Energy

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  • What Media Should Know About The GOP Attorneys General Suing To Block EPA’s Climate Plan

    Investigations Exposing Attorneys General-Fossil Fuel Alliance Provide Key Context For Clean Power Plan Fight

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    As the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hears challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, media should note that the Republican attorneys general suing the EPA have formed what a New York Times investigation described as an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with the fossil fuel industry. Since the Times investigation was published, additional details of this alliance have come to light, including the revelation that fossil fuel companies paid for private meetings with Republican attorneys general shortly before the attorneys general sued the EPA to block the flagship climate change policy.

  • New Book Provides Illustrated Guide To Media-Fueled “Madhouse” Of Climate Change Denial

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Sometimes even the world’s most serious problems are best handled with a little bit of humor.

    Case in point: The Madhouse Effect (Columbia University Press), a new book by Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, which lays out a plan for media, politicians, and the public at large to “escape the madhouse” of climate change denial before it’s too late.

    There is no shortage of books about climate change. But what makes this one unique is the way it combines Mann’s science communication skills, which help succinctly describe the roots, methods, and implications of climate science denial, and Toles’ illustrations, which provide an equally biting and amusing perspective on the dynamics the book describes. The book speaks to both our left and right brains, with the hope that it will motivate many to push for climate action -- and maybe even convert a few deniers along the way.

    The Madhouse Effect is also a book about media, and it dissects many common media failings that we frequently analyze and write about here at Media Matters.

    First among them is false balance, which the book describes as giving false industry-friendly claims about climate change “an equal place on the media stage with actual science.” As we documented in a recent study of newspaper opinion pages, one place where this problem is alive and well is USA Today, which often pairs scientifically accurate editorials about climate change with “opposing view” op-eds that flatly deny climate change is happening or that it's caused by human activities.

    Several of these climate science-denying “opposing views” in USA Today were written by Republican members of Congress, exemplifying another point Mann and Toles make in the book: False balance is “greatly exacerbated by the increasing polarization of our public discourse.” This can also be seen in print and TV news coverage of GOP presidential candidates’ climate denial, which frequently failed to indicate that the candidates' statements about climate change conflicted with the scientific consensus on the issue.

    Mann and Toles argue that false balance has been further worsened by the decentralization of news sources, particularly the rise of the “right-wing echo chamber” led (at least in the U.S.) by Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, climate science denial remains a staple of both outlets, with the Journal editorial board and Journal columnist Holman Jenkins peddling every denialist trope imaginable, and Fox News recently erasing all mentions of climate change (and coincidentally, Mann) from an Associated Press article about Tropical Storm Hermine.

    The Madhouse Effect also pinpoints where these denialist talking points often originate, detailing many of the fossil fuel front groups whose representatives frequently mislead about climate change in major print and TV media without disclosing their glaring conflicts of interest. Among them are leading opponents of climate action such as Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), all of which have received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    The book exposes many of the individual industry-funded operatives known for misinforming about climate change, too, including the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, Heartland’s Fred Singer and James Taylor, Junkscience.com editor Steve Milloy, ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano, and CEI’s Chris Horner and Myron Ebell.

    Mann and Toles give special attention to Bjorn Lomborg, a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and USA Today:

    Of Lomborg’s particular style of misinformation, they write:

    Lomborg’s arguments often have a veneer of credibility, but scratch the surface, and you witness a sleight of hand, where climate projections are lowballed; climate change impacts, damages, and costs are underestimated; and the huge current subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, both direct and indirect, are ignored.

    (Unfortunately, after Mann and Toles wrote a September 16 op-ed in the Washington Post profiling Lomborg and other members of the book’s climate “deniers club,” the Post opted to publish its first Lomborg op-ed in nearly two years on its website on September 19.)

    Thankfully, The Madhouse Effect debunks many of the top climate falsehoods promoted by these industry operatives -- and conservative media. These include claiming that addressing climate change will keep the poor in “energy poverty”; citing the global warming “hiatus” or “pause” to dismiss concerns about climate change; pointing to changes in the climate hundreds or thousands of years ago to deny that the current warming is caused by humans; alleging that unmitigated climate change will be a good thing; disputing that climate change is accelerating sea level rise; and denying that climate change is making weather disasters more costly.

    And Mann and Toles detail some of the climate connections that major media outlets often ignore, such as the counterintuitive role of climate change in the winter snowstorms that blanketed the Northeast in early 2015, and the impacts of climate change on national security, the economy, and public health. In part, they attribute this lack of coverage to a modern media environment where very few stories can survive more than a few 24-hour news cycles, which is “prohibitive for raising awareness about slowly growing threats such as climate change.”

    The book concludes with a call to action for readers to “leave the madhouse” and help lead the fight against climate change. The authors convey a sense of urgency, writing: “We will not, we cannot, wreck this planet. There is no Planet B.” As with so much else in The Madhouse Effect, that sentiment is also expressed in cartoon-form, via Toles’ illustration of a thermometer for a chapter titled, “Why should I give a damn?”:

  • Media Call Out Trump For Dodging Key Science Questions

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Media are calling out GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for providing vague and evasive answers to a series of science-related questions posed by a coalition of major science organizations, including a question about climate change. Trump has a long track record of denying the reality of climate change, but he was not asked about the topic during any of the 12 GOP presidential primary debates.

  • CNBC Debunks Industry-Backed Study Behind Trump's Dirty Energy Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s promise to boost the U.S. economy by rolling back environmental protections rests on a deeply flawed study linked to the oil and coal industries, CNBC.com reported.

    In his energy plan, the GOP presidential candidate cites the Institute for Energy Research (IER) to claim that “lifting the restrictions on American energy” will create “a flood of new jobs,” increase annual wages by $30 billion over seven years, and increase annual economic output by nearly $700 billion over the next 30 years.

    But as CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher pointed out in a September 6 article, Trump misstated the scope of IER’s report, which “does not actually attribute the gains to a lifting of restrictions, as Trump indicated, but to opening all federal lands to oil, gas, and coal leasing.” Furthermore, economists explained to CNBC that the IER report relies on a forecasting model that “often overstates the benefits of increased drilling,” is based on the “questionable assumption” that government policies -- rather than economic conditions -- are limiting fossil fuel production, and makes “no attempt to weigh the environmental and social costs of opening federal lands against the benefits.”

    DiChristopher also detailed IER’s ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. He explained that IER’s affiliated organization American Energy Alliance is “one of a number of groups funded by a network of donors” connected to the Kochs, whose companies “explore for and produce oil and natural gas; market coal; and operate or own 4,000 miles of oil, fuel, and chemical pipelines.”

    From the September 6 CNBC.com article:

    Donald Trump has promised to roll back regulations and unleash an energy revolution in America — but economists have their doubts about the plan.

    The Republican presidential candidate says he will boost America's economic output, create millions of new jobs, and put coal miners back to work. But the windfalls Trump touts originate from a report commissioned by a nonprofit with ties to the energy industry and whose findings rely on a forecasting model that often overstates the benefits of increased drilling, according to economists who have researched the U.S. shale oil and gas revolution.

    [...]

    The IER report uses a method of forecasting called the input-output model, which is frequently used by consultants and government agencies to make projections about the effects of economic activity.

    But a number of economists say that model is not well-suited to predicting how more drilling will produce windfalls in other sectors, and academics are skeptical of the method because the results, or outputs, rely so heavily on the assumptions, or inputs.

    "This is not academic research and would never see the light of day in an academic journal. The pioneering research ... from years ago is rarely employed any more by economists," said Thomas Kinnaman, chair of the Economics Department at Bucknell University, who reviewed the IER report for CNBC.

    Kinnaman said the technical assumptions used throughout the study are not "egregious," but he noted that the paper makes no attempt to weigh the environmental and social costs of opening federal lands against the benefits.

    [...]

    Peter Maniloff, assistant professor of economics at the Colorado School of Mines, said the IER study is based on a questionable assumption.

    "The IER report assumes that policy restrictions are the major factor holding back coal, oil, and gas production," but it has more to do with straightforward economics, he said. "Domestic oil drilling on available land has dropped by three-quarters since 2014 due to low prices."

  • 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.

  • WSJ Video Instructs Viewers To “Trust” Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel told viewers that if they are “confused about the science surrounding climate change,” they should “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 “[c]limate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” that “[t]here is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and that “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.”

    Here's the August 17 video:

    MARY KISSEL (Wall Street Journal editorial board member): Are you confused about the science surrounding climate change? Don't know who to trust? Well, we have help for you! Rod Nichols is chairman of the CO2 Coalition ... Rod, I want to start with the CO2 Coalition. What exactly is it, and who's involved?

    RODNEY NICHOLS (CO2 Coalition chairman): We formed about a year ago -- a group of scientists, mostly physicists, a few chemists, engineers, economists -- who are convinced that the public is being misled about carbon dioxide. CO2. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is not a pollutant. But if you read the editorial pages and the news pages of most papers the word "pollutant" is always used with CO2. 

    KISSEL: So does that mean that your group doesn't believe in climate change? Or doesn't believe in something called "catastrophic climate change"?

    NICHOLS: Climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. Everybody should recognize that there is climate change. There is not going to be any catastrophic climate change. CO2 will be good for the world. CO2 enhances agriculture. Crops tend to grow on the average of 15 percent more per year given more CO2. And even more important, crops don't need as much water when they're growing if they have more CO2. You can see this at the edges of deserts where struggling little green plants -- you couldn't see them 35 years ago. Thirty-five years later the satellite photos clearly show that these little green plants -- with more CO2 and needing less water at the edge of deserts -- they're fluorishing!

    KISSEL: So this is a completely opposite viewpoint than what is represented in, as you say, most of the media, most of our college classrooms. How did they get to this point, Rod? Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents?

    NICHOLS: Well, that's a really good question that I don't have a completely satisfactory answer to. I shy away from conspiracy theories, I don't think -- but it's true in the scientific literature, you can find "skeptics" as we are sometimes called who are arguing against what appears to be a consensus but their views are not covered. Their views are not debated. If nothing else, the CO2 Coalition wants to open up a real debate. Science thrives with discovery and debate. And the subtitle of our first report, about six months ago, was called "See For Yourself."

    KISSEL: So where do viewers go to find out more information about what you're doing and to get educated on science about climate change?

    NICHOLS: Good questions. CO2Coalition.org is a storehouse of very reliable data. We've surveyed data over decades published in our reports. One is called White Paper 1, and White Paper 2. You can get these, we'd be glad to send them to you.

    KISSEL: And you don't need to be a scientist to understand these papers?

    NICHOLS: They're prepared to be readable by any intelligent citizen. Even my daughter found them readable and she's not an environmentalist, she's not an alarmist, she's an art history major. She loved them.

    KISSEL: Maybe even I will find it readable. In fact, it is readable. I have read these papers. They're terrific. CO2Coalition.org, go check it out, Rod Nichols is the chairman, thanks for joining us.

    Related:

    Climate Nexus Analysis: How The Wall Street Journal Opinion Section Presents Climate Change

    Previously:

    Breitbart News: Go-To Outlet For "Academics-For-Hire" By The Fossil Fuel Industry?

    Slate Destroys Climate Denier Myth That CO2 Is Not A Pollutant

    The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976

  • ProPublica Reporter Calls For Journalists To Be "More Skeptical" Of Researchers Backed By Corporate Interests

    ProPublica's Faturechi: Media Should "Ask Harder Questions" Before Quoting Or Publishing Corporate-Backed Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ProPublica reporter Robert Faturechi is calling for journalists to “be more skeptical” and “ask harder questions” about the corporate funding and influence behind pundits and research organizations passing themselves off as independent.

    In an August 10 post published on The New York Times’ Room for Debate blog, Faturechi proclaimed: “It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies." He added that journalists should "ask harder questions" about think tank researchers' corporate backing "[b]efore we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds." His post comes days after the Times published an investigative series about how think tank scholars offering themselves as independent arbiters “have become part of the corporate influence machine” affecting policy in Washington. One article examined 75 think tanks and found that many researchers “had simultaneously worked as registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes, with only intermittent disclosure of their dual roles.” Another explained that think tanks scholars are “pushing agendas important to corporate donors," which “blur[s] the line between researchers and lobbyists," and they're often doing it without disclosing their connections.

    Several Media Matters analyses have found that fossil fuel-funded pundits passing themselves off as independent experts often publish op-eds or are quoted in the news without disclosing their industry ties, and a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that oil-funded organizations are “more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue." Media Matters has also outlined how for-profit education companies and other corporations have backed a broad network of think tanks to influence education policy in their favor.

    From Faturechi’s Room for Debate post:

    It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies. Big name universities and prestigious think tanks provide researchers with an imprimatur of independence. But as The New York Times and other outlets have shown, their work is often funded, and sometimes shaped, by special interests with a rooting interest in particular findings. Reporters and editors need to be more skeptical of experts, and the false sense of security that their name brand affiliations provide. Before we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds, we have to ask harder questions about their funding and their outside employment.

    Oftentimes simply asking won’t be enough. When the research is being done at a public university, we have an easier time digging up undisclosed conflicts. Emails between professors and their funders are typically subject to public records requests. Those communications can be revelatory, but they’re harder to come by when the researchers are working for private think tanks. In those cases, we have to rely on less straightforward entry points, like think tank researchers happening to communicate with government officials who are subject to FOIA. Or we have to hope for leaks. Neither method is particularly reliable.

    Research that is funded by a corporation, or any other special interest for that matter, isn’t necessarily flawed. And researchers who are moonlighting for outside groups aren’t necessarily untrustworthy. But lawmakers and the public deserve more visibility into the research that is shaping policy in Washington and in statehouses across the country. Investigative reporting is one remedy. Another would be stricter transparency rules.

  • Fifty-Six Prominent Organizations Urge Media To Press Presidential Candidates On Science

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    A coalition of U.S. nonpartisan organizations representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers is calling on journalists to press the presidential candidates about major science policy issues in the lead-up to the election.

    The nonprofit ScienceDebate.org has been running a campaign calling for at least one presidential debate exclusively focused on science, health, tech, and environmental issues. It teamed up with several prominent science-focused organizations -- including the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the Union of Concerned Scientists; and more -- to crowdsource the best science-related questions for the candidates. Now, the coalition of 56 organizations has released its list of 20 questions for journalists to ask the presidential candidates. In a press release, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that a president’s “attitude toward and decisions about science and research affect the public wellbeing, from the growth of our economy, to education, to public health.” The coalition’s list of 20 suggested questions for candidates contains topics ranging from space exploration to vaccination to technological innovations, and three of the questions focus on addressing global changes in the climate:

    • The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?
    • We now live in a global economy with a large and growing human population. These factors create economic, public health, and environmental challenges that do not respect national borders. How would your administration balance national interests with global cooperation when tackling threats made clear by science, such as pandemic diseases and climate change, that cross national borders?
    • There is growing concern over the decline of fisheries and the overall health of the ocean: scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are fished at or beyond sustainable limits, habitats like coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What efforts would your administration make to improve the health of our ocean and coastlines and increase the long-term sustainability of ocean fisheries?

    Such questions would fill a glaring gap in the debates thus far. A Media Matters analysis found that only 1.5 percent of the questions posed to candidates during the first 20 presidential primary debates were about climate change. Instead, the debate moderators gave outsized attention to the political horse race and other non-substantive issues. And, of the few climate-related questions that were asked during the primary debates, zero were directed to Donald Trump.

    Now the case for pressing Trump on the issue is even greater, given recent comments he has made. This week, Trump announced he would “cancel” the Paris climate agreement and “rescind” the Climate Action Plan. He has also repeatedly called global warming a “hoax” and recently told The Washington Post’s editorial board that he is “not a great believer in man-made climate change.”

    In his book The War on Science, ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto wrote that in 2008, media figures dismissed his concerns that science policy issues were being overlooked in the presidential race. News directors and editors told Otto that they “thought it was a niche topic, and the public wasn’t interested.” But a 2015 national poll commissioned by ScienceDebate.org and Research!America shows that a large majority of Americans “say it is important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues.” And a more recent Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans worry about global warming, leading Gallup to conclude that “Americans are now expressing record- or near-record-high belief that global warming is happening, as well as concern about the issue.”

  • Media Explain How Trump Distorted Obama's Clean Energy Revolution

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The New York Times and The Washington Post both explained how GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump flipped the script on energy and electricity in his August 8 speech on economic policy. Despite Trump’s fearmongering over the Obama administration’s energy policies and his claim of rising costs of electricity, the U.S. has seen stable electricity prices and a boon in clean energy over the past eight years.

    In his August 8 speech at the Detroit Economic Club, Trump asserted that the “Obama-Clinton Administration has blocked and destroyed millions of jobs through their anti-energy regulations, while raising the price of electricity for both families and businesses.”

    But as The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney pointed out, home electricity prices increased greatly under the Bush administration -- from about 8 cents per kilowatt hour to 12 cents, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) -- and “there hasn’t been as much growth since then.” The New York Times’ editorial board noted that the EIA projects a decrease in electricity prices this year, from 12.82 cents per kilowatt hour to 12.64 cents.

    Trump also completely overlooked the renewable energy and natural gas sectors, which have spurred an increase of energy-related jobs, when he claimed that “millions of jobs” have been “blocked and destroyed” during Obama’s administration. The Post cited a recent study from the Solar Foundation that found the solar industry added 115,000 jobs over the past six years and another Duke University study that found coal job losses between 2008 and 2012 were far outpaced by job gains in wind and solar and natural gas, resulting in a net increase of about 125,000 jobs over these sectors. The Times pointed out the irony of calling for an “energy revolution” that makes “no mention of carbon-free renewable energy sources.”

    Multiple outlets also pointed out that Trump’s pledge to put coal miners “back to work” is an unachievable promise based on a false premise. Vox’s Brad Plumer explained that the coal industry is “collapsing” and is “not coming back,” and CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher cited the EIA saying the demise of coal has been "mainly a market-driven response to lower natural gas prices that have made natural gas generation more economically attractive.”

    Many of the false claims Trump made about energy have been debunked before, which allowed journalists at The Washington Post to fact-check his speech while it was happening. The Post’s Glenn Kessler tweeted a fact check of the bunk study Trump cited on the cost of federal regulations, and Michelle Ye Lee Hee pointed to another fact check explaining how conservatives distorted Clinton’s speech discussing her plan to provide aid to struggling coal communities.

    The Post’s Mooney summarized Trump’s speech:

    In the end, Trump’s negative picture of the energy sector is similar to his dire picture of the economy, which has been criticized for being inaccurately skewed towards the negative. U.S. energy is definitely undergoing major changes. Whether it’s in trouble — that’s a much tougher argument.

    Photo at the top via Flickr user Greens MPs with a Creative Commons license.

  • New Book Explains Media’s Role In Today’s Toxic State Of Public Discourse

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Why is it so hard to create meaningful action on climate change? Discussion about global warming -- and many other critical issues -- has become “polluted” by toxic rhetoric, argues author and public relations specialist James Hoggan, which in turn “discourage[s] people from taking action.” In his new book, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How To Clean it Up, Hoggan examines why and how the public sphere has become “polluted” by “polarized rhetoric, propaganda and miscommunication,” and offers advice on how to clean it up.

    In discussions with dozens of scholars and thought leaders, from NASA scientists to the 14th Dalai Lama, Hoggan details several factors that have degraded rhetoric around important political issues. Here are four ways that conservative media have played a key role:

    Right-Wing Tactic #1: Use Ad Hominem Attacks To Damage Credibility Of Advocates, Scientists

    Because science is not on the side of those who oppose acting on climate change, it is much easier for climate science deniers to vilify their opponents than to address the actual issue. Sociology professor Alex Himelfarb pointed out to Hoggan that there is an “increasing and effective use of a classic rhetorical ploy called ad hominem -- where attacks are aimed at a person’s character, not their line of reasoning,” a ploy that is frequently used against climate advocates.

    Media Matters has documented this tactic countless times on Fox News and other right-wing media, where pundits have attempted to smear climate scientists as corrupted by money, falsely claimed the Paris climate conference had a large carbon footprint to paint its participants as hypocrites, and frequently mocked prominent climate activists Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore.

    As Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley explained to Hoggan, deniers “attack and undermine [their] opponents’ integrity while making them appear to have a vested interest” simply because they “can’t rely on [their] own credibility” and “the facts aren’t on [their] side.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #2: Change The Frame -- Or Create A False One

    Conceptual frameworks “permeate everything we think and say, so the people who control language and set its frames have an inordinate amount of power,” argues Hoggan. He spoke with linguistics professor George Lakoff, who noted that “if you do a bad job of framing your story, someone else will likely do it for you.” Hoggan also spoke with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who noted that he heard right-wing radio host Glenn Beck say, “Climate change is not about the environment; it’s about control.” In this case, Beck re-framed the discussion about climate change action to be about empowering “the nanny state,” according to Haidt, who added that Beck “very skillfully pushed certain moral buttons that sowed profound doubt.”

    As a case study, Hoggan pointed to the manufactured “Climategate” controversy, an “international campaign to discredit scientists” before the landmark international climate change summit in Copenhagen, according to DeSmogBlog. Fox News had a heavy hand in amplifying the phony controversy, even after official investigations proved -- six times over -- that there was no wrongdoing.

    Hoggan wrote that he was “astonished to see how a group of legitimate climate scientists, with stacks of peer-reviewed evidence on their side, could lose debates to a group of people who had none -- all because of a lens created by mischief-makers.” But he noted that the scientific facts in this controversy were complicated, and the public was not equipped to analyze them on their face. Thus, “Climategate was a battle of frames versus facts, and the frames won.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #3: Silence -- And Erode Trust In -- Mainstream Media

    According to Yale professor Stanley, who wrote the book How Propaganda Works, right-wing media are less interested in reporting “accurate, well-researched stories” and more interested in “broadcasting noise so that it becomes difficult to hear the truth.” Stanley called out Fox News in particular, stating that its “fair and balanced” slogan is not only false, but intentionally so:

    Fox engages in a kind of silencing tactic when describing itself as “fair and balanced,” especially to an audience that is perfectly aware that it is neither. The effect is to suggest there is no possibility of balanced news, only propaganda; this results in a silencing of all news sources by suggesting everyone is grossly insincere.

    The complex science behind global warming, and the huge scale of actions needed to address it, can defy easy description -- a fact that conservative media often exploit. Hoggan cited psychologist and author of State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind Bryant Welch, who noted that in response to confusion, an “authoritative person who takes command -- ‘think of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh’ -- and spews strong feelings with absolutely certainty is appealing to a beleaguered mind.”

    Welch has written about “gaslighting” -- the process of manipulating someone into questioning their sense of reality -- and he explained to Hoggan that the tactic is commonplace on Fox News. When “people begin to doubt their own perceptions and observations,” they “become less rational, less capable of thinking for themselves,” and “more and more beholden to Fox News.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #4: Make The Challenge Of Addressing Climate Change Seem Impossible

    The easiest way to inhibit progress on climate change is to make it seem impossible, argues Hoggan -- to promote the “do-nothing stance.” He explains that to take action “requires an anti-gravity position, which is so-called because it takes energy, hard work and a real sense of the common good.” He said deniers “don’t have to convince the public that climate change isn’t real,” but instead can “exaggerat[e] the hazards of solutions to make them seem unbelievably risky.”

    This tactic is common among fossil fuel front groups, which have employed baseless fearmongering and false attacks to attack key climate actions over and over -- and too often, conservative media take the bait, as Media Matters has documented. Dozens of front groups have attacked the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, and many of these groups published bunk studies and reports falsely claiming that the landmark carbon pollution rule would hurt consumers or harm the economy (it won't). Conservative media also targeted a barrage of misleading attacks at the Paris climate agreement reached by 195 countries in December and recycled many of these attacks on Earth Day. This rhetoric has also made its way into mainstream media, with prominent Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson brazenly declaring that "we have no solution" for addressing climate change.

    Hoggan argues that conversations about climate change should not focus solely on the negative, because doing so can lead to paralysis. Correspondingly, his book includes positive suggestions for the media to help improve public discourse and create “healthier dialogue” that moves people forward instead of exacerbating conflicts and creating divisions.

    Here are some of his suggestions for media:

    Tell More Positive Stories

    A Rutgers University study once found that The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both frame climate action as ineffective more often than effective. Yet Hoggan argues that barraging people with facts about climate change that evoke feelings of fear and guilt is not going to inspire action. Instead, he writes, it is time to “build hope instead of fear, empathy instead of alienation, people’s sense of self-worth rather than their sense of inadequacy.” Harvard professor Marshall Ganz explained to Hoggan that stories that offer hope can become “an emotional dialogue that speaks about deeply held values, about an inspired future that is hopeful and steeped in those values.” Hoggan also explained:

    Environmentalists must explain why every previous generation did what was necessary to secure the infrastructure and climate for people to succeed, and emphasize this generation’s obligation to do the same.

    Studies have shown that while negative stories about climate change can turn readers into cynics, stories about successful political activism and individual actions can generate enthusiasm.

    Disclose Special Interests Behind Front Groups

    People need to know where most of the climate misinformation is coming from: fossil fuel corporations that want to protect their bottom line. As Hoggan pointed out, corporations are “furiously focused on creating shareholder value,” meaning “they can and must act in the interest of their shareholders.” And when something threatens their license to operate -- such as the knowledge that fossil fuels are disastrously changing the climate -- these big businesses are “motivated to become skilled at propaganda.”

    That’s why it’s so important to disclose the fossil fuel funding behind front groups that claim to represent the best interest of citizens. It’s also why corporations work so hard to hide their support for these groups, through “astroturfing” -- creating fake grass-roots groups that Hoggan says “makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a legitimate groundswell and manufactured opinion.”

    As a case in point, Hoggan details the “ethical oil” PR campaign, when oil companies used the front group EthicalOil.org to rebrand dirty tar sands oil in Canada as “ethical” and tar sands opponents as “foreign-funded radicals.” He also pointed out other industry-funded front groups, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, which pushed the myth of “clean coal.” In fact, there are dozens of fossil fuel industry front groups that are currently attacking environmental protections in the United States, but their industry ties often go unmentioned.

    Invite Scientists To Discuss Climate Change

    Media Matters analyses have shown that when discussing climate change, broadcast news networks have turned to politicians and media figures far more often than scientists. This may be why French scientist Bruno Latour argues that scientists should get more involved in the public debate about climate change -- “to stand up and fight, with full disclosure, full respect, scrupulous honesty, honoring of the democratic process.” As Hoggan explained:

    We have long passed the point where we can talk about a fight between good, clean science and science that has been sullied and distorted by personal and public interests.

    [...]

    We need scientists to become more political because pure evidence -- facts, figures and flow charts -- cannot form an adequate basis for public debate. Why? Primarily because public is not equipped to get to the bottom of such a discussion or analyze all these facts.

    There is much more to examine in the book, from pundits repeating false myths over and over to the Dalai Lama’s appeal for “warm-heartedness.” Improving public discourse begins with expanding knowledge, and reading I’m Right and You’re an Idiot is a good first step.

  • Trump Adviser Stephen Moore Compares Fracking To "The Cure For Cancer"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    While GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump recently suggested that voters should be allowed to ban fracking at a local or state level, one of Trump’s economic advisers believes that “to be against fracking is like being against a cure for cancer.”

    During the August 1 edition of C-SPAN2's Book TV, while discussing his new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, conservative economist 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.” He criticized Florida high school students who oppose fracking, claiming they were “indoctrinated in their high school classes” to think that “somehow fracking is a bad thing.”

    Moore also dismissed the widespread concerns about fracking contaminating drinking water supplies by claiming that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “said there were no findings of water contamination from fracking.” But the EPA’s report actually found multiple instances of water contamination from fracking, and that the EPA itself emphasized that its data was “insufficient” to evaluate how often fracking impacts water “with any certainty,” leading its own scientists to call its conclusions into question.

    Days before C-SPAN2 aired the discussion, Trump told a local Denver television station that “voters should have a say" in whether to allow fracking, adding, "[I]f a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking I can understand that.” Many towns in Colorado have placed local bans or moratoriums on fracking, and Democrats are currently working to place an initiative for a statewide ban on fracking on the November ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Moore is reportedly one of Trump's "council of wise men" and a campaign adviser, who was picked by Trump, along with CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, to re-write his tax plan. Moore, who is also a Fox News contributor and senior economist at the fossil fuel-funded Heritage Foundation, has compared fracking to a cancer cure in the past, and has also distorted a NASA study to claim that it was an "indication" that global warming is "actually not happening."

    From the August 1 edition of C-SPAN2's Book TV:

    STEPHEN MOORE: How many of you have seen that video from Gasland where the West Virginia -- they light the big lighter near the water and it looks like -- I'm sure you've seen that, it looks like a blowtorch -- and I remember when that came out, when did that come out? Four or five years ago or something like that? And I remember we went to West Virginia to give a talk about energy policy, and I was talking to these folks about it and I mentioned the Gasland scene, and these people burst out laughing, they were like, "This has been happening for 75 years in West Virginia." ... So the point is, that's not fracking. This is just a perfect example of a propaganda campaign that's going on. It's not fracking, it's natural seepage of that, just as you're describing, it seeps up into the -- so, if that being the case, how do you prevent it from getting into the drinking water? You actually drill it out. If you drill it out, it's less likely to contaminate drinking water. The EPA -- correct me if I'm wrong on this, you're the expert -- but, was it about a year or so ago, the EPA said there were no findings of water contamination from fracking. I've got to say, this is an amazing thing that's going on in this country. I gave a talk two years ago to the valedictorians, high school valedictorians of Florida. And there were about 50 of these kids, and they were incredibly impressive and bright and smart and they were inquisitive and so on. And I remember during my little talk to them -- I gave two or three minutes about this energy stuff and how great this is -- and I remember they started to frown. And I said, "Gee, this is kind of weird." And then all of a sudden I said, "Wait a minute. Wait, wait wait. How many of you in this room, of you 50 kids, how many of you think fracking is a good thing?" About 12 of them raised their hands. "How many of you think fracking is a bad thing?" Thirty of them raised their hands. Now, look, to be against fracking is like being against a cure for cancer. This is one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs. We're way ahead of the rest of the world. It's giving us access to huge amounts of energy at very low prices. How could anybody be against this? And it occurred to me, these kids have been indoctrinated in their high school classes that somehow fracking is a bad thing. And this is a tough thing to defeat, this kind of wacko propaganda campaign that infiltrates every area of our culture.

  • At Party Conventions, Big Oil’s Media Manipulation Strategy Is On Full Display

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    A few months ago, we documented that the American Petroleum Institute (API), the trade group for oil companies including industry giants ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, was blanketing CNN’s airwaves with ads persuading Americans to support the oil industry’s agenda. It’s a standard formula for the well-heeled industry to control the on-air narrative around climate and energy issues -- and one that in this case drowned out the cable network’s meager discussion of the ominous global warming records that were being set.  

    Now, as the Republican and Democratic parties are in the midst of hosting their national conventions, we are reminded of yet another tool at Big Oil’s disposable for influencing media coverage of key energy issues. Vote4Energy, the same API campaign featured in the ads on CNN, is sponsoring events held by Politico, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post at both conventions.

    As reported by The Intercept's Alex Emmons, at the recently concluded GOP convention, The Atlantic hosted a forum on energy and the environment that featured two climate science-denying congressmen and an API lobbyist -- with no one present to address the scientific facts of climate change. The Intercept added that API also sponsored events held by The Washington Post and Politico “where API literature was distributed, API representatives gave opening remarks, and not one speaker was an environmentalist, climate expert, scientist, or Democrat.”

    Both The Atlantic and the Post said that they tried but were unable to find speakers who could represent the other side of the energy debate. In any event, the end result was a forum for misinformation. For instance, all three events included at least one speaker who espoused some form of climate science denial, according to remarks included in The Intercept article:

    At The Atlantic‘s event, [North Dakota Rep. Kevin] Cramer and [Ohio Rep. Bill] Johnson both downplayed concerns about climate science. “The 97 percent of the scientists who believe [it’s] real, don’t all believe the exact same level,” said Cramer. “Whose fault it is, what’s going to stop it … there’s a wide range in that spectrum.”

    [...]

    At the Washington Post’s discussion, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said that in the past 15 years the earth was, on average, “cooling down,” but stressed “the point is that it’s not a settled science.”

    [...]

    At Politico‘s API-sponsored event, the oil lobbying group’s CEO, Jack Gerard, opened the event by telling the audience that “the United States has become the superpower of energy in the world.”

    Rep. Cramer, who was also a guest at the Politico event, joked with the audience that in his home state of North Dakota, “we’re for a warmer climate.”

    The media figures hosting the events provided limited pushback, according to The Intercept, even though the media organizations insisted that the presence of their journalists was enough to hold the panelists accountable. The most direct rebuttal to outright denial came from Washington Post opinion writer Stephen Stromberg, who informed Rep. Blackburn that “I think there would be a vast bulk of climate scientists who would disagree” with her statements about climate change, but then allowed that “we don’t have to litigate the science of it this morning.” The Atlantic’s panel moderator, Steve Clemons, told The Intercept that “I had trust in my own ability to be the alternative, and I had trust that the audience would ask questions to provide balance,” but he also conceded that he “should have done more.”

    The Atlantic, the Post, and Politico all have similar events lined up for the Democratic National Convention, which has spurred advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote to launch a petition calling on Democratic officials not to appear at the API-sponsored events. As Hill Heat noted, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) recently condemned API for its role in spreading climate science denial during his contribution to senators’ “web of denial” speeches on the Senate floor.

    Beyond the conventions, another reminder of the oil industry’s multifaceted approach to co-opting media is taking place at the Los Angeles Times, where the Occidental Petroleum spinoff company California Resources Corp. (CRC) has teamed up with the Times’ “content solutions” team to dole out more industry propaganda on the Powering California website.

    As we’ve explained, the Times’ branded content department, which the newspaper says is wholly independent from its reporting and editorial staff, produced a fearmongering video for CRC last fall suggesting that life as we know it would descend into chaos without the oil industry.

    A year later, as the oil industry stands in the way of California passing critical legislation that would set the standard for other states to fight climate change, Powering California is out with a series of new videos praising oil and attacking clean energy sources. One of the videos baselessly asserts that “renewable energy can’t replace oil,” falsely claims wind energy is “expensive,” and bombastically declares that “oil and natural gas are woven into the fabric of America.” Another video features feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.

    Concerns about these types of arrangements between media and the fossil fuel industry have not subsided, despite media organizations’ assurances that the relationships would not affect their coverage. Pointing to the API-sponsored events and The Hill’s offer to “sell interviews” at the conventions, The Intercept’s Emmons concluded: “What were once blurred lines in the journalism business are becoming increasingly clear -- because they have been crossed.”