Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) criticized the "lack of news coverage" of a House bill that would ban labeling requirements for genetically modified foods, in a statement to Media Matters.
Responding to Media Matters' July 24 analysis of coverage by network and cable news programs, Rep. Conyers said that "[p]eople deserve to know what's in their food" but that a lack of media attention means "most Americans have been denied basic information about the debate in Congress." Conyers added, "It's time for our nation's major news organizations to shine light on sweeping changes to our food system."
Conyers' full statement read:
HR 1599 is an unprecedented corporate power-grab, which would not only stop the Food and Drug Administration and states from labeling GMOs but also block many state and local efforts to protect farmers and the public from threats including pesticide drift. People deserve to know what's in their food. More than 90% of Americans want GMO labelling according to recent polling. Sadly -- due to a lack of news coverage about HR 1599 -- most Americans have been denied basic information about the debate in Congress. It's time for our nation's major news organizations to shine light on sweeping changes to our food system.
H.R. 1599, which passed the House on July 23 and now heads to the Senate, would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), and allow food companies to describe products containing GMO ingredients as "natural." Environmental and consumer rights organizations have denounced the bill because it would keep consumers in the dark when a vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether their food contains GMOs.
In recent weeks, major broadcast networks and primetime cable news programs have completely ignored debate and passage of a House bill that would prevent states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumer rights advocates, environmental groups, and the vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley was on solid ground when he recently linked climate change to the rise of ISIL, but Fox personalities and other conservative media figures have continued their deceptive onslaught against his remarks.
As Media Matters detailed, multiple expert studies and reports explain how a severe drought likely due to climate change caused economic and social conditions in Syria to deteriorate, which provided "tinder" for the 2011 uprising there. Experts have also detailed how ISIL took advantage of Syria's civil war to gain territory and establish a base of operations in the country. O'Malley summarized this research accurately during a July 20 interview with Bloomberg Television, saying "Climate change and the mega-drought ...created a humanitarian crisis" in Syria that "led now to the rise of ISIL."
In response -- and in spite of the evidence -- right-wing media figures relentlessly mocked O'Malley, as Media Matters catalogued. But some of the worst reactions have occurred since our piece was published.
On the July 21 edition of Fox Business' Kennedy, host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery and her panelists agreed that O'Malley is "a moron," with Kennedy mockingly declaring: "I guess when you mix a rise in temperature with a lack of water, you get an Islamic caliphate!" Joanne Nosuchinsky, co-host of Fox News' Red Eye, then compared O'Malley's comments to saying "my use of aerosol hairspray is as bad as beheadings":
And on the July 21 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said O'Malley "suffers from A.B.I.S., or Anything But Islam Syndrome. It's like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), except he's the pain in the ass":
Read more about the connection between global warming and the rise of ISIL here.
Right-wing media are mocking Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley for stating that a severe drought linked to climate change created a "humanitarian crisis" in Syria leading to the rise of the jihadist organization known as ISIL (or ISIS). But O'Malley's remarks are backed up by studies and reports affirming the link between human-caused global warming, the Syrian civil war, and the emergence of ISIL.
To deny the fact that polar bears are in danger of extinction from unmitigated climate change, the Daily Caller turned to a Heartland Institute-affiliated biologist who dismissed scientific computer climate models as an "opinion."
"The single most important step for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrote this week in their draft recovery plan for polar bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The plan was issued after newly released data from the U.S. Geological Services (USGS) showed that greenhouse gas emissions are the species' "primary threat," due to the predicted Arctic sea ice loss that will diminish polar bears' habitat and food supplies.
But don't worry, polar bears are "doing just fine," according to the Daily Caller.
To refute the federal agencies' warnings, the conservative news publication turned to scientists affiliated with the fossil fuel-backed Heartland Institute. Daily Caller first quoted Canadian biologist Mitchell Taylor, who dismissed the USGS' report because he said it is "based on climate models, not empirical data." The agency's climate models are "an expression of their opinion," said Taylor, adding that "it's simply their idea of what will happen if the carbon models are correct."
Taylor prefers "empirical data" to modeled forecasts of climate change. However, the empirical data also show that Arctic sea ice has been declining at record rates. The sea ice levels recently were at their lowest for the month of May since record-keeping began in the 1980s, and have been on a steady decline since then.
Taylor was a contributing author for the Heartland Institute's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC) report that attempts to mirror and debunk UN climate science reports. He has also signed the Manhattan Declaration, which posits that carbon dioxide -- the primary factor in human-caused climate change -- is "not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life."
Daily Caller also quoted zoologist Susan Crockford, who dismissed the USFWS report as alarmist and "flawed," and who also co-authored Heartland's report. The online outlet frequently turns to Crockford to deny global warming's impact on wildlife.
A new report exposes the many ways that Big Oil has been working to deceive the public on climate change over the past several decades. The media has fallen for many of its tactics, effectively allowing the industry to change the debate on climate science and hide the industry backing behind its front groups and campaigns.
For nearly three decades, top executives at ExxonMobil have known that fossil fuel emissions harm the climate, according to a document uncovered by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). And since then, the UCS report shows, Exxon and other major oil companies have been working to "deceive the public" about the truth on climate change.
The UCS report -- titled "The Climate Deception Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation" -- is based on a trove of internal company and trade association documents and identifies seven tactics that oil companies have used to sow misinformation and sway public opinion in its favor. Several of these tactics involve spreading "disinformation," and the media has taken the bait. Here's how:
A key document uncovered by UCS is a 1998 memo from the American Petroleum Institute (API) that includes a draft "Global Climate Science Communications Plan." The plan's stated goal is that a "majority of the American public, including industry leadership, recognizes that significant uncertainties exist in climate science, and therefore raises questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change." API's plan says one of its hoped-for "victories" is for media coverage to "reflect balance on climate science." And indeed, false balance is rampant in mainstream media coverage of climate science. For example, in 2014, every broadcast Sunday news show except CBS' Face the Nation aired segments that included false balance on climate science.
Another API "victory" was for media to recognize "the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current 'conventional wisdom'" on climate change. A 2013 study published in Public Understanding of Science found that conservative media frequently portray contrarians and deniers as objective experts on science. Mainstream media outlets often follow suit, such as when several major newspapers earlier this year described the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute as merely one of many climate "skeptics," which lent validity to the organization's criticism of Pope Francis' climate change encyclical.
UCS also discovered that API vowed to make the media "understand... uncertainties in climate science." Conservative media often push the false myth that climate science is "unsettled," and a heavy focus on "uncertainties" in climate science is an unfortunate trend in media stories: a 2013 study from Oxford University showed that nearly 80 percent of climate change stories surveyed were framed in the context of uncertainty. Meanwhile, the science behind human-caused climate change is in fact settled, with the same level of certainty as the science behind cigarettes' causing deadly disease.
UCS' report also shows how the oil industry has created fake grassroots organizations to lobby on behalf of the fuel companies. Several Media Matters reports have detailed the media's failure to disclose the funding behind many pro-industry organizations and campaigns -- most notably, Americans for Prosperity, the "grassroots" front group created by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.
Finally, UCS reveals the extensive role played by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects industry executives to state legislators and pushes legislation that furthers the oil industry's agenda. Again, many media outlets have failed to disclose the industry interests behind several ALEC campaigns, particularly its attempts to dismantle clean energy policies.
"Doubt is our product," a tobacco executive once said, kicking off a decades-long campaign to hide the deadly impacts of smoking from consumers. The fossil fuel industry's campaign to sow uncertainty and introduce doubt into climate change coverage shows how the industry is taking yet another page from Big Tobacco's playbook.
The conservative website Daily Caller argued that President Obama's executive action to bring solar energy to low-income communities would be costly, but to prove its point, it cited a solar energy project that will bring millions in economic benefits.
On July 7, the Obama administration announced an initiative that will make it easier for all Americans -- but those in low- and moderate-income communities in particular -- to access solar energy. In response, the Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch criticized one of the initiative's key components: a program to encourage the development of community solar programs, known as "solar gardens" -- large, centrally-located solar arrays from which community members can purchase solar energy in exchange for credits on their electric bills.
Bastasch warned that solar gardens "could increase costs and bring dubious benefits." To make his point, he cited Denver's plan to power 16 city-owned buildings with solar energy from community solar gardens. But far from being costly, the project is expected to save the city $6 million over the next 20 years.
Climate change deniers have been talking a lot about "energy poverty" to criticize Pope Francis' landmark climate change encyclical, claiming that the policies he supports would harm the poor by making energy prohibitively expensive. But media should think twice before uncritically reporting the fossil fuel industry's energy poverty campaign, which is misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst, as multiple investigations have compared the campaign to the tactics of Big Tobacco and highlighted how both could harm poor communities.
Two major U.S. coal companies are at the center of the fossil fuel industry's energy poverty campaign: Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. In advance of the encyclical, Arch Coal blasted out a list of talking points to fight back, claiming that the encyclical does not "address the tragedy of global energy poverty." Similarly, Peabody is behind a campaign that began last year called "Advanced Energy for Life," which aims to build "awareness and support to eliminate energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions through advanced clean coal technologies."
It is true that access to modern forms of energy is essential for alleviating poverty by providing increased access to education and health services. But fossil fuels are not necessarily the answer, as many experts and reports have detailed. Energy poverty is largely a rural phenomenon, where centralized energy systems -- a precondition for expanding access to coal -- are simply not feasible. According to experts who have worked on the ground to provide energy to rural communities, off-grid energy solutions are far more economical, and renewables in particular are often more effective at bringing electricity to communities cheaply and quickly.
Moreover, the coal industry's misleading campaign to push their product in poor communities has drawn comparisons to Big Tobacco's efforts to push tobacco use worldwide.
Fossil fuel advocates are criticizing Pope Francis' recent climate encyclical, claiming his call to phase out fossil fuels will harm the poor by preventing access to electricity and keeping them in "energy poverty." But fossil fuels are not economically viable in most of the communities that suffer from a lack of electricity, and on-the-ground experts have explained that distributed renewable energy sources are often a more effective way to lift the world's impoverished -- who will be most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change -- out of energy poverty.