longer wish to do.