Conservative media are defending the "right" of fossil fuel companies to knowingly deceive the public about climate change, after a group of climate scientists and members of Congress called for an investigation of such companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Contrary to claims by conservative media that these advocates are seeking to "shut down free speech," RICO would only apply to those who purposefully misled the public about climate change, with some Congressmen pointing to recent reports that ExxonMobil funded climate science denial for decades after discovering that fossil fuels drive climate change.
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Newspapers across the country have been publishing falsehood-laden op-eds attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan written by attorney and former utility regulator Terry Jarrett. But these newspapers have failed to disclose that Jarrett and his law firm have significant ties to the fossil fuel industry.
The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli criticized Breitbart News and multiple UK-based outlets for mischaracterizing a recent scientific study to promote climate denial and seeming "more interested in promoting a specific political cause ... than in getting the facts right," which Nuccitelli called "the very definition of propaganda."
In an October 15 article, Nuccitelli highlighted false claims by the conservative media outlets about a recent study on isoprene -- a gas that helps clouds form and can impact temperatures. The study found that oceans are emitting more of this gas than previously observed, which, as Nuccitelli wrote, could "reconcile" a previous "discrepancy between measurements and models." Several conservative news outlets used the study to cast doubt on human-caused global warming, with the Daily Express reporting that the study "throws previous estimates of rising temperatures into doubt," The Register claiming that the study shows "there isn't as much urgency" about global warming "as had been thought," and Breitbart News claiming that its findings "may pose a serious threat to man-made global warming theory."
The mischaracterizations led one of the study's authors to publicly argue that the study does not support such conclusions and dispute the notion that it provides evidence against global warming. Nuccitelli reported that Christian George told Carbon Brief: "Our study is a new brick that should help understanding our complex world, by providing new knowledge on air-sea exchanges, but it definitively does not question climate change, it just helps us understand its impact. There is no question that the global climate will become warmer. The question is just how much, how fast and how the effects will change our lives." Nuccitelli concluded that the conservative media outlets "seemed more interested in promoting a specific political cause -- undermining efforts to implement climate policies -- than in getting the facts right," adding that their misuse of science to suit a political agenda was "the very definition of propaganda."
Conservative media outlets have a long history of twisting scientific studies on climate change to dispute the overwhelming consensus that humans are responsible for climate change.
From The Guardian:
Marine isoprene releases could only cause global warming or cooling if the level of the emissions were to change. However, this paper merely suggests that the overall level of isoprene emissions is higher than previously thought, not that the levels are changing. And in fact the study indicates that climate model simulations might be more accurate on ocean isoprene emissions than previously believed.
Conservative media outlets choose propaganda over journalism
However, several conservative media outlets falsely claimed that the study had uncovered a "global cooling process." Writing for Breitbart, James Delingpole claimed that the paper "may pose a serious threat to man-made global warming theory." The Register and Express both claimed that temperatures have been stable for 15 years (they've actually risen by about 0.2°Cduring that time), and that this paper could explain that fictional temperature stability.
The problem lies in the fact that unlike Carbon Brief, whose reporters discussed the study and its implications with two climate scientists including one of the study authors, these conservative media outlets tried to interpret its meaning on their own. This led to mischaracterizations of the paper that Professor Forster described as "quite crazy."
All of these conservative media pieces misrepresenting the paper shared another characteristic. Each revealed its bias by wishfully suggesting the international climate negotiations that will soon be held in Paris could be undermined by the study's findings.
Rather than contact the study's authors or any other climate scientists, the Express and Breitbart quoted Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist, climate fake expert, and director of the anti-climate policy Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The UK government's Charity Commission ruled last year that the GWPF was blurring fact and comment on climate change, lacked neutrality, and promoted a contrarian position on the subject.
In essence, The Register, Express, and Breitbart seemed more interested in promoting a specific political cause - undermining efforts to implement climate policies - than in getting the facts right. And presenting misleading information to promote a political agenda is the very definition of propaganda.
From the October 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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In an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, oil industry billionaire Charles Koch made two false or highly implausible claims that were not addressed by CBS' Anthony Mason: that all of his political spending is "reported" and that he opposes all government subsidies. In reality, Koch-backed dark money groups are heavily involved in elections, and Koch Industries officials have lobbied to protect oil industry subsidies.
Fox News' Steve Doocy agreed with GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Senator Bernie Sanders was way off base when he mentioned climate change as the greatest national security threat facing the U.S. during the first Democratic presidential debate. But Sanders' answer is backed up by multiple U.S. military organizations and experts who consider global warming a key threat to our nation's security.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade aired clips showing how Sanders and Hillary Clinton responded when asked to name the greatest national security threat facing the country. Clinton cited the "continued threat from the spread of nuclear weapons," while Sanders stated: "The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable."
Kilmeade then asked Bush, "[a]re they right?" Bush responded by declaring that climate change isn't in "the top ten" greatest threats to the U.S., and that "most people would want to hear" about "serious national security challenges" related to terrorism and foreign policy instead. Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, replying: "You're probably right."
But the U.S. Department of Defense, the G7 Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, and many other military experts agree that climate change a top national security threat. In fact, the Department of Defense's 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review stated that climate change impacts, such as resource scarcity and severe weather, are "threat multipliers" that will create conditions that can "enable terrorist activity." That's one reason why the Pentagon is already preparing for the impacts of climate change.
From the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
JEB BUSH: I don't think climate change ranks in the top ten list when you consider that we have these asymmetric threats of Islamic terrorism, organized to destroy western civilization. You have nation states like Russia on the run, where we're pulling back, creating big problems for ourselves and our allies. You see the threats on Israel, the threats to Europe across the board. We have serious national security challenges in this world today because of the weakness of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. And that would be the answer I think that most people would want to hear.
DOOCY: You're probably right.
The Democratic presidential candidates will gather in Las Vegas for their first primary debate on October 13, and NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer is urging CNN debate moderator Anderson Cooper to make climate change and clean energy a central part of the discussion.
In a September 29 letter to Cooper, Steyer wrote that while three major candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders -- have recognized the threat posed by climate change and taken strong stands on key climate-related issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, Arctic drilling, and the EPA's Clean Power Plan, "the candidates have yet to discuss their specific plans to comprehensively address climate change and build a clean energy economy." That's why, according to Steyer, Cooper has "a unique opportunity to push the Democratic presidential candidates" to "articulate, defend and refine" their climate and clean energy plans.
In addition to making his case based on the urgency of addressing climate change, Steyer's letter cited polls showing that climate change is a "top-tier issue for Democratic voters" and argued that these voters "demand nothing less than a robust discussion" about the issue.
Cooper recently told the Huffington Post that he wasn't aware of Steyer's letter and wouldn't commit to asking about climate change in next week's debate. Cooper did acknowledge, however, that "environmental issues are of great interest" to both Democrats and the country as a whole, and he hinted that it is "entirely possible" he'll ask the candidates about the topic. CNN's Jake Tapper asked several GOP candidates about climate change during the cable network's Republican primary debate on September 16.
But NextGen Climate isn't taking any chances. In an October 7 blog post, the group pointed out that The Washington Post's Greg Sargent also believes that Democratic primary voters "deserve to know more specifics about the contenders' [climate] solutions," and concluded: "You're up, Anderson." NextGen also urged supporters to tweet some climate- and energy-related questions to Cooper:
Because of both the magnitude of the climate crisis and importance of the issue to Democratic voters, NextGen has called on the Democratic Party to add another primary-season debate to its schedule that will focus entirely on climate change and clean energy. But in the meantime, Tuesday's CNN debate presents an opportunity to get the conversation started.
Image at top via Flickr user mroach using a Creative Commons License.
In addition to repeating debunked claims that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standard will harm the economy and do nothing to improve public health, conservative media are pointing to ozone that naturally occurs in national parks as supposed evidence that the EPA standard is unfair and unnecessary. But while some "background ozone" does come from natural sources like wildfires -- and from industrial pollution drifting into a state from outside the U.S. -- levels of background ozone are not high enough to prevent states from meeting the EPA's new standard, and states are not responsible for reducing it.
Students and alumni at Santa Clara University are protesting an upcoming speech by syndicated columnist George Will. After Will "trivialized" campus sexual assault victims in a 2014 column, he has faced widespread opposition at schools that have hosted him. Last year, Will was uninvited from a speech at Scripps College and protested by hundreds of students at two other schools.
Will first came under fire after his June 2014 column dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" and argued that efforts to combat campus sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
A petition at Change.org states that the signatories are "extremely disappointed" with Will's inclusion in Santa Clara's President's Speaker Series on October 8. "We find Will's flatly dismissive statements about sexual assault, climate change, and the Pope not only disrespectful," the petition states, "but contrary to the very spirit of a speaker series dedicated to 'engaging people and ideas that shape our world'" (emphasis added):
While we believe that hosting speakers with a wide range of political viewpoints is vital to the intellectual life of the university, publications by Will demonstrate that he is not interested in the kinds of presentation and discussion that make this series a successful contribution to the mission of the university.
Will has repeatedly issued statements that both trivialize the problem of campus sexual assaults and invalidate the experiences and feelings of sexual assault survivors. Moreover, his recent claim that national and local efforts to combat campus rape have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" is not merely misguided, but deeply misogynistic and ignorant.
The invitation of Will, at considerable financial cost to the university, sends a profoundly contradictory message to our campus community and particularly our students. At this year's university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff -- and the institution as a whole -- to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country.
Featuring George Will in the President's Speaker Series also undercuts the dedication of many universities (including SCU) to promoting sustainability, an effort Will derides as a silly "progressive gesture." Moreover, leading climatologist Michael Mann notes, "George Will is known for grossly misstating the science of climate change." Ironically, in a recent opinion piece titled "Pope Francis's fact free flamboyance," Will described Pope Francis as embracing ideas "impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary," with the "intellectual tone of fortune cookies."
Last October, Will was uninvited from a speaking engagement at Scripps College, after the school's president said Will had "trivialized" sexual assault cases, including one "that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students." Later in the year, hundreds showed up to protest a speech Will gave at Miami University in Ohio, while over a thousand students signed a letter criticizing the speech. Some students at Michigan State University also turned their backs on Will during his recent commencement speech. Other students and faculty at MSU even held a separate commencement ceremony, and Michigan Senator (and MSU alumna) Debbie Stabenow condemned the decision to host Will.
Image of Miami University protest courtesy of the Facebook page of the school's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
The last time Newsweek published an anti-environment op-ed without disclosing the author's oil industry ties, the esteemed news outlet was forced to acknowledge the error and provide proper disclosure to its readers. Now it's happened again.
On October 1, Newsweek published an op-ed by the Cato Institute's Walter Olson that argued against calls for the government to investigate climate science deniers under the federal racketeering law. But Newsweek identified Olson only as "a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies," failing to disclose that Cato has received funding from the oil industry, including ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil is currently under fire after an InsideClimate News investigation revealed that although Exxon's own scientists discovered decades ago that fossil fuel emissions could lead to catastrophic climate change, the company subsequently "spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed." Additionally, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and a group of 20 prominent scientists have called for an investigation of "corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the same law that tobacco companies violated by deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking.
In his Newsweek op-ed, Olson pushed back against the idea of investigating climate science deniers under the RICO statute, claiming it threatens the right to free speech. Olson asserted that "controversial speech need not be true to be protected" and defended the right to use "half-truths, selectively marshaled data, [and] scientific studies that spring from agendas," arguing that these tactics are merely "common currency of everyday debate in Washington."
Newsweek failed to disclose the Cato Institute's industry funding, which includes at least $125,000 from ExxonMobil. Cato was co-founded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and has received millions of dollars from the Koch family.
The Cato Institute is also home to long-time climate science denier Patrick Michaels, and once published a fake "addendum" to a federal climate report, which Climate Science & Policy Watch characterized as "counterfeit."
In April, Newsweek published a deeply-flawed op-ed attacking wind energy by Utah State University professor Randy T. Simmons without disclosing that Simmons' full title at Utah State was the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy, or that he is a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. After Media Matters and others drew attention to the lack of disclosure and other problems with the op-ed, Newsweek added a correction and an editor's note disclosing Simmons' oil industry ties, and also published an op-ed responding to his misleading claims.
Following the incident, Newsweek Managing Editor Kira Bindrim told Politico: "Admittedly, we did not do an outside vetting of Simmons, and we are not in the habit of fully fact-checking opinion pieces picked up like this from outside sites. These are aspects of our workflow that we're looking at now."
Image at the top from Flickr user Tommaso Galli with a Creative Commons license.
The president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) lashed out at The Washington Post for exposing his organization's oil industry funding, baselessly describing a Post article about the group's anti-environmental agenda as "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims."
The Post recently helped pull back the curtain on the NBCC's fossil fuel-friendly agenda. In a September 28 article, The Post reported that the NBCC has been fighting an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to reduce ground-level ozone pollution, the primary component of smog, and also noted that the NBCC is heavily funded by ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests. The NBCC has been fighting air pollution standards and climate change action for decades.
NBCC president Harry Alford decried the Washington Post article in a column on his organization's website, titled "Environmental Extremists seem to be going cuckoo." Without identifying any specific errors in the Post article, Alford wrote that that it contained "[l]ies, innuendos and false claims" and "misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce." He also described the Post article as "incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos," but failed to elaborate.
From Alford's post on the NBCC website:
Just this week, the super liberals put out misinformation about the National Black Chamber of Commerce via the Washington Post newspaper. Lies, innuendos and false claims. The reporting was less than professional and we attempted to explain the misrepresentations to their Ombudsman. To our surprise, the Post doesn't have an Ombudsman to whom readers can go to correct inaccuracies. They even claim one of the "gotcha" men stalking me with a camera is a "writer". Just a few years ago he was in security at the Detroit Westin Hotel. Give me a break! The others they quoted also have hidden agendas.
The misinformation articles, the lies and stalking us around the country are flattering. But we didn't become the number one Black business association in the world by being timid. There are a lot of "broke face" governors, senators, congresspersons and corporate CEO's who have learned this the hard way. We got a big laugh from the incomplete reporting, replete with racial innuendos. As my late mentor, Arthur A. Fletcher, once told me, "When you get on the front page of the Post you are in Tall Cotton and that ain't bad. The fact is they are fearing your movement and your side is apparently winning."
The truth always wins eventually.
Rush Limbaugh criticized Politico and other media outlets for reporting on his remarks that NASA's discovery of water of Mars was part of a "left-wing agenda," claiming the remarks were taken out of context. However, when asked by Politico to explain how, a Limbaugh spokesman refused to explain.
On the September 28 edition of his show, Limbaugh, talking about NASA's announcement that day it had discovered liquid water on Mars, claimed NASA had been "corrupted by the current regime" and, referencing global warming, asked, "what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?" Limbaugh doubled down on his remarks the next day, claiming Media Matters took his remarks "out of context" and that "Obama has turned NASA over to Muslim outreach."
Politico's Eliza Collins, writing about Limbaugh's criticism of the media reports on his remarks, noted "It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted." Collins added a Limbaugh spokesman "declined to elaborate." She also noted "[a] transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word":
Rush Limbaugh took a swipe Tuesday at POLITICO and others who had reported on his recent comments about the discovery of water on Mars -- saying that his remarks about how NASA's findings would be used to "advance a leftist agenda" were being misinterpreted.
"POLITICO has a story: 'Rush Limbaugh Pans Evidence of Water on Mars as Part of Leftist Agenda,' and they take it out of context, too, which is typical," he said on his show Tuesday. "I don't think this guy, Eliza Collins... I doubt that he went to my website to find out what I really said. Just looked at these 'watchdog' websites and took it from there."
On Monday, POLITICO wrote about a lengthy segment of the conservative radio host's show in which he predicted that the Mars discovery would be used to promote liberal views about climate change.
The original story on POLITICO cited a transcript and video of Limbaugh from the left-leaning website Media Matters, a long-time critic of the radio host that has called on advertisers to boycott his program. A transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word.
"This Mars thing is just totally all over the place out there, and every one of these people talking about it, from local TV news, say, in Dallas, or The Politico, are getting it totally out of context from our old buddies at Media Matters for America, which wouldn't know the truth if it knocked them unconscious," Limbaugh said Wednesday.
It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted. A spokesman for the radio host declined to elaborate.
Listen to Limbaugh's original remarks here:
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the September 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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