I’m anguished. For almost six weeks I’ve been meaning to post on Cold Facts About Our Warm Planet, a four-part TV series from Seattle’s KIRO that you can view online. But I couldn’t decide what I wanted to say.

On the one hand, it’s terrific. The series is some of the best local TV coverage I’ve ever seen on climate. Focusing on disruptions to the Northwest’s natural heritage, it includes great photography, good reporting on a range of issues, and unusually clear explanations of how climate change disrupts snowpack, forests, wildlife, and so on. So there’s that.

On the other hand, some elements stink. I almost stopped watching after minute or two when the narrator intones, “Is it real or is it a hoax?”

A hoax? Seriously?

Are we still doing that? Or is that just what happens when a writer phones in a hackneyed script ?

Look, I hate to sound pugnacious—no, really—but in late 2007, framing a climate change series under the banner of “possible hoax” is just stupid. It’s a bit different, I might add, than simply questioning the scientific veracity of global warming. That would a stupid exercise too—forreasonstooobvioustopointout—but it wouldn’t be nearly as obnoxious as calling it a “hoax.” Is climate change really in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster?

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  • On balance, the series is still worth recommending. (Andrew Engelson also gives it props, over at Washington Trails Association’s blog.) The series includes interviews with many of the best local minds on climate impacts—people like Phil Mote, Nathan Mantua, and Dave Peterson. For network TV, it devotes a remarkable length of time to its subject. And it covers the topic in a way everyone can understand. It’s a heroic effort.

    But it also has some glaring flaws, including a jaw-dropping amount of air time devoted to some climate skeptic dude who’s a retired geology professor from Western Washington University. And no, he’s not an atmospheric scientist.

    KIRO lets Phil Mote fillet the guy, but it’s just plain bizarre that the script never definitively says that the vast, huge, overwhelming, tidal wave of scientific consensus is with Mote. A typical viewer—the very audience this series is aimed at—could well think that, hey, it’s just one scientist’s word against another’s. Who can say what the truth is?

    The answer, of course, is that KIRO can say. And they don’t say it clearly. The result is not balanced journalism, it’s just misinformation. And it’s especially depressing because the series—and the effort behind it—is otherwise brilliant.