The Daily Caller reported that a new survey of meteorologists contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a simple opinion survey does not debunk that 97 percent of climate science papers found that human activities contribute to global warming -- rather, it only shows the stark differences between climate science research and meteorologists' beliefs.
A recent study conducted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its "professional members" to test how political ideologies and climate expertise influence opinions on manmade global warming. The study found that only 52 percent of its members believe global warming is happening and is caused mostly by humans. However, this study merely shows that the average opinions of meteorologists are at odds with the majority of scientific research on climate change, and does not, as the Daily Caller claimed, show that "there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought":
Not all scientists agree that global warming is man-made. Nearly half of meteorologists and atmospheric science experts don't believe that human activities are the driving force behind global warming, according to a survey by the American Meteorological Society.
This new AMS survey runs counter to the notion of a "97 percent" scientific consensus and shows that there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought. The 97 percent number came from a survey of published environmental papers written by scientists from around the world, while the AMS survey measured U.S.-based scientists.
This is not the first time that meteorologists and climate scientists have been at odds. A previous survey of TV weather forecasters found that 27 percent of respondents believed that "global warming is a scam," and more recent survey found that over half of TV forecasters don't believe in manmade climate change.
There are vast differences between meteorologists and climate change scientists, not limited to that their models are different and they ask different questions. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained in an email to Media Matters why a weather forecaster like Joe Bastardi should not be featured in the media to discuss climate change:
I might point out that Bastardi's background is in weather forecasting, not climate science. Asking him to comment on the science of climate change is rather like asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research. The media really ought to know better.
The AMS itself has criticized broadcasters for offering "nonscientific" opinions on climate change:
Increasing numbers of broadcast meteorologists, to whom the public looks for information and guidance on climate change and global warming, are not offering scientific information but rather, all too often, nonscientific personal opinions in the media, including personal blogs. Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any sold scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research."
The expertise of scientists actively researching climate change is well beyond that of most professional meteorologists, some of whom may only have basic training in weather analysis and forecasting. Nonetheless, the public sees media meteorologists as experts.
The antagonism between climate scientists and meteorologists is illustrated within the AMS survey itself; of the survey respondents with expertise in climate science and who actively publish on climate-related issues, 88 percent believe that humans play a major role in perpetuating global warming, and only 1 percent believe that global warming is not happening.
Fox News uncritically aired attacks on the approval of an environmental science textbook by the Texas Education Agency, saying its passage will "push particular viewpoints" as a result of "socialized education." But the textbook's passage had nothing to do with the Common Core Standards, and simply contains scientifically accurate information about hydraulic fracturing and climate change.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) approved a textbook titled Environmental Science to be on its list of recommended science textbooks last week, despite testimony from oil and gas advocate Becky Berger who claimed that the book is full of inaccuracies and "very one-sided." On November 25, Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Cynthia Dunbar formerly of the Texas State Board of Education, who fears that the passage of the scientifically accurate textbook is evidence that Common Core standards will beget "indoctrination through our textbooks."
Berger complained in the hearing that Environmental Science was full of "misleading, inaccurate and partial explanations" on the subjects of climate change, wind power, ozone layer depletion, and hydraulic fracturing risks. Berger, an oil and gas geologist who grew up deeply involved in the energy industry, claimed that the textbook in question misleads on the risks of hydraulic fracturing to water supplies. She reportedly spent two hours evaluating the book and provided "no actual written documentation to back up her claims," contrasting the months-long evaluation process from the state's official review teams, which did not find any substantive factual errors in the textbook. The review panel "identified three minor errors, but none of them having to do with the substance of the textbook," the Texas Tribune reported. However, this did not stop Doocy from suggesting that Berger's testimony was "disqualified" solely because she is currently "running for office as a Republican" to be Texas railroad commissioner.
Meanwhile, Common Core Standards have not been enacted in the state of Texas, something that Dunbar even pointed out during her interview with Doocy; the hearing was held by a state agency to approve new science textbooks in Texas public schools. However, Dunbar then advised citizens to be concerned about "socialized education," as textbook publishing companies "gear towards" the Common Core standards. In fact, Common Core currently doesn't have any specified regulations for textbooks; its website explains that the standards are designed simply to "enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies, including [...] the development of textbooks, digital media and other teaching materials aligned to the standards."
This is not the first time Fox has fretted over environmental education in public schools; when the Environmental Protection Agency hosted lesson plans on climate change, Fox Business cried "propaganda."
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change.
CNN aired the pro-nuclear power film "Pandora's Promise" on November 7, which propagated three common myths about nuclear power: it suggested the environmental movement's "scare tactics" are what has inhibited nuclear power, claimed nuclear power is cheaper than renewables, and downplayed complications from nuclear waste. This led to a generally one-sided story, which has led to criticism from many reviewers.
Here's how the film "Pandora's Promise" propagated nuclear power myths:
1. Claimed Nuclear Energy Is Cheaper Than Renewable Energy
The enormous cost of building nuclear power plants is a key inhibiting factor for the energy source. Despite receiving immensely greater subsidies than renewable energy from the beginning of its development, nuclear energy is still not competitive with fossil fuels in the United States, and new wind energy is estimated to be less expensive than new nuclear generation. Yet the Breakthrough Institute's Michael Shellenberger asserted that nuclear power is "a much more economical alternative to very expensive solar panels or very expensive wind turbines that require backup power." He also dismissed renewable energy and energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways to address climate change, as a "religion."
Renewable energy prices have actually been dropping while the costs of nuclear are on the rise -- as nuclear power has scaled up in France and the U.S., so have the costs of power plant construction. Meanwhile, solar prices have dropped 99 percent in the last quarter century, and solar and wind energies are predicted to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- without the use of subsidies -- by 2025.
A new study found that over the last 60 years the intermediate depths of the Pacific Ocean have warmed 15 times faster than in the past 10,000 years, providing more evidence that the "slowdown" in atmospheric temperature warming over the last 15 years may simply be due to the oceans storing more heat. However, this study was neglected by the same TV outlets who hyped the "slowdown" or "pause," sometimes without including this crucial context.
The study, published in Science on November 1, shows the enormous potential for oceans to act a "storehouse for heat and energy," providing support for the notion that a recent speed bump in atmospheric temperature rise in the past 15 years can be explained by excess heat from global warming being absorbed by the oceans. Study coauthor and Columbia University climate scientist Braddock Linsley explained, "We're experimenting by putting all this heat in the ocean without quite knowing how it's going to come back out and affect climate."
The recent findings were not covered by top U.S. TV outlets,* even though many of those same outlets recently focused on the "slowdown." A Media Matters study found that forty-one percent of media coverage of the the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) major report mentioned the "slowdown." A CBS segment on the report, for example, focused on the speed bump, calling it an "inconvenient truth" that "the global atmosphere hasn't been warming lately," and turning to a "skepti[c]" without a climate science background to cast doubt on climate change.
Focus on the warming "pause" has received criticism as it's misleading to use a short-term time period to draw conclusions. The IPCC explained, "natural variability and short term factors" causes uncertainty, and the short time period is "very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends." For example, many use the start date of 1998, but this year had an abnormally strong El Nino, temporarily amplifying atmospheric temperatures. As Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at NASA told Mother Jones, "If you shift just 2 years earlier, so use 1996-2010 instead of 1998-2012, the trend is 0.14 C per decade, so slightly greater than the long-term trend."
Fox News cherry-picked numbers to suggest that the cost of extreme weather events has decreased in past decades in order to attack President Obama's executive order to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. However, the damages from extreme weather events have been on the rise since 1980 and are projected to increase in part due to climate change.
On Fox and Friends' November 4 show, contributor Stuart Varney denied the link between climate change and certain extreme weather events in the United States, denouncing Obama's executive order on climate preparedness. To assist his claim, Varney cherry-picked statistics to falsely suggest that disaster costs have decreased since the 1980s -- including an incorrect statistic on Hurricane Sandy.
Though damages from Sandy totaled approximately $65 billion, according to the National Climatic Data Center, Varney incorrectly asserted that Sandy cost $19 billion in damages (this outdated number represented predicted damages to New York City only). He contrasted his $19 billion statistic to the $160 billion in losses from extreme weather events in 2005 -- the most costly year on record in terms of extreme weather events -- and the fact that weather disasters have cost the United States over $1 trillion since 1980. After prattling off these numbers, Fox and Friends co-anchor Brian Kilmeade exclaimed, "look how they've gone down, the number of disasters and the price!"
In reality, spending on weather disasters has increased since 1980, alongside the rise of extreme weather events costing at least one billion dollars in damages:
Despite Varney's claims, five top insurance companies have recognized that disaster losses are increasing, which may be related in part to climate change:
CNN and Fox News devoted massive coverage to the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, but both networks omitted any mention of climate change in their reporting despite its likely role in the extreme nature and devastation of the event.
Though it is difficult to determine just how much of Sandy's unprecedented destruction can be directly linked to climate change, climate scientists agree that higher tides produced by global warming exacerbated flooding from the storm, and hurricane severity is expected to increase as sea levels continue to rise. Unlike Fox and CNN, several MSNBC segments about the Sandy anniversary mentioned climate change. But overall, just under 8 percent of segments on the top cable news networks mentioned climate change in their anniversary coverage.
Fox News and CNN devoted approximately 52 minutes and 54 minutes, respectively, to Sandy coverage on its anniversary. Coverage centered around the devastating impacts of the storm, the subsequent complications with disaster relief funding, and efforts to rebuild the damaged coastal areas and prepare for the next natural disaster. Missing from their coverage, however, was climate change's role in worsening the impact of storms like Sandy and the fact that climate change could drastically affect coastal communities in the future.
During a segment on Fox News' Happening Now, meteorologist Janice Dean warned that "another Hurricane Sandy" could happen again "in the next decade or so" as we are heading into "an active period in terms of tropical development." She dissected the "anatomy" of Sandy, citing the angle of the storm, the storm's unnatural width, and the high tide as key factors for the storm system's extreme damage, but left out that climate change has triggered rising sea levels.
CNN's Indra Petersons also discussed the many factors that contributed to Sandy's impacts -- but excluded climate change-caused sea level rise.
The Los Angeles Times recently announced it does not publish Letters to the Editor that deny man's role in climate change, but most major newspapers are not following suit. A study from Media Matters found that 14 letters that deny manmade climate change have been printed in The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The Washington Post and The New York Times so far in 2013.
A study of coverage of the recent United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report finds that many mainstream media outlets amplified the marginal viewpoints of those who doubt the role of human activity in warming the planet, even though the report itself reflects that the climate science community is more certain than ever that humans are the major driver of climate change. The media also covered how recent temperature trends have not warmed at as fast a rate as before in nearly half of their IPCC coverage, but this trend does not undermine long-term climate change.
The Wall Street Journal debunked several of what it labeled "myths" about renewable energy on Monday. But the paper itself has promoted several of these myths in the past, obscuring the promising growth of renewable energy as prices rapidly decline.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter Keith Johnson, "[o]ld ideas die hard" when it comes to renewable energy. He went on to debunk "six myths about renewable energy" that he said stemmed from "outdated facts and assumptions." Three of these myths, as follows, have been pushed by the Wall Street Journal:
The Wall Street Journal has called the potential of wind and solar power "trivial" in an editorial and has published an op-ed by Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute that claimed "[p]hysical limitations will keep this energy source a niche provider of U.S. electricity needs."
But as Johnson reported, the scale of the U.S. electricity supply is so great that our current renewable energy mix, which has accounted for 14 percent of U.S. electricity production so far this year (mostly from hydropower), is greater than some countries' total electricity capacity -- far from trivial.
And as this Wall Street Journal chart shows, renewable sources are on a rapid upward trend, particularly from wind power: