USA TODAY became the latest mainstream newspaper to incorrectly "balance" the views of the hundreds of scientists behind a major climate report with the the Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded organization that once compared those who accept climate science to the "Unabomber." In an op-ed published by the newspaper Tuesday, the head of the organization portrayed outright falsehoods as simply "opinion" in order to dismiss the United Nations panel behind the report as a "discredited oracle."
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), which convenes hundreds of top climate experts from around the world to assess the scientific understanding of climate change, stated in its most recent report that scientists are 95 percent certain that the majority of recent warming is manmade, or about as certain as they are that cigarettes kill. This is an increase from just over 50 percent certainty in 1995, and 66 percent certainty in 2001. Yet the head of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, counterfactually suggested in USA TODAY that "we are no more certain about the impact of man-made greenhouse gases than we were in 1990, or even in 1979."
Bast also falsely claimed that the IPCC "admits, but does not explain, why no warming has occurred for the past 15 years." It would be one thing for Bast to claim that he is not convinced by the IPCC's explanation that that the slightly slower rate of atmospheric warming in the last 15 years was likely due to the ocean absorbing much of recent heat, along with other natural factors such as volcanic eruptions. But Bast simply pretended that this explanation does not exist so that he could cling to the myth that short-term variability rebuts the idea of a long-term greenhouse gas signal.
A recent study by Media Matters found that The Washington Post and Bloomberg News also turned to Bast, making him one of the most frequently quoted climate doubters in IPCC coverage. The New York Times quoted a report backed by the Heartland Institute. None of these newspapers disclosed that Heartland has recently received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, backed by the CEO of a corporation with major oil interests, and received funding from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2006. Nor did they mention factors that might help readers assess the credibility of the Heartland Institute, including that in 2012 the group launched a billboard campaign associating "belief" in global warming with murderers such as Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber," which they discontinued after backlash from many of their own donors but refused to apologize for.
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.
A Fox News anchor suggested that since the majority of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees have been furloughed under the government shutdown, we should simply do without them even after it has been resolved. However, EPA employees furloughed include those in charge of cleaning up hundreds of hazardous waste sites and enforcing clean air and water laws.
On Wednesday, Fox News' America's Newsroom noted that less than 7 percent of the over 16,000 EPA employees would be working during the government shutdown (about 1,000 total employees). Co-anchor Martha MacCallum laughed that "some" have "asked why we need the other 15,000 EPA workers at all," adding that these were "valid questions":
The "some" who are asking this are several Republican lawmakers behind the government shutdown. For instance, Rep. Steve Stockman who has rallied for the shutdown, tweeted a Washington Examiner article suggesting furloughed employees may be "non-essential" long-term, and re-tweeted a follower celebrating the idea that they wouldn't return:
After reviewing the latest evidence from a major climate change report -- released in full on Monday -- the prominent consulting group PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that climate change is the "mother of all risks." But while many businesses recognize climate risks, the media often cloud these risks by framing climate change in terms of "uncertainty," according to a recent study. This can lead to a disconnect between scientific understanding and public perception, and a misguided contentment with inaction.
"What 95% Certainty Means To Scientists"
The lead author of the University of Oxford study on media framing clarified, "the general public finds scientific uncertainty difficult to understand and confuses it with ignorance." In fact, as Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein explained on Tuesday, in an article headlined "What 95% Certainty Means To Scientists," the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report's finding that scientists are 95 percent certain about manmade global warming reflects a certainty analogous to scientific fact:
Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.
They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. They say they are more certain about climate change than they are that vitamins make you healthy or that dioxin in Superfund sites is dangerous.
They'll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn't 100 percent. It's 95 percent.
And for some non-scientists, that's just not good enough.
But in science, 95 percent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty.
"Uncertainty is inherent in every scientific judgment," said Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Thomas Burke.
What 95% Certainty Means To Businesses
The disconnect between how the public and scientists view uncertainty may lead some people to come to the misguided conclusion that we should wait to act until the science is "certain." Fox News host Neil Cavuto, for instance, once said that "whether there is or not [a consensus among scientists on climate change], you want to make 100% sure before you plunk down trillions on something." But for a purported business expert, Cavuto seems to have little concept of risk management. As PricewaterhouseCooper's Will Day explained, hedging against catastrophic climate change now is only sensible:
After the Daily Mail falsely accused scientists of "cover[ing] up" temperature data based on leaked comments to the world's preeminent climate report, conservative media, including the Daily Caller, are once again adopting the British tabloid's misinformation verbatim. However, the comments actually showed scientists and governments making the same points privately that they have made publicly about why the slightly slower rate of warming in the last 15 years doesn't undermine the overwhelming science showing long-term climate change.
A recent Associated Press article showed that leaked private comments on the upcoming comprehensive U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report reflect what scientists have been saying publicly: despite experiencing the warmest decade on record from 2000-2010, the planet is heating up at a slightly slower rate -- but this in no way undermines the science demonstrating manmade climate change is occurring. What the AP report -- which FoxNews.com tried to turn into "Climategate II" -- described was a debate over how to best explain this to the public. During the exchange in question, representatives of various governments pointed out that cherry-picking 1998 as a starting point for global temperatures trends is misleading because that year had record warmth, and this short time period does not undermine the long-term warming trend.
Somehow, the Daily Mail used this to say that "it is claimed" that scientists producing the IPCC report "were urged to cover up the fact that the world's temperature hasn't risen for the last 15 years." The paper didn't actually provide anyone who has alleged this.
The draft report and comments also show several experts pointing out that scientists are conducting ongoing research about the extent to which this phenomenon is based on heat being trapped in the oceans or various temporary natural cooling factors in order to better project the exact future impacts of climate change.
After previously being called out for making sexist comments to Fox News contributor Tamara Holder, conservative radio host Bill Cunningham was invited back on opposite her on Hannity, where he once again made inappropriate remarks.
On Thursday September 19, Cunningham questioned Holder's ability to do "math," and then proceeded to tell her that she doesn't "look like a Catholic girl," but rather a "Farrah Fawcett wannabe." This followed a Fox News daytime show calling out Cunningham in June for not being "civil" when he told Holder, "Know your role and shut your mouth." Holder asked, "My role as a woman?" And Cunningham agreed, "Yeah. Yeah." Cunningham later asked Holder while berating her, "What are you going to cry?"
Cunningham's comments aren't out of character for Hannity, a show that regularly features sexist commentary:
The Daily Caller wrote that a recent survey of scientific literature only confirmed the "uncontroversial points" that warming has occurred and that it is in part manmade, but the Daily Caller itself has cast doubt on these facts.
The peer-reviewed survey found that 97 percent of scientific abstracts that stated a position on global warming endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. While these points are uncontroversial in the scientific world, they are controversial among many in Congress and the public -- due in part to the misinformation pushed by conservative media outlets such as the Daily Caller.
The Daily Caller also regularly publishes articles that cast doubt on global warming -- including near-transcriptions of Sen. Inhofe's latest attacks on climate science -- yet conveniently leave out the "uncontroversial" fact that the majority of scientists agree that manmade, or anthropogenic, climate change is occurring. For instance, the online publication promoted "Lord" Christopher Monckton, who likes to compare climate activists to Nazis, challenging "Al baby" (Al Gore) to debate him on climate change without stating that the majority of scientists accept that climate change is real and manmade.
The Daily Caller article, headlined "Report: There is no 97 percent global warming consensus," quoted the Global Warming Policy Foundation's Andrew Montford (who is not a scientist) quibbling with the survey by claiming it didn't examine whether the papers endorsed the view that "human activity is the main driver behind global warming" (emphasis added). However, the authors of the report have already addressed this criticism, a fact the Daily Caller left out, explaining that the scientific abstracts they examined didn't go into this detail, but they contacted the authors and 96 percent of them agreed that humans have caused more than half of recent warming (emphasis removed):
Fox News seized on a cold winter forecast from the Farmers' Almanac to mock global warming. But meteorologists say the periodical, whose prediction has been hyped by many in the media, is "like the Ouija board of weather."
Even if the publication's predictions were accurate, it would do nothing to contradict the long-term trend of warmer global temperatures, including warmer winters in the U.S.:
Yet more remarkable than Fox's annual mockery of global warming is that its source essentially gives out the horoscopes of the weather world. Farmers' Almanac broadcasts vague predictions based on a "secret formula" of "tides, astronomical events" and other factors known only to their pseudonymous weatherman Caleb Weatherbee. It then declares itself correct 80 percent of the time -- apparently based on its readers' assessments, as the outlet has not done any actual analysis. Due to this, a Fox News meteorologist previously said she was "weary" of Almanac forecasts.
Yet now the channel is hyping a prediction that The Washington Post Chief Meteorologist Jason Samenow called "outrageous" and "baseless," concluding that "only a fool would take them seriously."
What's worse is that Fox News is not alone: The Associated Press, in a widely reprinted article, broadcast the same weather predictions from the Farmers' Almanac, noting that "[m]odern scientists don't put much stock in" the Farmers' Alamanac's methods, but then credulously repeating its claim that it is "correct about 80 percent of the time." Additionally, in a seeming violation of their own stylebook, AP referred to "Caleb Weatherbee" without explicitly stating that this is a pseudonym.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes released a documentary on climate change Friday, continuing relatively in-depth coverage of what he calls "the single greatest threat that we face." In fact, Media Matters found that even prior to this documentary, Hayes dedicated over 1 hour and 40 minutes to climate change since the launch of his primetime show -- more than three times that of four shows on CNN and Fox News combined in that same time period. Including the coverage that Hayes dedicated to previewing and airing the documentary "The Politics of Power" on Thursday and Friday, Hayes has covered climate change for over 3 hours -- about nine times those shows combined.
From April 1, when the show All In with Chris Hayes premiered, to August 14, Hayes discussed climate change 19 times, devoting approximately 1 hour and 42 minutes to the issue*. By contrast, CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront only mentioned climate change once for about two minutes, Anderson Cooper 360 didn't mention it at all, and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity only mentioned climate change dismissively, devoting twelve and seven minutes to the topic, respectively. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow also devoted more coverage than these other four primetime shows combined, discussing climate change eight times for a total of 32 minutes.
During this time period, President Barack Obama gave a major speech on climate change, carbon dioxide levels exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, wildfires in the West and flooding in the Midwest were worsened in the context of this carbon pollution, and Republican politicians made several colorful claims denying the overwhelming science on climate change as a pro-Obama group conducted a campaign to highlight exactly these types of remarks.
It's hard to do justice to the extreme views of the new chairman for Oregon's Republican party. But reports on Art Robinson often didn't even come close, merely mentioning that he is a "skeptic of human-caused global warming," while leaving out the chairman's anti-scientific statements on evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste.
Robinson is best known for organizing a petition rejecting climate change that claims to have 31,072 American scientist signatories, with "scientist" defined as anyone who claims to have a bachelor's degree in various fields including computer science, statistics, and metallurgy. Robinson, who is a chemist but has not done any scientific research into climate change, has acknowledged that fake names such as the Spice Girl's Geri Halliwell made it onto the list. The petition says little to rebut the consensus of the vast majority of scientists, as it does not state what percentage of people responded to the survey. Robinson told the conspiracy website WND.com in 2002 that ""[t]here is absolutely not a shred of evidence that humans are causing any change in the climate by generating CO2."
Furthermore, at no point during Robinson's candidacy for GOP chairman did the two largest Oregon papers (The Oregonian and The Eugene Register-Guard)* mention that Robinson has made several other claims that run counter to scientific research:
Nor did they mention* the following extreme views and conspiratorial claims from the former Congressional candidate (in fact, The Oregonian published an op-ed suggesting that Robinson has not engaged in "offensive and bizarre comments"):