Following the Environmental Protection Agency's endangerment finding report which concluded that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health, right-wing media have claimed that the EPA's finding amounts to, in the words of Rush Limbaugh, "blackmailing elected officials" to pass cap-and-trade legislation. Glenn Beck claimed the finding "is blackmail. It is a bogus gun to our head," while Limbaugh said, "[D]o you understand what's happening in this country? The EPA blackmailing elected officials."
In a December 9 report, ABC correspondent David Wright advanced misleading claims about the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, including the claim that the emails show scientists using a "trick to hide the decline in temperatures" and that a scientist called it a "travesty" that they couldn't explain a temporary lack of warming. Wright also misleadingly cropped Jon Stewart's comments on the emails, removing Stewart's statement that "of course" the information contained in the emails doesn't "disprove" global warming.
From the December 9 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown:
Loading the player reg...
From the December 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
Loading the player reg...
A headline at Andrew Breitbart's website Breitbart.tv falsely claimed that Al Gore admitted that "temperatures cause CO2 to increase not other way around." In fact, in Gore's 2007 congressional testimony that Breitbart highlighted, Gore acknowledged that temperature increases have occasionally preceded CO2 increases, but also that "[t]he opposite has also been true in the past"; moreover, Breitbart omitted Gore's ensuing comments, which reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming, that "what's happening now is that we because of human action are overwhelming all of those cycles."
Human Events' Jed Babbin falsely claimed that Alan Carlin - who Babbin called a "leading EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] scientist" - had been "silenced" because "EPA regulators refused to consider" his report "rejecting the theory that emission of greenhouse gases causes global warming," and compared this "coverup" to the "scandal" over the purported contents of emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). In fact, Carlin is an economist, not a scientist; both Carlin and climate scientists have pointed to "flaws" in his report; the EPA nonetheless reportedly stated that his report had been reviewed for use in their final report; and Carlin is indeed listed among the "authors and contributors" of that final report.
From the December 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
Loading the player reg...
After hackers reportedly stole emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), word of the criminal breach and use of the emails to attempt to undermine the overwhelming consensus on global warming moved from the blogs of climate-change skeptics, where links to the emails were originally posted by anonymous commenters, to foreign media outlets and right-wing political blogs. Media Matters for America tracks the story's movement across the Internet, which took less than two days and culminated in a call by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) for an investigation into "the IPCC and on the United Nations on the way that they cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled."
From the December 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
On the extraordinarily unlikely chance that anyone out there takes Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard seriously, his latest offering should put an end to that:
Later, Sheppard declared Chetry's mention of a snowstorm "absolutely delicious."
Whenever you see someone suggesting that a December snowstorm in New England undermines the scientific consensus behind global warming, you know one of two things is true: Either they are a fool, or they think you are.
It's basically the equivalent of saying "The economy is fine: Bill Gates still has a lot of money." And yet it is one of the central talking points of the right-wing media's assault on global warming science.
On December 9, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Sarah Palin calling on President Obama to boycott the Copenhagen conference, which advanced several debunked claims about what recently stolen emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia "reveal" about the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, including the claims that climate scientists "manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals." Palin also claimed that "we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes."
From the December 9 edition of the Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
The Washington Post has published an op-ed by Sarah Palin in which she claims that the apparently stolen Climatic Research Unit emails "reveal that leading climate 'experts' ... manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures." This is simply false. The emails do not discuss hiding a "decline" in "global temperatures." Indeed, the Post's own news reporting directly contradicts Palin's claim. The Post needs to run a correction and explain to its readers why it allowed this nonsense to be published in the first place.
Palin is referring to a 1999 email in which CRU's Phil Jones wrote:
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Palin claims that by "hide the decline," Jones is referring to some sort nefarious conspiracy to conceal an actual decrease in "global temperatures." But this is absurd on its face. Here's a chart of average global temperatures published in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2001 report:
Beginning in the mid-1960s, there's a pretty clear long-term warming trend. In other words, there was no "decline" in "global temperatures" for Jones to hide.
So what was Jones talking about? The Washington Post has actually explained it on its news pages. In a December 5 Post article, David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin reported that Jones "wrote a colleague that he would 'hide' a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements."
In other words, four days after two Washington Post science reporters explained that Jones was saying that he replaced problematic tree ring data with "more accurate" data from actual temperature measurements, the Post op-ed page allows Palin to claim that Jones was somehow concealing a decline in temperatures that never actually existed.
Media Matters has documented at length the distortions of Jones' 1999 email. And in a December 8 London Times op-ed, Andrew Watson, research professor at the University of East Anglia, debunked the very claim that Palin is now making:
In the one most quoted, the director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU), Phil Jones, talks about using a "trick" to "hide the decline". At first reading, this easily translates as "deceiving [politicians, other scientists, everyone] into believing the world is warming when it is actually cooling".
But it doesn't mean that at all. Jones is talking about a line on a graph for the cover of a World Meteorological Organisation report, published in 2000, which shows the results of different attempts to reconstruct temperature over the past 1,000 years. The line represents one particular attempt, using tree-ring data for temperature. The method agrees with actual measurements before about 1960, but diverges from them after that - for reasons only partly understood, discussed in the literature.
The tree-ring measure declines, but the actual temperatures after 1960 go up. They draw the line to follow the tree-ring reconstruction up to 1960 and the measured temperature after that. The notes explain that the data are "reconstructions, along with historical and long instrumental records". Not very clear perhaps, but not much of a "trick".
The RealClimate blog, which, unlike Sarah Palin's op-ed, is written by actual climate scientists, provided a similar explanation:
Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term "trick" to refer to a "a good way to deal with a problem", rather than something that is "secret", and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"-see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
On the December 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent James Rosen advanced the claim that "climate-gate" revealed that "some leading proponents of global warming [...] destroyed" raw temperature data. In fact, according to the scientists, the raw data is still available at the meteorological services where they obtained it and Climate Research Unit director Phil Jones said the CRU simply did not keep copies for "less than 5 percent of its original station data" in its database because those "stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends."
On November 23, Fishbowl DC published an internal Fox News memo detailing the network's new "zero tolerance" policy for errors. Today -- barely two weeks later -- Fox News attempted to explain why it wasn't going to take any action to correct the following December 4 segment in which three Fox hosts and the Fox News graphics department used a string of falsehoods to turn "59 percent" into "close to 100 percent."
Here's what happened.
This morning, Media Matters' Simon Maloy caught Fox & Friends displaying a graphic that falsely suggested that 94 percent of respondents told Rasmussen Reports that it is somewhat or very likely that "scientists falsif[ied] research to support their own theories on global warming."
As Simon explained:
What happened? Well, here's the Rasmussen poll Fox & Friends cited. They asked respondents: "In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?" According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren't sure).
Fox News' graphics department added together the "very likely" and "somewhat likely" numbers to reach 59 percent, and called that new group "somewhat likely." Then, for some reason, they threw in the 35 percent "very likely" as their own group, even though they already added that number to the "somewhat likely" percentage. Then they mashed together the "not very likely" and "not likely at all" groups, and threw the 15 percent who were unsure into the waste bin. Voila -- 120 percent.
As such, Fox News' presentation of the data made it seem as though 94 percent of Americans think it's at least "somewhat likely" that climate scientists falsify their research data.
So Media Matters sent an open letter to Fox News asking how the network would deal with the falsehood in light of its new policy of "zero tolerance for on-screen errors."
Well, Politico's Michael Calderone reports that Fox News has decided to respond to the falsehood by claiming it didn't happen:
But Lauren Petterson, executive producer of Fox & Friends, told POLITICO that she sees no error in the graphic. And for that reason, there will be no reprimand of staff under the "zero tolerance" policy.
"We were just talking about three interesting pieces of information from Rasmussen," Petterson said. "We didn't put on the screen that it added up to 100 percent."
While Petterson maintains that Fox & Friend's didn't err in displaying the information from Rasmussen, she acknowledges that the presentation wasn't perfect. "The mistake I do see is we could have been a little clearer here," she said.
Fox's position is absurd. As Calderone notes, "its understandable why a viewer would look at the numbers stacked up like this on-screen and assume that '94 percent of American's think it's at least "somewhat likely" that climate scientists falsify their research data.' "
One "viewer" who apparently "assumed" that was ... Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy. Here's how he described the Rasmussen poll while Fox was showing that graphic:
DOOCY: Let's go ahead and take a look: Did scientists falsify research to support their own theories on global warming? This is a brand new Rasmussen poll. About 60 percent of you say, "Somewhat likely." Thirty-five percent say, "Very likely." So you got 90 -- you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely, although 26 percent say, "Not very likely."
So in purporting to explain the poll results, Doocy claimed that 60 percent of respondents answered, "Somewhat likely." This is false. Only 24 percent of respondents said that; the "about 60 percent" figure actually combines the "somewhat likely" and "very likely" respondents. Doocy then suggested that a separate group of respondents -- 35 percent -- said, "Very likely." Doocy then attempted to add those two figures together, saying, "So you got 90 -- you got a lot of people right there thinking it is likely."
But the falsehoods didn't stop there. As soon as Doocy finished misrepresenting the poll, co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Eric Bolling explained that since the poll had been conducted before the apparent theft and disclosure of climate scientists' private emails, the percentage of people who think scientists are falsifying data might now be "substantially higher" -- perhaps "close to 100 percent":
CARLSON: In the spirit of fairness, I believe that question was asked before these emails were revealed, so that poll number may actually be different now.
BOLLING: Substantially higher?
CARLSON: It might be, yes.
BOLLING: Close to 100 percent now.
This is completely false. The right-wing media began lying about the Climatic Research Unit emails on November 20. The Rasmussen poll was conducted December 1-2. It included a question about the CRU emails. So, no, the current figure is probably not "substantially higher," and it is certainly not "close to 100 percent."
As Media Matters' Ari Rabin-Havt put it, "On Fox News, percentages don't add up to 100 and, apparently, 'zero tolerance' means unless we get caught."