ESPN announcers recently used a cold spell to mock global warming in their live commentary, mainstreaming the conservative myth that cold weather disproves global warming. But during coverage of the Australian Open, which saw dangerous, record-breaking heat, commentators remained silent on the issue -- a trend more akin to Fox News.
During an Arctic chill on January 7, ESPN commentators Jimmy Dykes and Brad Nessler interjected their sports coverage with climate denial. Dykes mentioned that he had watched a national television debate over "whether or not global warming was still taking place," saying he "listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate." Nessler laughed in agreement, adding, "It's about 50 below wind chill [in Minnesota] so there's no global warming in that part of the country." In response to criticism, Dykes tweeted, "God is in control of our climate. He does not make mistakes. Plus it's 3 degrees where I stand right now : )"
However, as Melbourne experiences record-breaking heat during the Australian Open -- including the worst heat wave Melbourne has suffered since 1908 -- ESPN commentators have been mum on climate change one way or the other. Instead, they have opted to make light of the dangerous temperatures; after one tennis player hallucinated that he saw Snoopy before fainting, a commentator joked, "I wonder if Snoopy had a racket."
A group of senators is asking for more broadcast coverage on climate change, following a Media Matters analysis which found that Sunday shows aired only scant coverage on the issue last year.
On Thursday, January 16, a letter spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was sent to the top executives of four major television networks, expressing "deep concern" about the lack of coverage on global warming, deeming it a "serious environmental crisis" which "poses a huge threat to our nation and the global community." The letter cited findings from a recent Media Matters study, which revealed that Sunday news shows dedicated merely 27 minutes of coverage to the issue of climate change throughout all of 2013. They wrote that "this is an absurdly short amount of time for a subject of such importance."
The senators concluded with a call to action: "We urge you to take action in the near term to correct this oversight and provide your viewers, the American public, with greater discussion of this important issue that impacts everyone on the planet."
The other senators that signed the letter were Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The letter in full:
Dear Mr. Ailes, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Sherwood, and Ms. Turness:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the lack of attention to climate change on such Sunday news shows as ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS's "Face the Nation," and "Fox News Sunday."
According to the scientific community, climate change is the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet. The scientists who have studied this issue are virtually unanimous in the view that climate change is occurring, that it poses a huge threat to our nation and the global community, and that it is caused by human activity. In fact, 97% of researchers actively publishing in this field agree with these conclusions.
The scientific community and governmental leaders around the world rightly worry about the horrific dangers we face if we do not address climate change. Sea level rise will take its toll on coastal states. Communities will be increasingly at risk of billions of dollars in damages from more extreme weather. And farmers may see crops and livestock destroyed as worsening drought sets in. Yet, despite these warnings, there has been shockingly little discussion on the Sunday morning news shows about this critically important issue. This is disturbing not only because the millions of viewers who watch these shows deserve to hear that discussion, but because the Sunday shows often have an impact on news coverage in other media throughout the week.
A study published today by Media Matters for America reported that Sunday news shows devoted 27 minutes of air time in 2013 to climate change coverage.
Although it is a modest improvement over the eight minutes of coverage in 2012, given the widely recognized challenge that climate change poses to the nation and the world, this is an absurdly short amount of time for a subject of such importance.
We are more than aware that major fossil fuel companies spend significant amounts of money advertising on your networks. We hope that this is not influencing your decision about the subjects discussed or the guests who appear on your network programming.
Thank you very much for your interest in this matter. We urge you to take action in the near term to correct this oversight and provide your viewers, the American public, with greater discussion of this important issue that impacts everyone on the planet. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
The recent Arctic chill has given Fox News an excuse to give "skeptics" a platform to deny climate change and bash climate science. But the network has been remiss to discuss the topic during periods of record heat.
During their coverage of cold weather from January 2 to January 8, Fox News brought up climate change nine times, casting doubt on it every single time. They also devoted a significant amount of coverage to a ship getting stuck in Antarctic ice to mock climate change during this period. But this strongly contrasts Fox News' coverage of extreme heat events, in which the network is typically silent on the topic of global warming. A previous Media Matters analysis found that, in a parallel week-long time period in 2011, Fox News did not mention climate change once while reporting on an unusually intense heat wave. And throughout the entire month of July 2012, which was the hottest month on record for the United States, the network discussed climate change in the heat wave's context once -- in order to deny it.
Meanwhile, MSNBC primarily featured the anti-scientific "skeptic" claims to dismiss them in its five segments on the topic. CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers rebutted the "skeptic" claims in one segment, but in CNN's only other segment on the topic, the network portrayed the science of global warming as up for a "debate" by non-scientists. As MSNBC's Al Sharpton put it, "It's times like these that you want a scientist around to explain things" -- he brought on Bill Nye "The Science Guy" to make the case:
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national community of over 850 business leaders, is calling on CBS to correct their most recent 60 Minutes report, "The Cleantech Crash." Simultaneously, a climate change advocacy group is calling for CBS to appoint a public editor to investigate its one-sided story, which followed a string of poor reporting from the program.
"The Cleantech Crash" aired on the January 5 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, and shortly thereafter drew wide criticism from members of the clean energy industry and among energy reporters. In the segment, correspondent Lesley Stahl wondered if clean tech has become a "dirty word," and concluded,"instead of breakthroughs, the [clean tech] sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops." But critics have pointed out that Stahl focused too narrowly on the failure of a few companies and ignored most of the industry's success. In an interview with Media Matters, San Francisco Chronicle energy reporter David Baker called the segment "a pretty poor piece of journalism," adding, "There are areas of this field that are hurting, but there are others that are doing very, very well."
E2 is now asking CBS producers for a correction to the "misguided" report, writing, "it was shocking for those of us who know about creating businesses, jobs and clean energy to see a respected news organization get this story so wrong in so many ways." They concluded:
The litany of factual mistakes and distortions in 60 Minutes' piece cries out for a correction. While the networks by tradition are strangers to the concept of a public mea culpa, setting the record straight would continue CBS's more responsible position of owning up to the facts.
At the same time, Forecast the Facts, a climate change advocacy group, is calling for 60 Minutes to appoint a public editor to investigate the "Cleantech Crash" segment and ensure that "all future reporting serves the public interest." The group organized a petition to be delivered to Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, asking him to "hire a Public Editor to investigate the broadcast immediately and ensure 60 Minutes' climate reporting is accurate." The petition already has thousands of signatures.
As the nation has recently experienced unusually cold winter weather, climate "skeptics" have emerged from within conservative media, casting doubt on the scientific consensus about manmade global warming -- a yearly phenomenon dubbed by MSNBC's Chris Hayes as "snow-trolling."
Stephen Colbert accurately summarized how conservatives often perform "simple observational research" to deny climate change: "Whatever just happened is the only thing that is happening." It appears many doubters need a lesson in the difference between weather and climate: a single weather event does not negate a long-term climate trend (although climatologists are actually getting better at identifying which extreme weather events that climate change has worsened). On average, the planet has been warming at a rate of 0.17°C, or 0.3°F*, per decade since 1971. The most recent decade was the planet's warmest on record -- even including a few cold winters.
CNN lived up to its reputation of providing false balance on climate science once again on the latest edition of Crossfire.
On January 6, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate and current co-host of Crossfire, opened the segment by introducing guests "on opposite sides of the global warming debate." He claimed to present some "inconvenient facts" to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, stating that "temperatures have flat lined for the past 16 years," (which is not true) and asking "Is it cold enough for you?" By contrast, Van Jones began by saying, "we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans," because scientific certainty on the matter is at the "same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS."
Recent cold weather nationwide apparently spurred the debate; earlier in the day, Crossfire's Twitter account tweeted, "TONIGHT's #Crossfire:historic lows bring out the climate change skeptics." They are right about the skeptics -- cold winter weather has prompted the right wing media to resume their tradition of "snow-trolling" in force, with some even suggesting that the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
But cold winter weather is not expected to go away with climate change and does not negate the long-term trend of global warming. And it is misleading to look at the United States' weather alone when talking about global warming -- for example, this past December tied for being the second-hottest December on record since 1979 globally, even while it was unusually cold in the United States. Additionally, the polar vortex responsible for dangerous Arctic-style weather across the Midwest could be connected to global warming.
As for Crossfire's "debate," the segment only demonstrated CNN's tendency to provide false balance on climate change. The show featured League of Conservation Voter's Navin Nayak and the Heritage Foundation's David Kreutzer. Kreutzer, an economist who has no scientific degree and who previously believed that global cooling defined this century's first decade, claimed that "what you call deniers agree" that "the world is getting warmer" and "some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount." But that didn't stop him from debasing the scientific consensus throughout the "debate" -- calling the 97 percent consensus a "bogus term."
The evidence for climate change only got stronger this year, with a major climate report finding 95 percent confidence in manmade global warming and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hitting a record 400 parts per million. Climate doubters, in turn, became increasingly desperate, citing everything from a verified scam artist to the "Ouija board of weather."
We've compiled the 13 dumbest things media said about climate change in '13 -- you might be surprised to find which mainstream media outlets made the list.
13. Rush Limbaugh: Carbon Emissions "May Actually Be Making Things Cooler, Not Warmer." In April, Rush Limbaugh claimed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "may actually be making things cooler," going on to say that manmade global warming is a "political hoax." But the Economist article Limbaugh cited actually examined how much the Earth is warming from emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which by definition trap heat in the atmosphere.
CNN gave a platform to "toxic and divisive" Marc Morano to dismiss global warming on its new program, The 11th Hour. But the network did not disclose that Morano, who has no scientific expertise, is paid by fossil fuel companies to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change, as he did on CNN.
On December 10, The 11th Hour host Don Lemon tweeted a preview of the show: "Is #climatechange real? We discuss tonight on @The11thHour on #CNN." Such a "debate" over verifiable facts is often counter-productive, but if CNN is going to air it, the network needs to at least disclose if any of its guests have a financial incentive to deny the facts on climate change.
The CNN segment featured Marc Morano, who currently runs a climate skeptic website paid for by a fossil fuel-funded lobbying group, alongside the Sierra Club's Michael Brune and Earth Echo International's Philippe Cousteau. However, Morano commandeered the majority of the segment -- at one point Lemon joked to Cousteau, "Philippe, you've got to be aggressive if you want to get in on these guys because they're really fired up about this." Morano, who previously made a living by feeding misleading talking points on global warming to Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe, used his CNN airtime to claim that the "most pro-child thing you can do" in poverty-stricken areas is to build coal plants -- despite the fact that many countries are struggling with fatal levels of air pollution from those plants. After Morano rattled off his usual talking points, dismissing any trend of increasing extreme weather events, Lemon said, "We get your point. You don't think [climate change] is real." Morano responded, "Scientific journals don't think it's real."
To which scientific journals might Morano have been referring? Currently, 97 percent of all papers that take a stance on climate change have found that human activities contribute to global warming.
The Daily Caller reported that a new survey of meteorologists contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a simple opinion survey does not debunk that 97 percent of climate science papers found that human activities contribute to global warming -- rather, it only shows the stark differences between climate science research and meteorologists' beliefs.
A recent study conducted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its "professional members" to test how political ideologies and climate expertise influence opinions on manmade global warming. The study found that only 52 percent of its members believe global warming is happening and is caused mostly by humans. However, this study merely shows that the average opinions of meteorologists are at odds with the majority of scientific research on climate change, and does not, as the Daily Caller claimed, show that "there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought":
Not all scientists agree that global warming is man-made. Nearly half of meteorologists and atmospheric science experts don't believe that human activities are the driving force behind global warming, according to a survey by the American Meteorological Society.
This new AMS survey runs counter to the notion of a "97 percent" scientific consensus and shows that there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought. The 97 percent number came from a survey of published environmental papers written by scientists from around the world, while the AMS survey measured U.S.-based scientists.
This is not the first time that meteorologists and climate scientists have been at odds. A previous survey of TV weather forecasters found that 27 percent of respondents believed that "global warming is a scam," and more recent survey found that over half of TV forecasters don't believe in manmade climate change.
There are vast differences between meteorologists and climate change scientists, not limited to that their models are different and they ask different questions. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained in an email to Media Matters why a weather forecaster like Joe Bastardi should not be featured in the media to discuss climate change:
I might point out that Bastardi's background is in weather forecasting, not climate science. Asking him to comment on the science of climate change is rather like asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research. The media really ought to know better.
The AMS itself has criticized broadcasters for offering "nonscientific" opinions on climate change:
Increasing numbers of broadcast meteorologists, to whom the public looks for information and guidance on climate change and global warming, are not offering scientific information but rather, all too often, nonscientific personal opinions in the media, including personal blogs. Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any sold scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research."
The expertise of scientists actively researching climate change is well beyond that of most professional meteorologists, some of whom may only have basic training in weather analysis and forecasting. Nonetheless, the public sees media meteorologists as experts.
The antagonism between climate scientists and meteorologists is illustrated within the AMS survey itself; of the survey respondents with expertise in climate science and who actively publish on climate-related issues, 88 percent believe that humans play a major role in perpetuating global warming, and only 1 percent believe that global warming is not happening.