Kevin Kalhoefer

Author ››› Kevin Kalhoefer
  • The 15 Most Ridiculous Things That Media Figures Said About Environmental Issues In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    Donald Trump and the presidential election dominated news coverage in 2016. But talking heads still found plenty of time to make jaw-dropping comments about climate change, energy, and the environment. This year’s list of ridiculous claims includes a dangerous conspiracy theory about Hurricane Matthew, over-the-top worship of fracking and coal, and absurd victim-blaming around the Flint water crisis. Here is our list of the 15 most ridiculous things that media figures said about climate, energy, and environmental issues in 2016.

    1. Rush Limbaugh And Matt Drudge Peddled A Reckless Conspiracy Theory Downplaying The Threat From Hurricane Matthew. Shortly before Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge concocted a conspiracy theory that the federal government was overstating the hurricane’s severity in order to manufacture concern about climate change. On The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh accused the National Hurricane Center of "playing games" with hurricane forecasting and added, “It's in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can desperately continue trying to sell.”

    Limbaugh doubled down on this theory the next day, telling his audience, “There’s politics in the forecasting of hurricanes because there are votes.”

    Drudge, the curator of the widely read Drudge Report website, promoted the conspiracy as well, suggesting that federal officials were exaggerating the danger posed by Hurricane Matthew “to make [an] exaggerated point on climate.”

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    Drudge also used his website to persuade Southeast residents not to take the storm seriously, with a banner “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!” and additional headlines “IT’S A 4?” and “RESIDENTS NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY...”.

    Climate scientist Michael Mann explained that people "could die because of the misinformation that folks like Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge are putting out there," and two actual hurricane experts provided a point-by-point rebuttal of Drudge’s claims. But that did nothing to dissuade Drudge, who refused to give up on the conspiracy theory.

    2. Fox News Blamed The Flint Water Crisis On Climate Change Policies, "PC Stuff,” And Even Flint Residents Themselves. National media outlets largely ignored the water crisis in Flint, MI, as it unfolded over almost two years, but when the story did finally make national headlines, Fox News pundits were quick to pin the blame on anyone and anything other than the Republican governor of Michigan.

    On Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert and guest Mark Aesch suggested that “misplaced priorities,” including climate change and “PC stuff,” allowed the water crisis to happen:

    And on The Kelly File, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt placed blame on Flint residents themselves, saying that the "people of Flint should have been protesting in the streets" after noticing that their water was poisoned. Stirewalt also blamed Flint parents for giving their children contaminated water, declaring: "If you were pouring water into a cup for your child and it stunk and it smelled like sulfur and it was rotten, would you give that to your child? No, you'd revolt, you'd march in the street." In addition to being offensive, Stirewalt’s comments were premised on a falsehood; Flint residents did in fact repeatedly protest throughout the year to demand safe drinking water for their families.

    3. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Claimed Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt “Hasn’t Denied Global Warming.” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is a climate science denier who has refused to accept the clear consensus of the scientific community that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are primarily responsible for global warming. Yet according to CNN New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota, Pruitt simply “sees nuance” and “hasn’t denied global warming.” Camerota falsely claimed that Pruitt only disputes climate “predictions” and “forecasts,” when in fact he has also denied that global warming is human-caused, and even Camerota's premise that climate models are unreliable is incorrect. As Camerota wrongly absolved Pruitt of climate denial, CNN’s on-screen text read: “Climate Change Denier Scott Pruitt To Lead EPA.” Co-anchor Chris Cuomo also pushed back on Camerota, stating that Pruitt “says it’s ‘far from settled.’ That means he’s not accepting the science.”

    Camerota badly butchered climate science, but it's noteworthy she was even discussing the issue given CNN’s spotty track record. In April, a Media Matters analysis found that CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record. And in one segment later in the year where CNN did cover climate change, CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello speculated, “Are we just talking about this and people's eyes are glazing over?”

    4. MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson "Is A Huge Green Guy.” Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies. Exxon is currently under investigation in several states for possibly violating state laws by deceiving shareholders and the public about climate change, while Tillerson himself has misinformed about climate science and mocked renewable energy. Yet according to Mike Barnicle, a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “Rex Tillerson is a huge green guy.” And alas, no, we don't think he was comparing Tillerson to the Jolly Green Giant or the Incredible Hulk.

    5. Disregarding Everything Trump Has Said And Done On The Subject, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough Claimed “I Just Know” Trump Believes In Climate Science. On Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough defended Trump after it was announced he had selected Pruitt, a climate science denier, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scarborough -- who along with co-host Mika Brzezinski has repeatedly carried water for Trump -- insisted, “I just know” that Trump “has to believe” in climate science.

    Scarborough’s comments followed a wave of TV coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change, which was based on a New York Times interview in which Trump said he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that such a reversal was highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    6. Trump Adviser Stephen Moore: Being Against Fracking “Is Like Being Against A Cure For Cancer.” While discussing his new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy on C-SPAN2's Book TV, conservative economist and Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore stated that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer” because it is “one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs” that is “giving us huge amounts of energy at very low prices.” Never mind that many of the chemicals involved in fracking have actually been linked to cancer. 

    7. Stephen Moore: “We Have The Cleanest Coal In The World.” Moore’s preposterous praise for fossil fuels wasn’t just confined to fracking. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., he declared that the U.S. has “the cleanest coal in the world.” That statement is quite difficult to square with the fact that “Coal combustion contributes to four of the top five leading causes of death in the U.S.—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases—according to Physicians for Social Responsibility,” as Climate Nexus has noted.

    Pro-coal propaganda also found a home on Fox Business’ sister network, Fox News, where The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld asserted that “coal is a moral substance. Where coal reaches, people live longer, happier lives.”

    8. Breitbart’s James Delingpole: Climate Change Is “The Greatest-Ever Conspiracy Against The Taxpayer.” In an article promoting a speech he gave to the World Taxpayers’ Associations in Berlin, Breitbart’s James Delingpole wrote: “Climate change is the biggest scam in the history of the world – a $1.5 trillion-a-year conspiracy against the taxpayer, every cent, penny and centime of which ends in the pockets of the wrong kind of people.” In the speech itself, Delingpole similarly claimed that “the global warming industry” is “a fraud; a sham; a conspiracy against the taxpayer.”

    Breitbart, which was until recent months run by Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, has frequently denied climate change and viciously attacked climate scientists. Delingpole, in particular, has described climate scientists as “talentless lowlifes” and referred to climate advocates as “eco Nazis,” “eco fascists,” and “scum-sucking slime balls.” Bannon has criticized Pope Francis for succumbing to “hysteria” about climate change; The Washington Post has written about how Bannon influenced Trump’s views on the issue during his time at Breitbart.

    9. Fox Report On Law Gas Prices: “Put The Tesla In The Garage And Break Out The Hummer.” Just 10 days after Trump was elected president, Fox News began giving him credit for low gas prices, the latest proof of the network’s blatant double standard when it comes to covering gas prices under Republican and Democratic presidents. But simply shilling for Trump was apparently not enough for Fox Business reporter Jeff Flock, who provided the slanted gas prices report on Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters. At the conclusion of the report, Flock also displayed a brazen lack of concern about climate change, declaring: “I would say put the Tesla in the garage and break out the Hummer.”

    10. Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel Instructed Viewers To “Trust” A Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group. In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel instructed viewers who are “confused about the science surrounding climate change” to “trust” Rod Nichols, chairman of a climate science-denying fossil fuel front group known as the CO2 Coalition. During the interview, Nichols denied that human activities such as burning oil and coal are responsible for recent global warming, claiming that “climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” “there is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and “CO2 will be good for the world.” Kissel asked Nichols, “Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents,” and concluded that the CO2 Coalition’s research papers are “terrific.”

    The Wall Street Journal has made a habit of “trusting” climate science deniers like Nichols -- or at least repeating their false claims about climate science. A recent Media Matters analysis of climate-related opinion pieces found that the Journal far outpaced other major newspapers in climate science misinformation, publishing 31 opinion pieces that featured climate denial or other scientifically inaccurate claims about climate change over a year-and-a-half period.

    11. Fox Host Clayton Morris: Rubio's Climate Science Denial At Presidential Debate Was An "Articulate Moment.” During a Fox News discussion of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s performance at a CNN presidential debate, Fox and Friends co-host Clayton Morris described Rubio’s claim that the climate is “always” changing -- a common talking point among climate science deniers -- as “a really articulate moment.” 

    While Morris’ endorsement of Rubio’s climate denial as “articulate” is particularly striking, a 2015 Media Matters analysis found that media frequently failed to fact-check GOP presidential candidates’ climate change denial.

    12. Fox Hosts Mocked Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Speech On Climate Change: "Focus On Something Else Other Than The Weather.” When actor Leonardo DiCaprio took home the Oscar for best actor for his role in The Revenant, the hosts of Fox News’ The Five and Fox and Friends mocked DiCaprio for devoting much of his acceptance speech to making the case for climate change action. On The Five, co-host Jesse Watters declared, “So the guy finally gets an Academy Award and he's talking about the weather. What's going on here?” Co-host Eric Bolling helpfully added, “Focus on something else other than the weather.”

    That wasn’t the only time in 2016 that DiCaprio was caught in Fox News’ crosshairs for having the nerve to talk about climate change. Later in the year, The Five aired footage from an event in which President Obama criticized congressional climate deniers and DiCaprio said, “The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over. If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts, or in science, or empirical truths, and therefore in my humble opinion should not be allowed to hold public office.” The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld then responded by likening criticism of climate science deniers to religious extremism, saying: “You have to wonder about a belief system that doesn't want any challenges, that doesn't want any of their theories to be questioned. This -- what he is talking about is radical Islam of science. He is actually turning science into a religion.”

    13. Fox’s Meghan McCain: "The Liberal Hysteria Over Climate Change Was So Overblown That Now People Have A Hard Time Even Believing It.” Rather than criticize conservatives or Republicans who frequently deny climate science, Fox News host Meghan Mccain blamed liberals for public confusion about climate change, declaring on Fox News' Outnumbered that “the liberal hysteria over climate change was so overblown that now people have a hard time even believing it and believing that it's something that's justified.” McCain, who also mocked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for campaigning on the issue with Al Gore, added, “I do think there are signs we should look at, but if Al Gore, if you take his word for it, there's a big flood that's going to come in and wipe us all away in five minutes.”

    McCain is the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who notoriously flip-flopped on climate change legislation in 2009, undercutting congressional efforts to address the issue.

    14. Fox’s Steve Doocy: Obama’s Monument Designation Was Done To “Appease Environmental Terrorists.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy declared that President Obama’s designation of the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean was “done to appease environmental terrorists.” Not so shockingly, Doocy and his co-hosts did not comment when their guest, Deadliest Catch’s Keith Colburn, acknowledged that "increased water temperatures" from climate change are impacting fisheries across the United States.

    15. Fox Hosts Flipped Out About Portland Public Schools Decision To Stop Teaching Climate Denial To Children. In May, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a resolution “aimed at eliminating doubt of climate change and its causes in schools.” But while climate science denial may no longer be taught in Portland public schools, it still has a place on Fox News, as the hosts of Outnumbered demonstrated in their flippant response to the resolution.

    Co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said the Portland schools decision is “so anti-scientific,” adding, “There are still scientists, believe it or not, out there who say, ‘No, we still have to look at the data.’ And it's impossible to predict how the climate is going to change over hundreds or thousands of years.” Co-host Jesse Waters remarked, “So getting out of the ice age, how did the Earth warm up after the ice age? There were no humans there with cars and factories.” He also stated, “It gets hot, it gets cold, this spring has been freezing. It's not getting warmer, it seems like it's getting colder. Am I wrong?”

    But Fox News pundits aren’t just defenders of teaching climate science denial; they’re also partially to blame for it, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Last year, the SMU researchers released a study that found some children's textbooks that depict the reality of human-caused climate change with uncertainty are influenced by a climate science knowledge gap that finds its roots partly in conservative media misinformation. In particular, the SMU researchers pointed to previous research that showed Fox has disproportionately interviewed climate science deniers and that its viewers are more likely to be climate science deniers themselves.

  • News Reports Uncritically Portray Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson As Climate Change Advocate

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    Several media outlets reporting on President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state have uncritically described Tillerson as accepting of climate change and supportive of a carbon tax. But these reports ignored scientifically inaccurate claims Tillerson has made about climate change, Exxon’s continued financial support of groups that deny climate science, inconsistencies by both Tillerson and Exxon on whether they truly support a carbon tax, and fierce opposition to Tillerson’s nomination from leading environmental groups -- not to mention the fact that Exxon is under investigation in several states for possibly violating state laws by deceiving shareholders and the public about climate change.

  • What Media Should Know About Scott Pruitt, Trump’s Pick To Head The EPA

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    On December 7, President-elect Donald Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Media should take note of Pruitt’s climate science denial, his deep ties to the energy industries he will be charged with regulating, and his long record of opposition to EPA efforts to reduce air and water pollution and combat climate change.

  • Weather Channel Meteorologist Calls Out Breitbart: “Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans” On Climate Change

    Atmospheric Scientist Kait Parker: “To all my fellow scientists out there: Let’s make the facts louder than the opinions”

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    The Weather Channel criticized Breitbart.com for falsely claiming that global warming temperatures have “plunged,” describing a Breitbart article as “a prime example of cherrying picking” data and pointing out that Breitbart denied the findings of “thousands of researchers and scientific societies.”

    In a video accompanying a December 6 article, Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker explained to Breitbart, “Science doesn’t care about your opinion. Cherry-picking and twisting the facts will not change the future, nor the fact -- not opinion -- that the earth is warming. ”

    The Weather Channel video and article roundly debunked the false and misleading claims in the November 30 Breitbart article by James Delingpole. In response to Delingpole’s claim that "[g]lobal land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year,” Parker pointed out that Delingpole had cherry-picked one set of data, adding in the video that “land temperatures aren’t an appropriate measure” and that the temperature decline disappears when you also account for sea surface temperatures. Delingpole also cited the science editor of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, David Whitehouse, to claim that “without the El Niño (and the so-called ‘Pacific Blob’) 2014-2016 would not have been record warm years," yet Parker noted in the video that even if you “take out the El Nino spike in temperatures, 2015 and 2016 still come in as the warmest years on record,” as Carbon Brief has shown. Finally, Parker debunked Delingpole’s claim that a likely drop in global temperatures in 2017 is evidence against global warming, writing: “There is nothing unusual about a drop in global surface temperatures when going from El Niño to La Nina. These ups and downs occur on top of the long-term warming trend that remains when the El Niño and La Niña signals are removed.”

    Parker also lamented the U.S. House Science Committee’s endorsement of the Breitbart article on Twitter and concluded her video with a helpful suggestion for Breitbart and a rallying cry for fellow scientists: “So next time you’re thinking about publishing a cherry-picked article, try consulting a scientist first, and to all my fellow scientists out there: Let’s make the facts louder than the opinions.”

    Here is the video and full transcript of Parker’s comments (which are well worth watching):

    KAIT PARKER: So last week, Breitbart.com published an article claiming that global warming was nothing but a scare and global temperatures were actually falling. Problem is, they used a completely unrelated video about La Nina, with my face in it, to attempt to back their point. What’s worse is that the U.S.Committee on Space, Science, & Technology actually tweeted it out. Here’s the thing: Science doesn’t care about your opinion. Cherry-picking and twisting the facts will not change the future, nor the fact -- not opinion -- that the earth is warming. So let’s break it down.

    Their first claim is that “Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year -- the biggest and steepest fall on record.” Now, that was based on one satellite estimate of global land temperatures, not a consensus. And second of all, land temperatures aren’t an appropriate measure. The earth is 70 percent water, and water is where we store most of our heat energy, so when you look at sea surface temperatures, and you combine that with land temperatures, you actually get a record high for November of 2016.

    Their second claim: “It can be argued that without the El Nino … 2014-2016 would not have been record warm years.” Now, if you’re taking a look at the Arctic sea ice melting here in this video from NASA -- when you actually normalize the data, aka take out the El Nino spike in temperatures, 2015 and 2016 still come in as the warmest years on record.

    So that brings me to claim number three: “Many think that 2017 will be cooler than previous years.” Now, it is typical, yes, for temperatures to drop in a post-El Nino environment, but certainly not to record lows. If that claim was correct, we would have had global record lows all over the last century, and we haven’t seen that since 1911. The last time we fell below the 20th century average was in 1976, and guess what? That was directly following the 1974-1975 strong El Nino. So next time you’re thinking about publishing a cherry-picked article, try consulting a scientist first, and to all my fellow scientists out there: Let’s make the facts louder than the opinions. 

  • Conservative Media Wrongly Pin Democrats' Election Losses On Climate Change Focus

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In the aftermath of the election, conservative media figures have alleged that Democratic candidates’ emphasis on climate change was a reason they lost, claiming this focus alienated or drove away voters. But numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it, and an exit poll similarly revealed that most voters in Florida view climate change as a serious problem. While these polls indicate that a focus on climate change didn’t harm environmentally friendly Democratic candidates, a plausible explanation for why the issue may not have helped them is the lack of attention it received from the media, including during debates.

  • Wash. Post Weather Editor Debunks Myth That Hurricane “Drought” Disproves Climate Science

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow debunked the claim by climate science deniers and conservative media outlets that the lack of category 3 or higher hurricanes striking the U.S. over the last 11 years is "evidence that global warming is not affecting the storms."

    This month marks 11 years since the U.S. mainland was last struck by a “major” hurricane, defined by the National Hurricane Center as a category 3, 4 or 5 storm with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour. In response, conservative media have misleadingly cited this fact to wrongly dispute the link between hurricanes and global warming.

    For instance, The New American asserted, “The latest report from NOAA that major hurricane activity has subsided for 11 years — despite high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — provides welcome relief from the assorted predictions made by the ‘global warming’ doomsayers of catastrophic events that supposedly will be caused by human activity.” Similarly, The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch wrote that “the hurricane drought sort of runs counter to predictions global warming will make storms more frequent and more intense.” And perhaps most notably, radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that the lack of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. over the past 11 years “bores a hole right through the whole climate change argument.”

    But as Samenow explained, researchers believe it is just "dumb luck" that Atlantic storms with sufficient wind speeds to be defined as "major" hurricanes have remained offshore or slowed down before making landfall on the U.S. coastline. Atlantic hurricane activity also accounts for only a small portion of the total storms occurring around the world, as PolitiFact noted when it rated Limbaugh's claim a "Pants on Fire" falsehood.

    Samenow, who described the hurricane “drought” as “the most overblown statistic in meteorology,” also pointed out that many hurricanes that had devastating impacts due to extreme rainfall and flooding occurred during this "drought." He noted that because the definition of a “major” hurricane is tied only to wind speeds and not impacts from water, the term “omits some of the most consequential storms in modern history”:

    But the criteria for what makes a major hurricane is impossibly restrictive. It is tied to a single hazard, wind, and ignores impacts from water, which causes the lion’s share of fatalities and damage in most hurricanes.

    While big wind speeds grab people’s attention and sound scary, precious few people, if any, ever experience a storm’s peak winds. Such high winds are typically confined to a tiny area near the hurricane’s eye.

    But tens of thousands of people are exposed to a hurricane’s water, whether it’s freshwater flooding from heavy rainfall or coastal flooding from storm surge, the rise in ocean water as the hurricane comes ashore.

    Because the definition of a major hurricane ignores the effects of water, it omits some of the most consequential storms in modern history, which have occurred during the so-called drought.

    Consider, in the 11 years since Wilma, two of the three most costly storms in U.S. history occurred: Sandy in 2012, and Hurricane Ike in 2008 — neither of which was classified as “major.”

    Moreover, the "impacts from water" that Samenow describes are intensified by climate change. Scientists say that a warming climate is making storms more destructive due to warming air and oceans -- which lead to more rainfall -- and rising sea levels, which worsen storm surges.

    Samenow ultimately concluded: “The major-hurricane-landfall drought is an interesting statistic, and that’s about it. It is a fine metric to track and report as a curiosity, but it cannot be used to say anything useful about how hurricanes are affecting society or how their behavior may or may not be changing over time.” 

  • ANALYSIS: Wall Street Journal Opinion Section Is Chief Apologist For Exxon’s Climate Change Deceit

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER, ANDREW SEIFTER & DENISE ROBBINS

    The Wall Street Journal has published 21 opinion pieces since October opposing state or federal investigations into whether ExxonMobil violated the law by deceiving its shareholders and the public about climate change, a new Media Matters analysis finds, far more than The New York Times, The Washington Post, or USA Today published on either side of the issue. The Journal has yet to publish a single editorial, column, or op-ed in support of investigating Exxon’s behavior, and many of its pro-Exxon opinion pieces contain blatant falsehoods about the nature and scope of the ongoing investigations being conducted by state attorneys general.

  • STUDY: Newspaper Opinion Pages Feature Science Denial And Other Climate Change Misinformation

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS, KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Washington Post all published climate science denial and other scientifically inaccurate statements about climate change on their opinion pages over the last year and a half, while The New York Times avoided doing so, according to a new Media Matters analysis of those four newspapers. The Journal published by far the most opinion pieces misrepresenting climate science, while all three instances of climate science denial in the Post came from columns written by George Will. The Journal and USA Today also published numerous climate-related op-eds without disclosing the authors’ fossil fuel ties, while USA Today, the Post, and particularly the Journal frequently published some of the least credible voices on climate and energy issues.

  • Nightly Newscasts Ignore Climate Change In Coverage Of Worst U.S. Weather Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    UPDATE (8/18/16): After this piece was published, PBS NewsHour aired an August 17 segment with Louisiana state climatologist Barry Keim and Columbia University professor Adam Sobel that discussed how the Louisiana flooding and Blue Cut wildfire in California are “related to climate change.”

    ORIGINAL POST:

    The major U.S. broadcast news networks have all ignored climate change in their nightly news coverage of Louisiana's recent record-breaking rainfall and flooding. The New York Times and The Washington Post, by contrast, have explained how the extreme weather and flooding in Louisiana are in line with the predicted impacts of a warming planet.

    The disaster in Louisiana killed at least 11 people and displaced thousands more. The American Red Cross described the state’s flooding as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy,” and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association classified the record rainfall as a once-in-every-500-years event -- the eighth such event to take place in the U.S. since May 2015.

    Climate Nexus’ Climate Signals, a tool designed to “[e]xplore how climate change affects your world by searching events, impacts, and related climate signals,” explained how Louisiana’s increased atmospheric moisture and unusually heavy rainfall were “classic signals of climate change”:

    At least nine people have died in what the American Red Cross is calling the "worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy." On August 11, a measure of atmospheric moisture, precipitable water, was in historic territory at 2.78 inches, a measurement higher than during some past hurricanes in the region. Increased moisture in the air and unusually heavy rainfall are classic signals of climate change. As the world warms, storms are able to feed on warmer ocean waters, and the air is able to hold and dump more water. These trends have led to a pronounced increase in intense rainfall events and an increase in flooding risk. In the Southeastern US, extreme precipitation has increased 27 percent from 1958 to 2012.

    [...]

    The storm in the Southeastern US was supercharged by running over a warmer ocean and through an atmosphere made wetter by global warming. 

    Climate change is now responsible for 17 percent of moderate extreme rainfall events, i.e. one-in-a-thousand day events. The more extreme the event, the more likely climate change was responsible, as climate change affects the frequency of the extreme events the most.

    However, the major broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts have ignored climate change in their otherwise extensive coverage of the floods. NBC Nightly News aired five segments on the floods without mentioning climate change, while ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News each aired three such segments and PBS NewsHour aired two.

    By contrast, two major newspapers have noted how Louisiana’s deadly floods are in line with expectations for a warming planet. In an August 15 Washington Post article, Chris Mooney wrote that climate researchers were affirming that the heavy rainfall Louisiana experienced is “precisely the sort of event that you’d expect to see more of on a warming planet,” and quoted climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe explaining, “Louisiana is always at risk of floods, naturally, but climate change is exacerbating that risk, weighting the dice against us.” Moreover, an August 16 article in The New York Times quoted Texas’ state climatologist stating, “There’s definitely an increase in heavy rainfall due to climate change.” And another August 16 Times article -- headlined “Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change” -- quoted David Easterling, a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, stating that Louisiana's heavy rainfall and flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models.”

    Media Mattersannual study of how the major networks cover climate change found that PBS, CBS, and NBC frequently addressed the link between climate change and extreme weather in their nightly newscasts in 2015. However, the broadcast networks appear to have regressed in their extreme weather coverage this year, with every major TV network ignoring the role of human-induced climate change in their coverage of Texas’ record rainfall and flooding throughout April and May, despite both NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News explaining the climate connection in their coverage of similarly drastic Texas floods the year before. The nightly newscasts’ omission of climate change in their coverage of Louisiana’s horrific flooding marks a continuation of that discouraging trend.