To hear conservatives tell it, Santa Claus is most definitely white, and his home isn't melting. At least that's what Fox News, with its recent barrage of attacks on an ad in which Santa warns about the impact of climate change on his Arctic home, would lead you to believe.
In December, the environmental group Greenpeace released an ad featuring the butler from Downton Abbey as a distraught Santa, who warns that as climate change drives continued Arctic ice melt, he may have to cancel Christmas. The ad calls for protecting the Arctic from offshore oil drilling, which, in a grim irony, is only possible in the region because of the ice melt.
The cheeky video was a "new low" achieved by "any-means-necessary" tactics, according to Fox News. It was also a chance to deny climate change. Rush Limbaugh declared "The ice is not melting at the North Pole," and a Fox News guest said "Santa's home is going to be fine ... for a long, long time to come." Fox News co-host Eric Bolling claimed contrary to any temperature record that "the globe is getting colder":
But Santa is right: the North Pole is melting. Arctic ice registered a record low in 2012 in line with a long-term melting trend. The sea ice extent in 2013 was not as low as 2012's (as was expected), but it was still among the lowest extents in the 35-year record, and does not represent a "recovery":
Michael Fumento was once fired after it was revealed that he was writing in favor of industry interests while receiving money from those interests and authored a book titled The Myth Of Heterosexual AIDS. The New York Post now thinks you might want to know what he thinks about climate science.
The Post published an op-ed by Fumento on December 5 titled "Global-warming 'proof' is evaporating." In it, Fumento falsely suggested that a slowdown in recent temperatures means that "previous warming may not have been man-made at all" and compared accepting man-made climate change to "cult beliefs" and believing "before Columbus" that the Earth was flat (yes, Fumento appears to need a history lesson about Christopher Columbus in addition to a science lesson).
Like many pseudo-scientific "experts" on climate change, Fumento previously downplayed the dangers of cigarettes while receiving money from the tobacco industry. In the 1990s, Fumento was on the advisory board of the tobacco-funded "Advancement of Sound Science Coaliton" while downplaying the addictive nature of cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke in the media.
It wasn't the last time Fumento took money from powerful industries while writing in favor of them. In 2006 Bloomberg BusinessWeek revealed that Fumento had received $60,000 from agribusiness giant Monsanto while writing columns in favor of both agribusiness and Monsanto. Soon after the revelation, Scripps Howard News Service canceled his syndicated column. Afterwards, Fumento published a public appeal for "patron support" for his writing, boasting that some of his published articles "have 50 hyperlinked citations in pieces only 900 words long."
Fumento, who is a lawyer and has no scientific training, has also previously pushed scientific misinformation. In 1990, Fumento wrote The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS; it only sold 12,000 copies, which he attributed to a conspiracy against him that included his own publisher. Despite the sensationalist title, Fumento did not actually argue that heterosexual people cannot get AIDS. Rather, he suggests that because rates of AIDS are low for the white, middle-class heterosexual people who do not use intravenous drugs, the U.S. is spending too much money on the issue. In order to downplay heterosexual transmission rates, Fumento stated in 1992 that former basketball player Magic Johnson, who contracted HIV, would "eventually probably" be "outed," and in any case probably has more opportunities to "have intercourse with inner-city black women than would a promiscuous heterosexual white basketball player."
After hyping an alleged "pause" in global warming, mainstream media have entirely ignored a groundbreaking study finding that warming over the last 16 years has actually proceeded at the same rate as it has since 1951 with no "pause" compared to that time period.
The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society by Dr. Kevin Cowtan of the University of York and Robert Way of the University of Ottawa, found that the average global surface temperature has warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius between 1997 and 2012 (see the bold "Global" line in the graph above) -- two and a half times the UK Met Office's estimate of 0.05°C (see "Met Office" line). According to the new estimate, over the last 16 years the globe has warmed at the same rate as it has since 1951.
Writing about the study at the scientific blog Real Climate, climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf concluded that the public debate about the "pause" has "become"completely baseless" and that any speed bump in warming is "not surprising" with natural variability:
The public debate about the alleged "warming pause" was misguided from the outset, because far too much was read into a cherry-picked short-term trend. Now this debate has become completely baseless, because the trend of the last 15 or 16 years is nothing unusual - even despite the record El Niño year at the beginning of the period. It is still a quarter less than the warming trend since 1980, which is 0.16 °C per decade. But that's not surprising when one starts with an extreme El Niño and ends with persistent La Niña conditions, and is also running through a particularly deep and prolonged solar minimum in the second half.
An earlier Media Matters analysis found that mainstream media mentioned the alleged "pause" in nearly half of coverage of a major international climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, media have often been reluctant to cover data contradicting that narrative, including a study finding that heat may have been stored in the intermediate depths of the ocean, where warming has proceeded 15 times faster than in the past 10,000 years, rather than in the atmosphere.
As for claims that global warming has "stopped" or that global warming is "[o]ver," the study found with 94 percent probability that there has been some warming over the last 16 years. Dr. Cowtan wrote that "the hypothesis that warming has accelerated ... is four times as likely as the hypothesis that warming has stopped."
Why were previous estimates off?
As part of a campaign to pressure CNBC to improve its climate change coverage, mobile billboards are circulating the financial districts of New York City and Chicago on Thursday and Friday. However, rather than airing accurate information on how prominent business leaders use climate science to optimize their risk management strategies, CNBC has continued to air people denying climate change entirely.
The campaign by Media Matters, Forecast the Facts, and Environmental Action was hosted on fuel-efficient trucks to highlight Media Matters' studies finding that the majority of CNBC's relevant coverage casts doubt on the basic scientific consensus that climate change is real and manmade. So far, CNBC has not shown any signs of improvement -- even after a 45,000-signature petition called on CNBC to improve its coverage.
Most recently, CNBC hosted Joe Bastardi, whose arguments for climate change denial have been called "utter nonsense," "very odd" and "simply ignorant" by scientists, to discuss Super Typhoon Haiyan. When another meteorologist noted that rising sea levels have worsened the damage from storms such as Haiyan, Bastardi -- who has claimed contrary to basic physics that carbon dioxide "literally cannot cause global warming" -- predictably dismissed the greenhouse gas connection:
A Fox Business host said he got a "big smile" when he heard that Australia backed out of its previous pledge to send aid to developing nations coping with climate change. His response comes as an official from the Philippines tearfully called for developed nations to make good on their promises to the climate fund in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
On November 13, Stuart Varney, host of Varney & Co., celebrated Australia's decision, saying he "do[esn't] want to pay" to help the Philippines and other developing nations adapt to a rapidly changing climate:
Varney's callous response stands in sharp contrast to that of Naderev "Yeb" Sano, a United Nations delegate from the Philippines, who announced at a U.N. climate summit that he is fasting until there are "concrete pledges" to the Green Climate Fund. Developed nations previously pledged to give $100 billion to the fund by 2020 in order to help developing nations adapt to climate change and reduce their own emissions.
The U.N. fund is intended to address a critical moral hazard of climate change: those who have contributed the least to climate change will suffer the most. The Philippines, for instance, is the third most vulnerable country in the world to climate change -- "particularly exposed" to "cyclones, flooding and sea level rise" -- yet it has much fewer carbon emissions than either Australia or the U.S.:
Fox Business disparaged actor George Clooney as "irresponsible" and "foolish" for allegedly "blaming" Super Typhoon Haiyan on climate change. However, Clooney merely stated that regardless of "whether or not this particular storm" can be attributed to climate change, denying the existence of manmade climate change -- as those censuring Clooney have -- is "ridiculous."
Super Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones in world history when it struck the Philippines on November 7, killing as many as 10,000 people. Scientists have stated that intense tropical cyclones such as Haiyan are expected to become more frequent as the earth warms, although many caution against attributing Haiyan directly to climate change. Sea level rise due to climate change also worsens the deadly storm surge for tropical cyclones such as Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy.
CLOONEY: Well it's just a stupid argument. I mean, whether or not this particular storm is any one -- if you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you "you are sick" and 1 percent that says "ah, you're fine," you probably want to hang out with, check it up for the 99. You know what I mean? I -- the idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What's the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit? And you know, yeah, I find this to be the most ridiculous argument ever.
On Monday, Fox Business host Stuart Varney and Fox News' senior meteorologist Janice Dean harangued Clooney for supposedly "us[ing] the tragedy to push his climate change agenda," saying his statement was "irresponsible" and "foolish" -- without ever airing or quoting what he actually said:
Dean also criticized Clooney for weighing in on climate change because he does not have a "seal of approval" from the American Meteorological Society (AMS), as she does. However, AMS officials have criticized broadcast meteorologists such as Dean for offering "nonscientific" opinions on climate change:
Media coverage of nuclear power often suggests that environmentalists are illogically blocking the expansion of a relatively safe, low-carbon energy source. However, in reality, economic barriers to nuclear power -- even after decades of subsidies -- have prevented the expansion of nuclear power. While nuclear power does provide meaningful climate benefits over fossil fuels, economic factors and the need for strict safety regulations have led many environmentalists to focus instead on putting a price on carbon, which would benefit all low-carbon energy sources including nuclear.
Fox News is calling mileage-based user fees that several states are considering "Orwellian," implying the government would be able to track your vehicle without permission and perhaps even "shut your car off." But the network's segment left out that such proposals generally include devices that cannot track your location and certainly cannot turn off your car, satisfying both the American Civil Liberties Union and several conservative organizations.
In a segment featuring no voices in defense of mileage-based user fees (MBUF), Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum declared such proposals the "most Orwellian thing I've ever heard." MacCallum hosted Berkeley Varitronics Systems President Scott Schober, who suggested the government may be able to "shut your car off" if you do not pay the fees. MacCallum added that if "somebody is stalking you and they want to know where you're going, they could very well hack right into this system and follow you." The segment was so conspiratorial that fellow Fox News anchor Jon Scott joked that "I see the black helicopters over your studio right now":
Ryan Morrison, Founder and CEO of True Mileage, Inc. -- a company that designs devices that could be used for MBUF -- said this "definitely sounds like misinformation." In a phone conversation with Media Matters, Morrison said "no company or departments of transportation are looking into devices that could shut off a car." He added that "certainly no one would be able to do anything like that with our devices, and the only time that I've heard of something like that is with a LoJack" for stolen vehicles.
In addition, according to Morrison, most proposals are suggesting allowing citizens to choose whether to install devices without GPS-tracking -- such as his company's -- or to install ones that do have GPS-tracking -- in order to save money when they travel out of state or on less congested roads. For instance, Oregon, which has moved forward with a pilot program for a MBUF (also known as a "vehicle-miles traveled" (VMT) fee), would allow participants to choose devices that do not have GPS tracking and delete personal data after 30 days. The American Civil Liberties Union is reportedly "satisfied with the privacy protections" in Oregon's program.
Fox Nation is claiming that "Wind Turbines [are] Making Cape Codders Sick" based on an ABCNews.com article. But the story of a resident in that article illustrates that there is no demonstrated impact of wind turbines on health, while substantial evidence suggests that reported health effects are psychological rather than physical in origin.
ABC News' article began with the story of a resident of Falmouth, Massachusetts, who lived near a wind turbine: "Sue Hobart, a bridal florist from Massachusetts, couldn't understand why she suddenly developed headaches, ringing in her ears, insomnia and dizziness to the point of falling 'flat on my face' in the driveway." However, in an online interview with an anti-wind activist, Hobart admitted that she had suffered from ringing in her ears for "quite a while," but claimed it had gotten worse "since the turbines." Hobart, who has compared living near a wind turbine to being in the "line of fire" in a "war zone," attributed various other symptoms to "wind turbine syndrome" in that interview, saying she had "no appetite" in her home and was experiencing "just unrest -- just not being able to settle down -- not really feeling relaxed."
ABC News claimed that based on these self-reported symptoms, "a doctor at Harvard Medical School diagnosed Hobart with wind turbine syndrome, which is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." However, in an email to Media Matters, the doctor in question, Dr. Steven Rauch, clarified that there is "no way I can make a definite diagnosis of WTS [Wind Turbine Syndrome]":
Her symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of WTS but there are no standard diagnostic criteria nor objective tests to confirm the diagnosis. There is no way I can make a definite diagnosis of WTS nor is there any way I can definitely exclude the diagnosis.
A 2011 literature review published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Journal stated that "[g]iven that annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself, self reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from infrasound." That review also noted that infrasound is "ubiquitous" in the world, emitted from, among other things, air-conditioning units, cars, and even ocean waves.
A New York Magazine report explained there is significant evidence that "wind turbine syndrome" may be psychological in origin, even if, as with a placebo effect, residents experience real physical impacts:
Large-scale population surveys conducted by scientists in Sweden and the Netherlands have found that stress and sleep disturbances were more likely if the turbines were visible and less likely if the individuals benefitted economically from them. Other studies found that having a bad attitude about the turbines and subjective sensitivity to noise were more likely to lead to annoyance and negative health effects than actual exposure to audible sound or infrasound. (Back in 2007, three years before the Falmouth turbines were even built, a handful of residents expressed concern about the potential for illness after reading about symptoms online, and those health effects were even written up in the local newspaper.) And in recent lab tests, subjects who were told to expect side effects from infrasound ahead of time felt some of those symptoms even when they were exposed to sham infrasound.
Hobart is not alone in reporting health effects from the wind turbines. Other Falmouth residents have testified that "wind turbine syndrome" may be behind a wide variety of symptoms, including "eye discharge," "high blood pressure," "drinking," and "anger." But these residents are a minority. New York Magazine reported that "[o]f the nearly 200 or so households located within a half-mile of a turbine in Falmouth, only about 24 complain of symptoms."
Why would some residents complain of symptoms while many others do not if the origin is physical rather than related to a predisposition against the turbines? And why would those that have installed wind turbines on their property have lower rates of "wind turbine syndrome" than those farther away if it is not related to the revenue they're receiving?
In an online post Hobart said, "I am OVER with the peer review double-blind scientific bullshitometer they all hide behind." However, without double-blind studies, biases such as these can be introduced to studies on "wind turbine syndrome," severely undermining their findings.
For instance, it may be more than a coincidence that the pediatrician who coined the term "wind turbine syndrome" and promoted the stories of people such as Hobart, Dr. Nina Pierpont, is married to an anti-wind activist who compared the fight against the "wind bastards" to the Civil Rights movement:
As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus.
The founder of the Weather Channel, now a local weatherman on a San Diego television station, dedicated nearly half an hour to climate change misinformation, including claiming that there are more polar bears because "Eskimos ... have now become more civilized."
John Coleman, who is a weatherman for the independent news station KUSI News after being "forced" out of the Weather Channel, said in a segment on climate change this week that polar bear populations have increased because "the Eskimos no longer kill the polar bears for the meat and furs in order to stay alive, it's -- we have now become more civilized in our Eskimo populations around the poles."
In fact, the majority of polar bear populations for which there are sufficient data are declining. Those population levels are somewhat higher than in the 1970s thanks to a ban on polar bear hunting with limited exceptions for traditional hunting by Inuit populations. However, despite conservative media claims to the contrary, this recovery in no way negates the ongoing existential threat that global warming poses to polar bear populations.
In the segment, Coleman -- who has accused NASA climate researchers of "lying" about temperature records -- hosted four paid associates of the Heartland Institute, which has received funding from the fossil fuel industry and once compared those who accept climate science to the "Unabomber." Coleman called Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast, who claimed in the 1990s that moderate smoking has "few, if any, adverse health effects" while simultaneously receiving money from tobacco giants Philip Morris, "a hero of mine."