Climate Change

Issues ››› Climate Change
  • Breitbart’s Climate Science Misinformation Embraced By GOP-Led House Science Committee

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    On December 1, the House Science Committee -- chaired by climate science-denying “bully” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) -- tweeted out a Breitbart.com article promoting false claims about climate science and castigating “climate alarmists”:

    The Breitbart article was written by James Delingpole, who has previously disparaged climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and other respected institutions as “talentless low-lives who cannot be trusted." In the article, Delingpole claimed: “Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record. But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community.”

    As purported evidence, Delingpole cited an article by David Rose in the British tabloid Daily Mail. But Rose’s article is based on egregious cherry-picking, as climate blogger Tamino explains:

    [Rose] wants you to think that the worldwide heating we’ve seen for decades now has somehow, magically, come to an end … that it has shown some kind of “pause.” To give that impression, he had to search far and wide for one set of data from which he can cherry-pick one span of time in which he can focus on one recent event, so he can blame this year’s record-breaking heat on something other than mankind and our greenhouse-gas emissions. Thanks to the many many organizations that publish climate data, there are lots and lots and lots of data sets to choose from … so it’s no surprise he found one.

    [...]

    It’s global average temperature, not for Earth’s surface where we live, but for the lower layer of the atmosphere … not for the whole world, but for the land areas only … and it’s not all the data, it leaves out the part David Rose doesn’t want you to see.

    [...]

    Data like this, in fact almost all data, are a combination of trend — the long-term pattern that actually has some persistence — and fluctuation — the short-term ups and downs that are only temporary. And there are fluctuations. Plenty. They go up and down and down and up, but never really get anywhere.

    It’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, completely clear, and pretty simple, that when it comes to climate what matters is the trend, not the fluctuations. For climate deniers, what’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, and completely clear is what they want to avoid. Because it’s so simple, they have to bend over backwards to distract you from it. Like David Rose did.

    Breitbart has a long track record of blatant climate science misinformation, and is even considered a go-to outlet for academics who are bought off by the fossil fuel industry. So the decision by the Republican-led House Science Committee to approvingly cite Breitbart on climate change is ill-advised, to put it mildly. Indeed, it prompted a quick response from Democratic committee member Mark Takano (D-CA), who tweeted: “If Republicans on the House Science Committee are getting their science news from Breitbart, that would explain a great deal.”

    Republican committee chairman Lamar Smith, a climate science denier who has taken over $770,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas and electric utility industries, has a track record of harassing and falsely attacking climate scientists -- just like Breitbart does. So it should come as no surprise that Smith has written his fair share of op-eds for Breitbart.

  • 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.

  • Fox News Baselessly Credits Donald Trump With Low Gas Prices

    Fox Reporter Claims Trump’s Victory Contributed To Gas Price Drop, But Expert Says It’s “Based On Market Fundamentals, Not Politics”

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Donald Trump was elected president of the United States just ten days ago, and Fox News is already baselessly giving him credit for lowering gas prices.

    On the November 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters, Fox Business reporter Jeff Flock reported that gas prices started to fall in early November, as Wall Street speculators began to doubt that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would reach an agreement to cap its production of oil, which would have driven up prices. But Flock then asserted that another reason gas prices have fallen is “the election of Donald Trump,” adding, “The general consensus is [Trump’s victory] is going to be positive for oil exploration, so that tends to drive prices down, too. Another 2.6 percent [drop] since Election Day.”

    Gas prices have actually been falling since June and are a little more than half of what they were in the spring of 2014, according to data from GasBuddy.com. And according to GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski, gas prices are currently dropping “based on market fundamentals, not politics”:

    “While it’s less than a week after the biggest upset in U.S. election history energy industry experts are already speculating on what steps a Trump Administration might enact first; whether the earliest initiatives might eliminate regulations or perhaps look to increase domestic oil and gas production,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “The Keystone XL Pipeline, for instance, is expected to find itself in a more favorable environment for approval but it remains debatable whether such a development would directly benefit U.S. consumers,” he noted.

    “Over the next few weeks expect prices at the pump to move lower based on market fundamentals, not politics,” says Laskoski. “Inventories remain healthy and wholesale gasoline prices across the U.S. today, on average, are more than 10 cents per gallon lower than where they stood just a week ago.”

    What impact, if any, Trump’s policies have on gas prices in the long run remains to be seen. According to Bloomberg Gadfly columnists Rani Molla and Liam Denning, oil prices will likely rise if “a more-hawkish Trump foreign policy leads to renewed sanctions on Iran and further conflict in the Middle East.”

    Flock’s report is the latest evidence of Fox News’ blatant double standard when it comes to covering gas prices under Republican and Democratic presidents. In 2008, when George W. Bush was president and gas prices were high, Fox News hosts and contributors argued that the president has no power to affect gasoline prices. But in 2012, Fox pundits urged the GOP to deceptively blame President Obama for high gasoline prices. Then, when gas prices began to fall later that year, Fox anchors portrayed low gas prices under Obama as evidence of a weakening economy.

    Flock concluded his report by stating that auto industry executives believe gas prices could remain low for years. Some auto executives may hope this is the case, because low gas prices tend to increase sales of expensive trucks and SUVs. But the reality is that gas prices are extremely difficult to predict in the long term. Nonetheless, Flock, who is clearly unconcerned about climate change, declared: “I would say put the Tesla in the garage and break out the Hummer.”

    From the November 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters:

     

  • Wash. Post Editor: This Election “Could Change The Climate Debate For The Better” In Political Journalism

    James Downie: “More Journalists Have Seen That The Sky Won’t Fall If They Treat Falsehoods As Falsehoods”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s digital opinions editor, James Downie, wrote that this year’s election cycle has “altered political journalism” in a way that could lead to journalists taking a more aggressive approach to fact-checking climate denial. In a November 7 column, Downie quoted CNN’s Dylan Byers saying, “The traditional model of ‘he said, she said’ journalism . . . was thrown out the window in favor of a more aggressive journalism that sought to prioritize accuracy over balance.” Downie added that “climate change is an obvious area to apply this new model.”

    In the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Media Matters found that media often failed to fact-check candidates when they denied the science of climate change. But media have since scrutinized Republican nominee Donald Trump’s false claims that “there is no drought” in California, that he will put coal miners “back to work,” that he has not called climate change a “hoax,” and more

    From Downie's column:

    Shifting the discussion is one area where, surprisingly, the 2016 campaign could change the climate debate for the better, even though climate change has been absent from the discussion. The contest has altered political journalism in a important way: As CNN’s Dylan Byers writes, “The traditional model of ‘he said, she said’ journalism . . . was thrown out the window in favor of a more aggressive journalism that sought to prioritize accuracy over balance.” More journalists have seen that the sky won’t fall if they treat falsehoods as falsehoods, and climate change is an obvious area to apply this new model. Senators should not be able to bring snowballs onto the Senate floor to “disprove” climate change without every headline fact-checking them. The realities of climate change are as much objective truth as the murder or unemployment rates. Regarding them as such will be an early test of whether political journalism has rededicated itself to the facts.

    The debate over climate change is changing, but not as rapidly as it can or should. We have largely squandered decades that could have been spent heading off the danger, and now the consequences are no longer abstract. Climate change is a perilous threat to the country and the world; we must finally treat it that way.

  • Final Scorecard: Climate Change Absent From Debates In Most Key Senate And Governors’ Races 

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    In late September, we launched a real-time scorecard to keep tabs on how often debate moderators and panelists in the presidential election and 18 tightly contested Senate and governors’ races were asking the candidates about climate change. We’ve been constantly updating the scorecard ever since, publishing transcript and video/audio whenever climate questions were asked. Check out our completed scorecard here.

    The November 4 Senate debate in Illinois was the last of the 55 debates we examined, and the final results are not pretty for those of us concerned about climate change. Here are the key takeaways from our scorecard of climate change questions in presidential, Senate, and governors’ debates:

    • Just 12 of the 55 debates held in these key races included questions about climate change (22 percent). If you exclude the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate, where the lack of climate questions was well-chronicled, the portion of debates with climate questions inches up to 24 percent.

    • Broken down by individual race, only eight of the 19 contests featured at least one debate question about climate change (42 percent). In addition to the presidential campaign, debate moderators completely ignored climate change in the following races: Arizona Senate, Indiana Governor, Missouri Senate, Missouri Governor, Montana Governor, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire Governor, North Carolina Senate, North Carolina Governor, and West Virginia Governor. Each of these states face serious climate-related challenges, some of which I detailed here.

    • Only races in two New England states -- Vermont and New Hampshire -- featured more than one debate with a climate question. The Vermont Governor race had four debates with questions about climate change, and the New Hampshire Senate race had two.

    • In six of the 12 debates with climate questions, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and asked them. The climate change questions generated by voters included a Twitter question in Wisconsin, two Facebook questions in Vermont, an audience question in Ohio, a question from the Open Debate Coalition website in New Hampshire, and a question in Indiana submitted to the Indiana Debate Commission using an online form.

  • Why Did The New York Times Call The Daily Caller “Moderate”?

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The New York Times described The Daily Caller, the right-wing website run by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, as “relatively moderate.” If The New York Times believes The Daily Caller to be “relatively moderate,” anti-Semitic, sexist, racist, anti-LGBT commentary must be what passes for moderation in the right-wing media sphere these days.

    In a report on the future of Fox’s prime-time lineup, the Times noted that Carlson will take over the 7 p.m. slot once held by Greta Van Susteren’s On The Record. The article labeled Carlson’s website The Daily Caller “a provocative, if relatively moderate, right-leaning website”:

    As Fox faces competition from scrappier rivals like Breitbart News, Mr. Carlson, 47, is in some ways a throwback to a more genteel era of conservatism. Preppy and jovial, Mr. Carlson founded The Daily Caller, a provocative, if relatively moderate, right-leaning website, and he has often evinced a mischievous streak; in 2006, he agreed to be a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” although he was eliminated in the first round.

    Carlson has, both in print and on air, regularly promoted a conservative brand of commentary laced with misogyny, misinformation, and factually inaccurate attacks, which The Daily Caller has reflected.

    The Daily Caller once published a piece with a headline so offensive (“Kill All The Jews And When That Is Done Kill Those That Refused To Defend Them”) that Carlson had to blame it on the editor being “hungover” before updating the article with a different headline. This anti-Semitic offense was not an unusual move for the Caller, which has repeatedly quoted a Holocaust denier

    One would need to go back only a couple of weeks to find the Caller rewriting a heart-wrenching op-ed about a woman’s decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy after 20 weeks, when she discovered that the developing fetus “was missing half his heart” and “very unlikely [to] survive delivery.” The Caller “edited” it with stigmatizing language to shame the woman for receiving necessary medical care. In one part, it “revised” the woman’s statement about the “well of [her] grief” over the termination to read (emphasis original): “I wanted him to know [before I killed him] how important he was to me, that the well of my grief and love for him would stretch deeper and deeper into the vastness of our family’s small yet limitless life.”

    The Daily Caller captioned a video of American Indian Movement protesters hit by a car, “White man overruns indigenous peoples with superior technology” (since changed). It referred to Obama as “wife beater” in another headline because his sleeveless undershirt was visible through his white dress shirt. It published an op-ed praising Russia’s extreme anti-LGBT “gay propaganda” laws, which were condemned by human rights experts for violating international human rights law and essentially criminalizing homosexuality. And the outlet promoted a hoax birther story that former Democratic Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said there was “absolutely no proof at all that [Barack Obama] was born in Hawaii.” Abercrombie did not make those comments.

    In 2014, former Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley launched a series of sexist attacks about “pumping” BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray, for which Carlson had to publicly apologize. The Caller also baselessly claimed that former Miss Universe Alicia Machado was a “porn star campaign[ing] for Hillary Clinton,” even though Machado has never appeared in porn.

    The Daily Caller throws climate change denial into its mix of “relatively moderate” coverage (the polar bears are “doing just fine”) and tops it off with an opinion page ripe with conspiracy theories (Is the government planning “to kill 174,000 of the nation’s military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security … forces loyal to the Administration?”). If this is what is considered moderate in right-wing media today, there may be too few lines left to cross.

  • Three New National Geographic Documentaries Detail Climate Change Impacts And Battle Lines

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    While climate change has been largely overlooked as an electoral issue this year, it is receiving the attention it deserves in at least one place: National Geographic. This month, three new National Geographic documentaries have shed light on the serious consequences of climate change and the industry-funded forces standing in the way of finding solutions.

    Environmental advocates expressed concern when News Corporation’s 21st Century Fox bought the National Geographic Society’s magazine last year, given founder Rupert Murdoch’s climate science denial. But National Geographic pledged it would maintain its editorial independence, and soon after, it published a special edition of the magazine focused on climate change.

    Now, National Geographic is making another important contribution to the climate change discussion in two documentaries that aired back-to-back on its television channel on October 30, as well as a new film now playing in IMAX theaters.

    The season two premiere of Years of Living Dangerously, a documentary series co-produced by James Cameron and featuring a range of famous actors, includes a segment about the utility-funded opposition to rooftop solar policies that are critical to fighting climate change. Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong explores the battles in Nevada and Florida against net metering, a policy that allows customers to send excess electricity from their rooftop solar panels to the electric grid in exchange for a credit. In Florida, Strong interviewed a spokesperson for solar advocacy group Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC), who explained how big utility companies financed a front group called “Consumers for Smart Solar” (CSS) that is behind a deceptive anti-solar ballot measure. CSS was successful in garnering enough signatures to put its anti-solar amendment on the ballot, duping voters into thinking they were supporting a pro-solar initiative and thwarting a rival FSC petition that would have actually helped expand rooftop solar. FSC’s Alissa Jean Schafer told Strong, “The whole point” of the CSS initiative was “to confuse people,” adding: “The utility-backed initiative talks about solar choice but doesn’t actually give people any choices.”

    CSS has gotten away with deceiving Florida voters in many of the state’s newspapers, too. Florida newspapers have published at least 14 op-eds by CSS co-chairmen Dick Batchelor and Jim Kallinger without disclosing their financial ties to utilities.

    From Years of Living Dangerously:

    In addition to Strong’s segment on the anti-solar initiative in Florida, season two of Years of Living Dangerously will feature many other “emotional and hard-hitting accounts of the effects of climate change” in the coming weeks, as National Geographic explained in a press release. In an interview with E&E News, David Gelber, creator and executive producer of the series, argued that the general public’s lack of awareness of climate impacts “allows debate moderators to ignore climate change as an issue,” and added that he hopes his series “does something to change” that fact.

    In Before the Flood, a documentary directed by Fisher Stevens and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, DiCaprio interviews Penn State University’s Michael Mann, who explains that he and other climate scientists are up against the fossil fuel industry’s “massive misinformation campaign to confuse the public.” Mann explains: “Websites and news outlets and think tanks, they find people with fairly impressive credentials who are willing to sell those credentials to fossil fuel interests.” Key to this strategy, he explained, is the use of fossil fuel front groups “with lofty sounding names, like Americans for Prosperity or the Heartland Institute.”

    Indeed, Media Matters has documented many occasions where fossil fuel-funded “experts” have misled on climate change in the media, including people affiliated with the groups Mann highlighted. Americans for Prosperity, which coordinated a misleading nationwide op-ed campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark climate change policy, “frequently provides a platform for climate contrarian statements,” as the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted. And the Heartland Institute, which is known for its annual climate denial conferences, has sought to undermine important steps forward on climate including the pope’s climate change encyclical and state renewable energy standards.

    Mann concludes: “These people are engaged in an effort to lead us astray in the name of short-term fossil fuel profits so that we end up leaving behind a degraded planet. What can be more immoral than that?”

    The rest of Before the Flood takes viewers around the world to witness the impacts that climate change is already having, from the South Pacific, where sea level rise is an existential threat, to Miami, Florida, where millions of dollars are being spent to keep rising seas at bay.

    The impacts of climate change are also the focus of another National Geographic-produced documentary, called Extreme Weather, which was released in IMAX theaters on October 15. The film aims to demonstrate "how climate change is rapidly affecting our land, oceans and atmosphere to produce natural disasters as ruinous as they are spectacular." Director Sean Casey said in an interview that he wanted to show how climate change is connected to extreme weather with "powerful imagery that really does justice to what's happening." Watch the trailer:

    With broadcast networks frequently ignoring the climate change context of many extreme weather events, this film is both a call to action for concerned citizens and a welcome reminder for media.