At least 16 U.S. newspapers have recently published op-eds by state officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, urging state legislatures to oppose the EPA's plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. These newspapers have consistently failed to disclose the authors' oil industry ties, and the op-eds themselves "misleadingly" cite statistics on electricity prices from an industry-funded study, as a media fact-checker has explained.
Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto and the Heartland Institute's Jay Lehr denied that hydraulic fracturing has ever been "proven" to pollute water supplies, despite the hundreds of documented cases of leaky fracking wells causing groundwater contamination. Cavuto also dismissed the Bush administration's role in creating the so-called "Halliburton loophole," which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act's restrictions on injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.
A Daily Caller article made a sweeping generalization to claim that global warming did not harm the South Pacific Islands when a deadly cyclone recently struck. But scientists quoted within the article itself explained definitively that climate change-induced sea level rise actually did worsen the cyclone's devastating impacts.
Cyclone Pam tore through the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu last weekend, killing 24 people and displacing tens of thousands of others. In response, President Baldwin Lonsdale of Vanuatu made an impassioned appeal to world leaders to act on global warming, stating that "climate change is contributing" to the nation's intense cyclones.
The conservative news site Daily Caller was quick to find fault with Lonsdale's remarks. In a March 18 article headlined: "Report: Global Warming Did Not Devastate South Pacific Islands," writer Michael Bastasch claimed that "scientists are hesitant to blame rising carbon dioxide levels for wreaking havoc on Vanuatu."
What some of the scientists had to say, however, actually agreed with the idea that climate change increased the storm's impacts -- specifically, that global warming-driven sea level rise made the effects of the cyclone far worse.
In fact, Bastasch himself ultimately noted in the article that the scientists unwilling to directly attribute Cyclone Pam to global warming were (emphasis added): "instead pointing out that sea level rises caused by global warming, not the cycles themselves, are causing more damage."
Global warming-driven sea level rise is indeed a primary factor for cyclone damage -- particularly in low-lying islands such as Vanuatu -- as it contributes to bouts of sudden extreme flooding known as storm surges. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that storm surges from hurricanes pose "the greatest threat to life and property" in coastal areas. During Cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu islands reportedly experienced storm surges as high as eight meters -- over 26 feet. Vice News reported that a 2014 NOAA study "found that changes in both ocean and atmospheric temperatures had combined to substantially increase the potential intensity of storms in the area where Pam hit."
Fox News is fearmongering that the EPA is going to monitor the shower use of hotel guests because the agency gave a research grant to college students working on a wireless device that would allow hotels to examine guests' shower use and encourage water conservation. Fox News portrayed this as a "Big Brother move," despite a complete absence of evidence that the agency will actually monitor hotel guests' water usage. Further, research into water conservation -- including this project -- is desperately needed as the West Coast suffers from a historic drought.
The EPA recently awarded the grant, for $15,000, to student researchers at the University of Tulsa. The EPA's description of the grant says the device will "assist hotel guest[s] in modifying their behavior to help conserve water."
On the March 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Heather Nauert reported on the story by saying, "Well, forget about taking a long, hot shower on vacation, and if you think you're doing it in private, well, you might want to think again." A graphic in the segment also gratuitously claimed: "EPA To Start Monitoring Showers At Hotels":
Other right-wing media took the fearmongering even further, publishing stories with headlines like "The EPA wants to watch you in the shower" and "New EPA Proposal Would Spy On Hotel Guests In The Shower." Rush Limbaugh baselessly warned on the March 17 edition of his radio show that if the grant is implemented, "you're gonna have one in your house before too long." He went on to say, "Everybody's afraid of this administration. Everybody is. So then the EPA is gonna monitor the length of your showers -- My point is, if this ever really happens, this is not gonna stop at hotels. You're gonna have one of these in your house."
The EPA is not going anywhere near your shower. The agency is merely supporting research that would send data on water use to a central hotel accounting system -- much like a smart meter that supplies information to utilities about residents' electricity consumption habits. The device could ultimately help companies save money as well as protect the environment. Many hotels have several conservation efforts currently in place; it makes economic sense to do so.
The New York Times recently published an op-ed attacking renewable fuels from the Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce without disclosing his ties to the oil industry, despite a directive from its former public editor for the paper to fully disclose its op-ed contributors' financial conflicts of interest.
In a March 10 New York Times op-ed, Robert Bryce falsely characterized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as an expensive "tax." The standard, which requires oil refiners, blenders, and gasoline and diesel importers to blend a set amount of renewable fuel into their gasoline supply, was dismissed by Bryce as a "boondoggle" and a "rip-off."
But the Times failed to disclose Bryce's financial incentive to attack the RFS, identifying him only as a "senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of a new report from the institute, 'The Hidden Corn-Ethanol Tax.'" The Manhattan Institute has, in fact, received millions from oil interests over the years, including $635,000 from ExxonMobil and $1.9 million from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, where Charles Koch and his wife sit on the board of directors. Koch made his fortune from oil and currently has significant holdings in oil and gas operations.
Bryce is, in essence, acting as a spokesperson for the oil industry, which has much to gain from weakening or repealing the RFS. The renewable fuel requirement is set to increase over the next several years, potentially replacing up to 13.6 billion gallons of the conventional fuel supply by 2022.
A new documentary shows how a "professional class of deceivers" has been paid by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the science of climate change, in an effort akin to that from the tobacco industry, which for decades used deceitful tactics to deny the scientific evidence that cigarettes are harmful to human health. The film, Merchants of Doubt, explores how many of the same people that once lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry are now employed in the climate denial game.
An infamous 1969 memo from a tobacco executive read: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy." Using similar tactics, a very small set of people have had immense influence in sowing doubt on the scientific consensus of manmade climate change in recent years.
Merchants of Doubt features five prominent climate science deniers who have been particularly influential in deceiving the public and blocking climate action. Their financial connections to the fossil fuel industry are not hard to uncover. Yet major U.S. television networks -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and PBS -- have given most of these deniers prominent exposure over the past several years.
Merchant of Doubt
Number of TV Appearances, 2009-2014
Now that these Merchants of Doubt have been exposed, the major cable and network news programs need to keep them off the airwaves, a sentiment echoed by Forecast the Facts, which recently launched a petition demanding that news directors do just that.
Fox News regular Marc Morano is worried that Google is going to start burying his climate change denial website, Climate Depot, which is full of toxic inaccuracies and could therefore be vulnerable to Google's plan to rank websites based on their truthfulness.
A Google research team has developed a system to more thoroughly judge the accuracy of a web page's information. The team's new research paper describing the metric states that a source would be considered "trustworthy" based on "the correctness of factual information provided by the source." Though the system and its algorithm are still in development, the researchers have claimed that it shows "promise in evaluating web source quality."
Morano's concern over the new search algorithm is understandable, given that his climate denial website, Climate Depot, would likely be buried in searches using the new accuracy-based system.
The recent documentary Merchants of Doubt highlighted how Morano has used his media appearances and his website -- which he is paid to run by a fossil fuel industry-funded organization -- to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.
The March 6 edition of Fox News' Happening Now featured Morano expressing his concern over the new search metric:
Sen. Jim Inhofe's (R-OK) embarrassing attempt to disprove global warming with a single snowball was rightfully dismissed by the mainstream media -- but it was applauded on Fox News.
The February 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday featured a clip of Sen. Inhofe's recent speech in which he brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to dispute the scientific finding that 2014 was the hottest year on record. The clip preceded an interview with Inhofe, in which co-host Tucker Carlson asked why some people are "trying to shut down debate" on the causes of climate change. Inhofe responded that "there are so many people out there in the extreme community, the far left ... and they're trying to revive this as an issue," adding that "it's become a religion." The only other questions Inhofe received during his interview were whether the U.S. should be "nixing" all climate change-related funding, and how he was able put together such a "nicely packed, well-constructed" snowball:
Other media outlets had a different take on the issue.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait called Inhofe's argument "breathtakingly devoid of a factual or logical grasp of its subject matter."
On the March 2 edition of The View, conservative co-host Nicole Wallace described Inhofe's action on the Senate floor as "moronic," adding: "if we want to get people younger than him to join our party I think it's time to stop denying and just say let's debate the solutions."
The Washington Post editorial board wrote that the stunt shows how Inhofe's position as chair for the Environment and Public Works Committee is a "national embarrassment," adding: "The Republican Party should be mortified by the face of their environmental leadership."
Conservative media have been quick to rush to the defense of climate science denier Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has recently come under fire for accepting over $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry without disclosing this conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. Among the most impassioned defenses of Soon was an article penned by a writer at the Daily Caller with connections to some of the organizations that funded Soon's research.
Documents obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center detail the extensive and problematic relationship between the fossil fuel industry and Soon, one of the contrarian scientists often cited by prominent climate science deniers like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). The documents reveal that Soon described many of his scientific papers, which largely focus on the claim that the sun is primarily responsible for recent global warming, as "deliverables" produced in exchange for money from fossil fuel interests. The revelations, which were recently covered by several media outlets, reveal a potentially serious breach of scientific ethics in at least eight of the papers Soon has published since 2008, and the Smithsonian Institution has directed the organization's Inspector General to investigate Soon's ethical conduct.
Several right-wing media outlets are already aggressively defending Soon. Shortly after the initial reports, the Daily Caller published an article criticizing the "attack campaign" against Soon by "firm believers in global warming." The article's author, PG Veer, dismissed the criticisms of Soon, claiming that opponents "are looking for conflicts of interest" rather than challenging Soon on "the facts."
Yet Veer himself is a former fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, which was created from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation -- one of the organizations that provided money for Soon's research. Veer currently works for the Franklin Center, which has received significant funding from Donors Trust, another organization that bankrolled Soon.
Breitbart has also carried Soon's water, defending him in at least five different articles so far. Columnist James Delingpole defended Soon for "telling the truth" about climate change, writing that the latest news is a "continuation of a vendetta which has been waged for years against an honest, decent, hardworking -- and incredibly brave -- scientist who refuses to toe the official (and increasingly discredited) line on man-made global warming."