ESPN announcers Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes mainstreamed the right-wing myth that cold weather in January disproves man-made climate change.
During the first half of a January 7 game, Dykes discussed a pattern of cold weather blanketing much of the United States and said he had observed a national television debate earlier over "whether or not global warming was still taking place." While laughing Dykes said, "I listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate." Nessler laughed in response.
Regardless of whether Dykes and Nessler agree with the 97 percent of climate scientists who say that climate change is real and presents an immediate threat, or with climate deniers like Donald Trump, it's troubling that they would use their national platform to peddle right-wing myths.
On Sunday, CBS's flagship news magazine, 60 Minutes, aired a controversial and sloppy report that completely ignored the pressing threat of climate change while downplaying the need to invest in clean energy. CBS defended its reporting, including the decision not to mention climate change, by citing what it referred to as the show's "rich history" of reporting on the topic.
ESPN's broadcast of climate denialism only underscores the need for legitimate media organizations to treat the issue of global warming seriously and to make sure that it's part of the conversation.
As a network devoted to sports, ESPN has a unique responsibility to treat climate change seriously. An August 2013 Scientific American article made clear that climate change can have a direct impact on athletes:
"The climate's getting warmer so players are exposed to higher temperatures," said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist at the University of Georgia and a co-author of a 2012 study of heat related deaths in high schools nationwide. Across the country, deaths of high school football players due to heat nearly tripled from 1994 to 2009 compared to the previous 15 years, according to Grundstein's study. Heat illnesses in football players have multiple causes, experts say, but as the climate heats up, practices in Georgia - and around the country - are getting watered down just to be safe.
From the January 7 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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As the nation has recently experienced unusually cold winter weather, climate "skeptics" have emerged from within conservative media, casting doubt on the scientific consensus about manmade global warming -- a yearly phenomenon dubbed by MSNBC's Chris Hayes as "snow-trolling."
Stephen Colbert accurately summarized how conservatives often perform "simple observational research" to deny climate change: "Whatever just happened is the only thing that is happening." It appears many doubters need a lesson in the difference between weather and climate: a single weather event does not negate a long-term climate trend (although climatologists are actually getting better at identifying which extreme weather events that climate change has worsened). On average, the planet has been warming at a rate of 0.17°C, or 0.3°F*, per decade since 1971. The most recent decade was the planet's warmest on record -- even including a few cold winters.
CNN lived up to its reputation of providing false balance on climate science once again on the latest edition of Crossfire.
On January 6, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate and current co-host of Crossfire, opened the segment by introducing guests "on opposite sides of the global warming debate." He claimed to present some "inconvenient facts" to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, stating that "temperatures have flat lined for the past 16 years," (which is not true) and asking "Is it cold enough for you?" By contrast, Van Jones began by saying, "we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans," because scientific certainty on the matter is at the "same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS."
Recent cold weather nationwide apparently spurred the debate; earlier in the day, Crossfire's Twitter account tweeted, "TONIGHT's #Crossfire:historic lows bring out the climate change skeptics." They are right about the skeptics -- cold winter weather has prompted the right wing media to resume their tradition of "snow-trolling" in force, with some even suggesting that the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
But cold winter weather is not expected to go away with climate change and does not negate the long-term trend of global warming. And it is misleading to look at the United States' weather alone when talking about global warming -- for example, this past December tied for being the second-hottest December on record since 1979 globally, even while it was unusually cold in the United States. Additionally, the polar vortex responsible for dangerous Arctic-style weather across the Midwest could be connected to global warming.
As for Crossfire's "debate," the segment only demonstrated CNN's tendency to provide false balance on climate change. The show featured League of Conservation Voter's Navin Nayak and the Heritage Foundation's David Kreutzer. Kreutzer, an economist who has no scientific degree and who previously believed that global cooling defined this century's first decade, claimed that "what you call deniers agree" that "the world is getting warmer" and "some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount." But that didn't stop him from debasing the scientific consensus throughout the "debate" -- calling the 97 percent consensus a "bogus term."
Fox News hyped a photo from the Internet indicating that, at an unknown location, a copy of Al Gore's 2006 book An Inconvenient Truth is selling for $1. According to Amazon.com, numerous booksellers are currently selling the books of various Fox News hosts for that figure or less.
Fox News has a history of dismissing the science of climate change and launching bizarre personal attacks on Gore. Back in 2010, the network even showed a copy of Gore's book in the snow, as part of their annual tradition of using the existence of cold weather to try and attack the scientific consensus on climate change.
While reading headlines on Fox & Friends, "news anchor" Heather Nauert reported that the price of the former vice president's book had "melted to just one dollar," according to the price tag on a "picture that is now circulating on Twitter":
Well, talk about an inconvenient truth for former vice president Al Gore. There is a picture that is now circulating on Twitter, you can see this right here, and it shows the price of his book on the so-called "global warming crisis" -- well, it's melted to just one dollar. It's also labeled a super buy. Super buy. No word on exactly where this picture was taken, but on Amazon.com the book sells for about $12. It's a buck twenty to buy a used one.
There is nothing unusual about books being marked down. Indeed, Amazon reveals even better deals on books from Nauert's own colleagues. For example, a new, hardcover edition of Sean Hannity's 2004 book Let Freedom Ring will only cost you one cent from booksellers through the Amazon marketplace.
So will a new hardcover copy of The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy's "laugh-out-loud perspective on love, marriage, and family" from 2009. In fact, a bookseller in Minnesota will sell you a signed first edition of this guide to marital happiness for just $0.99 plus shipping.
Greta Van Susteren's My Turn At The Bully Pulpit is also available for less than a dollar new at Amazon booksellers. Bill O'Reilly's 2010 book Pinheads and Patriots is available new in hardcover for slightly more than Gore's at $2.70, but a used copy will cost you just $0.01.
Brian Kilmeade's 2007 sports book It's How You Play The Game is available new for just $2.85, but a "collectible" paperback edition is available for 99 cents. Booksellers are also promoting Kilmeade's latest book, George Washington's Secret Six, for $11.00 new -- a nearly 60 percent mark down for a book that came out just last November.
From the January 6 edition of Fox & Friends:
In its latest piece of shoddy journalism, CBS News' 60 Minutes is labeling cleantech a "dirty word" by ignoring the overall success rate of clean energy investments.
In October, 60 Minutes aired a report criticizing the response to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which eventually had to be pulled as it relied on an untrustworthy "witness" who apparently fabricated his story. Two months later, the news program was widely criticized for a one-sided report on the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
In another one-sided report on Sunday, 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl concluded that "instead of breakthroughs, the [cleantech] sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops" after stimulus investments, including the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. However, 60 Minutes simply ignored the cleantech breakthroughs that did occur in order to advance this misleading narrative. Here are four facts CBS left out of the story:
1. The DOE Loan Program Has A 97% Success Rate. In July 2012, the former head of the loan guarantee program testified to Congress that funds that went to bankrupt companies represented less than 3 percent of the total Department of Energy portfolio. In other words, the program so far has a 97-percent success rate, far better than that of venture capitalists.
2. Solar And Wind Have Had Big Wins In Recent Years. 60 Minutes made passing mention of Tesla Motors' success after receiving a federal loan guarantee. However, it left out many other successes -- such as SolarCity -- in its myopic focus on Solyndra and other bankrupt companies. Robert Rapier, an energy expert who contributes to the Wall Street Journal and was interviewed for the special, stated on Twitter that he "gave successes they didn't air" and told 60 Minutes "the future is solar power." In 2012, renewable energy was the largest source of new electric capacity, led by wind power. These charts from the Department of Energy highlighted by Think Progress show that as the costs of solar and wind power have decreased, installations have jumped:
3. In Addition To These Strides, Cleantech Jobs Were Created. Stahl claimed that "Everything I've read there were not that many jobs created." However, she never mentioned any actual figures for viewers to assess. The loan program office estimates that its investments have created or saved approximately 55,000 direct jobs.
4. Climate Change Necessitates Cleantech Investments. As energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out, 60 Minutes did not even make a passing mention of climate change. Instead, the program touted the rise of natural gas saying that it was "relatively clean." However, experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Council on Foreign Relations have noted that without significant investment to scale up renewables, climate change will continue apace.
UPDATE (1/6/14): Energy expert Robert Rapier told Think Progress that the 60 Minutes report selectively aired his comments, leaving out his response to Stahl's first question that highlighted the successes of solar and wind power and emphasized that Stahl's question, "Clean tech is dead. What killed it?" was based on a false premise. From Rapier's interview with Think Progress:
The first question Lesley Stahl asked me - "Clean Tech is dead. What killed it?"
I immediately said, "Clean tech is not dead." There are many parts of clean tech that are doing very well - solar power is growing by leaps and bounds, prices are plummeting, wind power is growing exponentially.
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
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From the January 2 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the January 2 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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Conservative pundit and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson questioned the reality of climate change by comparing it to the second coming of Jesus Christ, saying the difference is that "Jesus will return." But mounting evidence shows that climate change has already taken hold and will worsen if left unchecked, a fact accepted by many in the Christian community.
On January 2, Erickson sparked controversy on Twitter after he tweeted that "[t]he difference between people who believe in the 2nd coming of Jesus and those who believe in global warming is that Jesus will return":
Erickson's claim contradicts the position put forward by ranking members of the Christian community. In his inaugural mass on March 19, Pope Francis called upon "all men and women of goodwill" to be "protectors [...] of the environment":
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.
Catholic leaders have explicitly linked this need to be stewards of the environment with the fight against global climate change. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced in 2001 that it accepts the scientific consensus and "the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change":
As Catholic bishops, we make no independent judgment on the plausibility of "global warming." Rather, we accept the consensus findings of so many scientists and the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a basis for continued research and prudent action (see the sidebar: The Science of Global Climate Change). Scientists engaged in this research consistently acknowledge the difficulties of accurate measurement and forecasting. Models of measurement evolve and vary in reliability. Researchers and advocates on all sides of the issue often have stakes in policy outcomes, as do advocates of various courses of public policy. News reports can oversimplify findings or focus on controversy rather than areas of consensus. Accordingly, interpretation of scientific data and conclusions in public discussion can be difficult and contentious matters.
Catholic bishops are not alone in calling on Christians to accept the science that speaks to the urgent need for action against manmade climate change. A number of Christian institutions have called upon members to take action against climate change. In 2006, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a group that includes more than 300 evangelical Christian leaders from across the United States, urged members of the evangelical Christian faith to fight climate change because it "hit[s] the poor the hardest":
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Beyond leaders within the Christian community, a rough majority of Christians in the United States said that increasingly extreme natural disasters are evidence that the planet already feels the effects of climate change, recent polling data found.
Six out of 10 Catholics and half of all white evangelical Protestants agree that the growing trend in extreme weather events and natural disasters support the scientific consensus about climate change, according to a December 2012 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute:
Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) religiously unaffiliated Americans, 6-in-10 (60%) Catholics, and half (50%) of white evangelical Protestants agree that the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of global climate change.
Erickson's rhetoric emulates Rush Limbaugh's claim earlier this year when he informed his listeners, "If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something he can't create." In response, the Evangelical Environmental Network published an open letter asking him to "refrain from your harmful rhetoric on climate change":
As a lifelong Republican and an evangelical pro-life clergyman who pastored a local congregation for almost 20 years, spent fourteen years working in the coal industry, and now leads one of the oldest creation care ministries, I ask you to refrain from your harmful rhetoric on climate change. It is simply wrong.
Recently, you stated that "If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming." Nothing could be further from truth.
From the January 2 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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The evidence for climate change only got stronger this year, with a major climate report finding 95 percent confidence in manmade global warming and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hitting a record 400 parts per million. Climate doubters, in turn, became increasingly desperate, citing everything from a verified scam artist to the "Ouija board of weather."
We've compiled the 13 dumbest things media said about climate change in '13 -- you might be surprised to find which mainstream media outlets made the list.
13. Rush Limbaugh: Carbon Emissions "May Actually Be Making Things Cooler, Not Warmer." In April, Rush Limbaugh claimed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "may actually be making things cooler," going on to say that manmade global warming is a "political hoax." But the Economist article Limbaugh cited actually examined how much the Earth is warming from emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which by definition trap heat in the atmosphere.
If 2012 was the year of Solyndra, then 2013 was the year of Tesla, whose initial success has encapsulated the potential of clean energy. The electric automaker received a loan from the same overarching program as Solyndra, the bankrupt solar company that became the target of political attacks, but it turned a profit and became the poster child for clean energy subsidies. This confounded conservative media, who alternated between praising Tesla while denying or ignoring its federal loan, and putting it down just days later.
In addition to the more traditional targets -- electric cars like Tesla's, solar (allegedly "tanking the economy") and wind energy (supposedly causing "devastating" health effects) -- this year conservative media reached so far right as to go after energy efficiency and bike-share programs. We collected some of the worst attacks from conservative media against clean energy technology during 2013.