The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
Fox News promoted predictions of "an impending ice age" from David Archibald, an oil and mining CEO who has said that he wants to be in DeSmogBlog's "Global Warming Disinformation Database." So far, Archibald has not won that dubious distinction -- but if he did, it would look something like this:
Archibald started working in coal and oil shale exploration in 1979, then went on to become a financial analyst and stockbroker before returning to oil companies in the 2000s. In 2003 he led an oil exploration company called Oilex, then joined a Canadian oil exploration company in 2006 at the same time he was CEO of mineral exploration company Westgold Resources. As of 2008, he was operating 8.6 million acres of oil exploration permits in Australia as of 2008. In a phone call with Media Matters, Archibald stated that he currently runs his own company in the oil industry.
When called out for having ties to the coal industry in 2008, Archibald responded that his most recent ties were actually to the oil industry:
You know you are being effective when people complain about you. The letter in the Sept. 8 issue of Oil & Gas Journal, though, followed an established formula, starting with an impugned association with the coal industry (OGJ, Sept. 8, 2008, p. 12).
A point by point refutation would be tedious, but I am compelled to say that neither I nor the Lavoisier Society has any association with or funding from the coal industry. I left the coal industry in 1980 to join the oil industry. Right now I am the very happy operator of oil exploration permits totaling 8.6 million acres of Palaeozoic intracratonic rift sediments in the Canning basin of northwestern Australia.
From an interview with regular Fox News guest Michelle Fields for the right-wing website PJ Media:
FIELDS: Is global warming a real thing?
ARCHIBALD: Not at all.
FIELDS: But global cooling is, then?
ARCHIBALD: There's nothing you can do and it's a natural solar cycle.
April 14, 2014
David Archibald was interviewed on Fox News' Fox & Friends by Fox host Eric Bolling to promote his new book and advance his claim of "global cooling." Bolling omitted Archibald's ties to the fossil fuel industry, and introduced the segment by saying, "remember that harsh, cold winter? Well it could become the norm. Our next guest says the earth is heading into another ice age":
Showtime's new nine-part documentary on climate change features hard-hitting connections between global warming and extreme weather, interviews with expert scientists, and calls for action. Is "Years of Living Dangerously" catching on to a new trend with reporting on climate change?
"Years of Living Dangerously," the Showtime documentary series produced by Oscar-winning James Cameron and other Hollywood icons, has been heralded as "perhaps the most important climate change multimedia communication endeavor in history." The nine-part series' Hollywood filmmakers paired with veterans from CBS' 60 Minutes (Joel Back and David Gelber), and featured a science advisory board to ensure accuracy, including scientists Heidi Cullen, Jim Hansen, Michael Mann, Michael Oppenheimer, and more. The series seeks to tell "the biggest story of our time" in an emotion-evoking blockbuster format, as a way to "close the gap" between science and action.
The April 13 series premiere came one week after NBC's deep-dive special on climate change, and both are sorely needed. Even as top reports are showing that the issue is becoming a dire threat that calls for immediate action, a Pew Research poll indicates that Americans continue to rank addressing climate change as a low priority. Social science research suggests that how people rank the importance of various issues is a direct result of media coverage of the issue. In an interview with National Journal, Media Matters Executive Vice President Angelo Carusone stated that the recent large-scale expositions on global warming are a reflection of "the hollowness of the overall landscape and the anxieties around the inaction starting to percolate and feeding a demand to end this endless debate," adding that "[w]hen a major network devotes that much time to it, it shows they're responding to a demand." "Years of Living Dangerously" and NBC's climate special both work to reverse the attitude of apathy, by showing the impacts of climate change are already happening and drastically altering quality of life. The premiere episode of Showtime's series, titled "Dry Season," takes viewers to see climate refugees in Syria (displaced due to severe drought), rainforests in Indonesia being burned to the ground, and cattle ranches in Texas suffering from drought.
Both specials treat manmade global warming as a given and feature established experts on climate science, a welcome change from the contrarian "skeptics" that have been infiltrating the media with doubt and misinformation. "Years of Living Dangerously" begins with Harrison Ford inspecting carbon dioxide measurements -- the primary cause of manmade global warming -- with the help of NASA scientists. The premiere episode goes on to feature Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a specialist in drought, along with three other climate scientists. The episode included more climate scientists than celebrities (or contrarians). Carusone lauded this aspect, saying "[e]nding this debate is controversial, but someone needs to do so."
Although the premiere episode of "Years Of Living Dangerously" doesn't touch on any solutions to climate change, the series promises to address solutions in later episodes, including segments on renewable energy, global warming as a political priority, and the "greening" of the corporate sector. According to a study from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, painting a dire picture of climate change without providing a solution may cause an audience to reject the message, echoing previous research. As a recent study shows that most broadcast evening news shows often decoupled solutions from messages about the threat of global warming, the Showtime and NBC series again provide a fresh take on the issue by including possible solutions.
Catastrophic climate change is a simple message with many complexities, so these media deep-dives may be necessary for the message to break through. Chris Hayes also hosted an hour-long MSNBC special on the politics of climate change last fall and spoke of the importance of communicating solutions:
I strongly believe that it is extremely important to convince people that the problem is, in fact, solvable. Our record of environmental regulation of pollution, in fact, shows that very often the eventual cost is far, far less than was originally estimated. Human ingenuity is an incredible thing! So if you picked up a certain upbeat undercurrent in the show, you weren't wrong. I happen to think the problem, as big and terrifying as it is, really is solvable and really will be solved. And I think it's doubly important to let people know that so as to engender the level of investment and action we need to make sure that hopeful future is ours.
The recent excellent reporting on climate change may act as a "vanguard" for a changing media landscape according to Carusone, but is it enough to tip the scales?
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.
From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the April 9 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News is suggesting a report by the Heartland Institute "debunked" a top climate change report while obscuring the background of the organization, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.
On Fox News' America's Newsroom and America's News Headquarters, Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast said that "We can't trust what appears in our most prestigious [scientific] journals anymore." Instead, Bast wants Fox News viewers to trust his organization's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which puts out a report imitating -- and attempting to debunk -- the consensus report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which forecasts "severe and widespread impacts" from manmade global warming.
But how much trust should you put in the Heartland Institute? In 1998, Bast was claiming that "smoking in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects," citing a few "experts." (Simultaneously, he was touting to a tobacco industry funder that "Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris' bottom line.") This was left out of Fox News' report. Today, his organization is claiming in the NIPCC that "few (if any) [species] likely will be driven even close to extinction" from climate change and "no net harm" overall will result, citing a few "experts." (The organization's current funders are largely unknown, often funneled through the right-wing's "dark money ATM," but it has received funding from ExxonMobil and Koch-connected foundations in the last decade.)
While IPCC's dozens of authors are unpaid, at least three of the NIPCC's four lead authors are paid by the Heartland Institute. One of the authors, Craig Idso, used to work for the coal company Peabody Energy and wrote a contracted study for the industry group The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The IPCC reviews the current state of scientific knowledge, while the NIPCC's references in its Summary for Policymakers include publications that date back to 1904 and few references from this century other than non-peer-reviewed reports from itself and its authors. As climate scientist Donald Wuebbles noted at the end of the Fox News report, the NIPCC report is "full of misinformation" and "not peer-reviewed."
So far, Fox News has dedicated nearly as much time to the NIPCC (over 4 minutes) as it did to the actual IPCC report (over 5 minutes of disparaging coverage). When Fox News equated the first NIPCC report with the first IPCC report on the physical science basis of climate change, scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told Media Matters it was "irresponsible":
The NIPCC has no standing whatsoever. It is not a reviewed document, it is not open for review at any point and it contains demonstrable garbage and falsehoods. In contrast the IPCC process is rigorous, open and there are 2 major reviews. This is irresponsible journalism.
Clean energy policies are under attack in Ohio, led in force by members of an organization that connects corporations including fossil fuel interests to legislators. But this connection, to the American Legislative Exchange Council, is being overlooked by the state's major newspapers.
NBC aired an hour-long special on the effects of climate change, making bold connections to current extreme weather events and featuring several climate scientists. The network, which previously devoted scant coverage to climate change, is proving that it is taking important steps to improve its coverage of global warming.
On April 6, NBC aired an hour-long special titled "Our Year Of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home?" Ann Curry took the reins, making important connections between extreme weather and global warming, and featuring a climate scientist on nearly every topic. From the special:
Media Matters found that broadcast networks, including NBC, have been lacking on climate change coverage in recent years -- Sunday shows devoted only 27 minutes to the topic in all of 2013, with NBC's Meet the Press failing to even substantially mention climate change last year. In response to this paucity of media coverage, a group of senators released a letter urging broadcast networks to devote more airtime to this "critically important issue."
And NBC's coverage on climate change has been improving. When the United Nations released a report assessing the impacts of climate change, a joint work of hundreds of top climate scientists and experts, NBC led its nightly news program with the story, featuring two climate scientists who contributed to the report. (Curry also frequently referenced this report during her climate change special). And NBC's nightly 2013 coverage on climate change was an improvement from 2012, covering the topic four times more than the year prior and giving greater time to scientists.
In "Our Year Of Extremes," Curry took viewers to see how climate change "is already being felt in every continent and across the oceans" -- the melting Arctic sea ice, an "unrelenting" California drought, the Colorado summer floods, western wildfires, and drowning coastlines. She emphasized the impacts on human welfare, such as rising food prices from a suffering agriculture industry in California, a deteriorating way of life for Arctic Inuits, and New York City homes destroyed by a hurricane exacerbated by climate change. In each case, Curry turned to climate experts on the topic, a welcome change. Throughout the hour-long special, Curry interviewed four climate scientists: glaciology expert Jason Box, Florida Atlantic University's Keren Bolter, Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis, and NASA's Tom Wagner.
By making hard-hitting connections between global warming and impacts being felt today, and turning to the work of established climate scientists, NBC's climate change special shows that the network is continuing to make strides on an issue of critical importance.
A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed major cable network coverage of climate change in 2013, and found that CNN covered the topic even less than Fox News, and that both featured a significant amount of misleading coverage that "weaken[s] the public's ability to understand and grapple with the risks of climate change."
The latest media analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found (perhaps unsurprisingly) that Fox News misinformed their audience a great majority of the time when discussing climate change. Meanwhile, CNN devoted a paltry amount of airtime to global warming in 2013, and when they did cover the topic, the network frequently presented the science demonstrating global warming as an issue up for debate by pundits. Here are some of UCS' most significant findings:
UCS found that even though Fox News overwhelmingly misled their audience on climate science, the network still covered the topic more than CNN in 2013. On the primetime weekday shows and weekend morning programs that UCS examined, CNN aired 43 segments on climate change, Fox News aired 50 segments, and MSNBC towered over the two with 133 segments -- more coverage than the CNN and Fox combined:
According to UCS' analysis, MSNBC's coverage was 92 percent accurate; the analysis labeled 8 percent of MSNBC's coverage "inaccurate," saying these segments overstated the connection between certain extreme weather events and manmade global warming or the severity of sea level rise.
From an April 1 Capitol Hill Hearing recorded on C-SPAN2:
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Climate "skeptics" have latched on to a myth that scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s. However, as even a Fox News anchor pointed out in 2006, there was never a consensus on cooling in the 1970s the same way there currently is on global warming -- in fact, the majority of the scientific literature at the time was predicting warming. Yet that hasn't stopped Fox from regurgitating this myth ad nauseum:
While some on Fox News have claimed that "global cooling was the consensus" in the 1970s to dismiss the current climate science consensus in its entirety, a realistic examination of the scientific literature shows the opposite is true. In 2006, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) took a look at published papers from the 1970s and found that a consensus around global warming -- not cooling -- was beginning to emerge. Of 71 peer reviewed studies on climate change from 1965 to 1979, only seven articles predicted global cooling -- less than ten percent -- while well over half (44 studies) predicted global warming. Even 40 years ago, predictions of global cooling were only on the fringe of climate science.
There were indeed a couple of magazine articles published in that era that overhyped theories of "global cooling," but they were cherry-picking the science. For instance, Newsweek ran a nine-paragraph, back-page article titled "The Cooling World" in 1975 and Time magazine ran an article titled "Another Ice Age?" in 1974. Despite these magazine articles' infamy among climate "skeptics," they never made the cover as Fox News or internet hoaxes would have you believe.
If there was a global cooling "scare," it was more of a media wrongdoing than a failure of scientists.
Time's Bryan Walsh accurately summarized the situation:
The reality is that scientists in the 1970s were just beginning to understand how climate change and aerosol pollution might impact global temperatures. Add in the media-hype cycle -- which was true then as it is now -- and you have some coverage that turned out to be wrong. But thanks to the Internet, those stories stay undead, recycled by notorious climate skeptics like George Will. Pay no attention to the Photoshop. It's the science we should heed -- and the science says man-made climate change is real and very, very worrying.
The video in this report was created by Coleman Lowndes and John Kerr with voiceover by Todd Gregory.
CNN devoted less than two minutes to a report by top international climate experts, who warned of hunger problems, coastal flooding and other calamitous impacts if climate change is left unchecked. The network's coverage stands in stark contrast to other cable news networks, which devoted an average of over 22 minutes to the report, and broadcast nightly news programs, some of which led with the report.
Fox Business personalities seized on reports of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to push for approval of Keystone XL, ignoring the fact that the pipeline could lead to increased risk of spills near the Gulf Coast.
On March 23, Reuters reported that cleanup crews had quarantined a portion of the heavily trafficked Houston Ship Channel in response to a significant oil spill. The spill, estimated to be roughly 4,000 barrels (or 168,000 gallons), began after a tanker vessel carrying heavy fuel oil collided with a cargo ship in Galveston Bay, an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico.
On the March 24 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., guest host Charles Payne and contributor Tracy Byrnes discussed the impact that the oil spill would have as "an impediment to growing out our fossil fuel industry" by providing ammunition for environmentalists. Byrnes then pivoted, claiming that the Galveston Bay oil spill was an example of why the Keystone XL oil pipeline project should be approved.
PAYNE: Anytime we hear these kind of things, it feels like another impediment to growing out our fossil fuel industry, another thing for environmentalists to rally around, although we know accidents are bound to happen.
BYRNES: You and Sandra [Smith] said it last hour, just do the Keystone Pipeline already, create all these jobs. Enough of the nonsense, these are all distractions, that's all they are.
Neither personality addressed the fact that the Keystone XL pipeline is specifically designed to transport heavy crude to refineries and export-bound oil tankers on the Gulf Coast, precisely the scenario that could lead to more spills like the one unfolding in Galveston Bay. The problem of increased water traffic is not unknown for oil sands pipelines. In December 2013, the Associated Press reported that a planned pipeline transporting Alberta oil sands to Vancouver, British Columbia would increase local tanker traffic "nearly sevenfold."
Furthermore, Payne and Byrnes' argument in favor of building the pipeline relied on debunked claims of job creation stemming from the Keystone XL project.
Fox News has shown before that it will use any and all opportunities to promote its fossil fuel agenda and the Keystone XL proposal. The network's latest advocacy for fossil fuels comes on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the most environmentally devastating oil tanker spill in American history.
As climate change coverage has been suffering in mainstream media, alternative, web-based media sources are starting to give more attention to the issue of global warming.
On March 10, Upworthy released the findings of a poll of its readers on what topic they wanted more coverage of -- the number one answer was climate change and clean energy. This is the latest in a trend of new media sources actively working to provide more coverage of global warming, in contrast to traditional media that are providing "shockingly little" coverage to a "critically important issue." Meanwhile, to receive their news content Americans are turning increasingly away from papers and TV, and towards web-based sources, a term collectively known as "new media."
A paper from the Yale Forum on Climate Change & Media found that web multimedia is "poised to reshape news coverage on science and climate," telling of a burgeoning opportunity for climate change stories -- that "the time for new media has come":
"[Mainstream media] has been doing things the same way for so long you can't be imaginative," says Nicholson, a New York-based science journalist. As television and the Internet merge, she sees coverage taking on forms fully adapted to the possibilities of digital production. "It's going to be fast, social and everything will be mobile," she says. "We have an opportunity to change the way we tell stories."
So how are new media turning to the topic of climate change?
When announcing the findings of their poll calling for more climate and clean energy coverage, Upworthy simultaneously announced that they are going to partner with Climate Nexus, a nonprofit that works to communicate the impacts of climate change, to produce more stories on the topic.
Upworthy is known for "optimizing optimism" through curating content and adding irresistible headlines that will compel readers to share their stories. Climate change is often seen through a pessimistic lens -- a recent study of broadcast evening news programs found that when they did cover the issue, they often decoupled messages about the threat of climate change from messages about what can be done. Previous studies have suggested that when a message conveys a threat but not a potential action to address it, such as turning to clean energy to mitigate global warming, the message may be rejected.
This video summarizes the difference with Upworthy's approach: it starts with traditional news coverage describing the threat of climate change, and then describes what one community is doing to transition to clean energy while battling a powerful coal company.
Think the public isn't interested in climate change? The above video has 102,000 Facebook likes (more than its already high average).
On January 28, social media news website Mashable announced that it would hire Andrew Freedman as its first writer for its new "climate desk," to write about "extreme weather as well as the science behind it," according to Mashable's executive editor Jim Roberts. Freedman was named as the second-most "prolific" climate change writer of 2013 by the Daily Climate.
Since the announcement, Freedman has published many compelling articles on extreme, sometimes fascinating weather events, including a look at how Greenland ice melt is going to affect sea level rise, and a snow-free Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Freedman also writes about political actions designed to bring attention to and address climate change. In an interview with MashableHQ, Freedman explained why it is imperative for Mashable and other alternative media outlets to invest in climate change reporting:
Weather and climate have become such a big story for so many reasons over the past several years, yet mainstream media outlets have been cutting back on specialized science reporting. For in depth climate reporting you really need to bring in reporters who have a background in climate science and weather in order to make the information truly value-added, and it's laudable that Mashable is investing in this subject area. This just isn't a subject about which you can easily aggregate or curate your content and then call it a day.