NBC's Ann Curry aborted her quest to find proof of global warming at the peak of Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro. But at about a half mile shy of her goal, she did find proof that sub-zero degree temperatures and thin, low oxygen concentration air might do a 52 year old woman and her crew serious harm, particularly when altitude safety rules take the back seat to ideology.
For those of you who may not know, as part of last week's silly "Ends of the Earth" series, itself part of their even sillier "Green is Universal" week, the network dispatched four Today show anchors to various locales to discover and teach the world the truth about global warming.
The sweeps week stunt was ceremonially launched during Sunday Night Football when not the stadium but the studio lights gave way to candles for the game's duration. I kid you not. During the flickering half time, Meredith Vieira, appearing from Australia, where she was sent to make friends with supposedly drought-endangered Australian Penguins, broke the deep-guarded secret of where in the world each anchor had landed.
Matt Lauer received the harrowing assignment of examining the coral reefs of Belize for signs of bleaching. Al Roker was roaming about Iceland investigating glaciers. Warned Vieira:
"And if they were to melt, the oceans could rise at least 200 feet."
Two hundred feet. That's a full order of magnitude beyond the projection that got goofy Al Gore laughed off the credibility stage in 2006. So the agenda was made crystal clear before the broadcast week even began. Yet these three remote puff pieces were mere opening acts for the main attraction.
Claiming its "snow capped peaks are increasingly becoming a symbol of climate change," Ann Curry, accompanied by an NBC crew and more than 100 local Masai porters, embarked the week before last on a grueling journey toward the 19,000-foot summit of Africa's highest mountain. The plan was to reach the top by last Friday to close the week with a spectacular live broadcast intended to slam home the idea that global warming induced rapid melting was "threatening the people of Tanzania" with water shortages.
Describing the mission in her on-line Kilimanjaro Journal entry prior to departure, Curry explained why it was decided she'd navigate the most arduous route, known as the Western Breach, in order to get closest to the ice:
"Our mission is to report on Kilimanjaro's vanishing glaciers, expected to disappear completely as soon as 2020. And if we are successful, we will reach millions of Americans with the story in an unprecedented way. "
Translation -- more sham eco shock and awe.
The Race to Peak at the Peak
By Monday, the team had ascended to Barranco at 13,000 feet. Another eight-hour climb on Tuesday brought them to Arrow Glacier at 15,700 feet, where they laid camp. But while Curry got a view of the mountain's ice cap, Today watchers were treated to one of a haggard looking reporter [video] complaining that the entire crew was experiencing lethargy, severe headaches and fatigue. The acute altitude sickness they'd developed was also causing peripheral edema -- their faces and fingers were quite visibly swollen. And no wonder -- in a rush to summit the mountain for Friday's green week finale, they had broken all rules of altitude acclimatization, starting with Rule #1: Once above 10,000 feet, altitude should be increased no more than 1,000 feet per day. Curry's team almost tripled that barrier on Tuesday alone.
And, while I can't evaluate their earlier ascent profile, it would appear that on both Monday and Tuesday nights, they ignored Rule #2: "Climb High and sleep low." If you absolutely must break Rule #1, then be sure to retreat somewhat and sleep at a lower altitude.
But there was global warming hysteria to be spread, and though Curry fretted her inability to provide video on Tuesday, she assured viewers that:
"We've gathered new visual evidence of the glacial melt that we're going to show you tomorrow."
Evidence of a Kilimanjaro glacial melt? Is that suddenly in short supply?
A swollen and less sanguine Curry ended Tuesday's report pledging that they would be staying put for 24 hours to hopefully acclimate to the thinner air. Then the entire team would vote on whether or not they felt fit to continue their scale to the crown.
But Wednesday found Lauer and Roker back in the studio, and Curry reporting from the mountain "We're all feeling a lot of pain right now." She told Lauer [video] that she felt "better than yesterday," when she "really looked like a blowfish." Discussing the headaches and disorientation, she explained their causes:
"Basically, your brain is swelling; it's hitting up against your skull and it hurts. If it swells too much, you get disoriented and have trouble thinking."
Now I don’t pretend to have any medical training beyond first aid. But we know they climbed too fast and what she described sure sounds close enough to High Altitude Cerebral Edema
(HACE) symptoms to warrant concern. Where exactly did she get those words from? Had she been warned about her condition, either by a Masai medic or a physician via telephone? If so, why the hell was she still up there?
According to the International Society for Mountain Medicine: [their emphasis]
"HACE can progress rapidly, and can be fatal in a matter of a few hours to one or two days. Immediate descent is the best treatment for HACE. This is of the utmost urgency, and cannot wait until morning (unfortunately, HACE often strikes at night). Delay may be fatal."
In other words, if there was the slightest reason to suspect potential HACE, they should have been packing up their mess-kits on Tuesday and significantly closer to sea-level by Wednesday.
The Snow Must Go On
Speaking Wednesday for over 2 minutes on the ravages of altitude sickness, it wasn't until Lauer interrupted to remind her of her mission to show people "what's happening to the glacier on top of that mountain" that Curry got back on message.
Apparently braving the pain, she flashed pictures of the mountaintop glacier taken from Barranco in 1986 and compared them to those she snapped the day before, commenting:
"You can see the dramatic change. In less than 20 years. The amount of glacial melt that has happened"
1986 to 2008 is less than 20 years? This didn't trip any alarms back in New York?
When Curry checked in on Thursday, her altitude had dropped 4,500 feet. Late Wednesday, the team had made a "unanimous decision to stop [their] climb at 16,000 feet and start back down" because some were still feeling quite ill. 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).
And of particular insignificance when the antecedent is uncontested.
A Potentially Deadly Snow Job
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. That same year, South African nuclear physicist Dr. Kelvin Richard Kemm wrote in Engineering News that "It is not hot air melting the ice, but direct sunlight." Unlike the American Scientist team, Dr. Kemm stated as "scientific fact that there has been no measurable atmospheric warming in the region of Kilimanjaro,"based on satellite measurements of the region since 1979. So what is causing the ice cap to melt? Once again, due to deforestation by locals "there is much less wet air moving up the mountain than there used to be, so less ice forms at the top." Another effect of deforestation "mainly due to extensive farming" was named as recently as this August, in a report compiled by researchers Nicholas Pepin and Martin Schaefer of Britain`s Portsmouth University, who spent 11 days surveying the mountain`s glaciers. They too explained the drying effect a lack of forests cause, adding that:
"Loss of humidity automatically leads to a reduction in cloud cover. Clouds play a crucial role in protecting ice from sunrays, with fewer sunrays meaning faster freezing of water."
Of course, the corollary works better when inverted: more sunrays meaning faster melting of ice.
Greenies tend to adore consensus. Sure sounds like we've reached one here. But in 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.
For as long as they've been reporting, news organizations have dispatched war correspondents into harm's way. In point of fact, the writer whose short story immortalized Kilimanjaro's snowy peaks, Ernest Hemingway, covered both the Spanish Civil War and World War II from the trenches. But while risking life and limb to provide first-hand accounts from battle zones is a noble task, doing so as vulgar political theater most certainly is not.
This represents a new low for the already diminished network.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your comments.