Author and New York Sun co-founder Ira Stoll attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's new climate change plan for focusing on installing solar panels instead of setting emissions limits or investing in battery storage technology. Stoll apparently didn't realize that those policies are included in Clinton's plan, too.
In a July 27 Sun op-ed, which was also published on conservative news sites NewsMax and Reason.com, Stoll lectured Clinton that her goal of installing more than half a billion solar panels by the end of her first presidential term isn't a "serious" climate change strategy. According to Stoll, if Clinton "really wants to fight climate change," she should abandon her solar panel goal and instead pursue other policies, such as "fund[ing] research and development for battery storage" or "set[ting] emissions goals and let[ting] utilities or states decide the cheapest and best ways to meet them" (emphasis added):
If Mrs. Clinton really wants to fight climate change or cut carbon emissions, there are plenty of ways to go about it. She could fund research and development for battery storage. She could set emissions goals and let utilities or states decide the cheapest and best ways to meet them. She could allow more hydrofracturing that replaces coal-fired plants with cleaner oil and natural gas. But counting solar panels? Come on, Mrs. Clinton. Get serious.
But Clinton's proposal actually includes both of those things.
In a briefing fact sheet that she released as part of her climate change plan, Clinton announced that her "Clean Energy Challenge" would include funding "clean energy [research and development], including in storage technology" (emphasis added):
As part of the Clean Energy Challenge, Clinton will ensure that every part of the federal government is working in concert to help Americans build a clean energy future. This includes:
Innovation: Increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results.
And Clinton also confirmed that she would make it a "top priority" to defend and implement the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. As the EPA has explained, the Clean Power Plan involves "EPA setting a goal and the states deciding how they will meet it. Each state will choose the best set of cost-effective strategies for its situation."
Stoll's only other climate policy suggestion -- that Clinton "allow more hydrofracturing" -- ignores evidence that methane leaks may eliminate any of the potential climate benefits of extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. And Stoll's claim that oil-fired power plants are "cleaner" than coal-fired plants is an exercise in exceedingly low expectations, since the carbon-intensity of oil-fired plants is only marginally better.
There's also one other reason Clinton shouldn't take Stoll's advice on how to best address climate change: He doesn't accept that it is a particularly serious problem. According to Stoll, "Secretary Clinton assumes that man-made climate change is a risk serious enough to try to mitigate and that America should try to mitigate it by reducing its carbon emissions. These are big 'ifs,' but ones I will grant for argument's sake."
If only he would also grant Clinton all of the proposals that are included in her climate change platform.
Image at top by Paul Morse and taken from Flickr using a Creative Commons License.
In a Q&A about the 2016 election on the Facebook page of NBC's Meet the Press, Blue Virginia's Lowell Feld asked: "Given that the most important issue facing humanity - by far - is climate change, why isn't your show devoting an appropriate amount of coverage to this topic?" Host Chuck Todd responded: "Fair critique on the lack of coverage; We plan to do more and do it soon."
From the July 22 edition of Fox Business Network's Mornings With Maria Bartiromo:
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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.
From the July 16 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:
A July 14 CNN.com article promoted the thoroughly debunked right-wing claim that, according to a group of scientists, a decrease in solar activity over the next 15 years could lead to a "deep freeze." In reality, the scientists' findings about the "irregular heartbeat of the Sun" did not include any analysis of how it might impact global temperatures, and several recent studies that did address the issue found that any cooling from decreased solar activity would be far outweighed by increased warming due to greenhouse gas pollution.
In a July 9 press release, the British Royal Astronomical Society stated that professor Valentina Zharkova and her colleagues had created a model that suggests "solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645." That line was quickly distorted by conservative media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the UK's Telegraph and The Washington Times, which claimed the scientists had found that the earth is likely heading for a "mini ice age."
Zharkova herself did not help matters when she hesitantly answered, "Yes, indeed" when asked during a July 13 interview with Radio New Zealand whether she was "saying we've got 15 years before there's an ice age?" Zharkova, who is a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, clarified later in the interview that she doesn't "do atmospheric research" and "can't say for sure" what impact the phenomenon she has predicted, known as a grand solar minimum, will have on the earth's climate relative to global warming.
However, studies that specifically researched the potential climate impact of a grand solar minimum have found that it would be very small compared to the continued warming that will occur as a result of man-made climate change, a fact that appeared in several publications before CNN.com posted its article.
In 2013, The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli cited several studies on the impact a grand solar minimum would have on global temperatures, concluding, "A new grand solar minimum would not trigger another [Little Ice Age]; in fact, the maximum 0.3°C cooling would barely make a dent in the human-caused global warming over the next century." More recently, The Washington Post reported on July 14 that "several other recent studies of a possible solar minimum have concluded that whatever climate effects the phenomenon may have will be dwarfed by the warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions." Similarly, blog posts by Slate's Phil Plait and the websites ...and Then There's Physics and HotWhopper each cited one of those studies, which was published in Nature Communications and found that "[a]ny reduction in global mean near-surface temperature due to a future decline in solar activity is likely to be a small fraction of projected anthropogenic warming."
Moreover, Think Progress's Joe Romm has pointed out that that the planet actually faces the opposite of a "mini ice age" in the decades ahead, as recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory indicate that "[t]he Earth is headed toward an imminent speed-up in global warming" (emphasis original).
Despite all of this evidence to the contrary, CNN.com headlined its story, "Scientists: Sun's irregular 'heartbeat' could mean future freeze." The article did acknowledge lower down that the scientists' research has not been published or peer reviewed and "needs a closer look," and also reported that NOAA's Doug Biesecker "said the research shouldn't give anyone the idea that because the weather may cool, climate change is not something to be worried about." But these acknowledgements raise the question of why CNN.com ran this story in the first place.
CNN.com is not the only mainstream media outlet to help advance this climate denial myth; as climate advocate Miles Grant noted, ABC News affiliates in both the Bay Area and Chicago also reported that "scientists say [the] Earth will enter a 'mini ice age' by 2030." Hopefully other media outlets won't make the same mistake.
Image at top via Flickr user Justin Kern using a Creative Commons License.
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.
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.
A new Media Matters study has found that outside of MSNBC, major broadcast and cable television outlets are failing to fact-check climate science denial by presidential candidates 75 percent of the time. But it's worth taking a closer look at how television program hosts have handled their face-to-face interviews with presidential candidates, since these high-profile interviews often get a substantial amount of attention and can shape media discussions for days or even weeks to come.
So how are TV hosts responding when presidential candidates spout climate science denial in real time? It depends which channel you're watching.
Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.
Like Americans for Prosperity, the Beacon Hill Institute, and the State Policy Network before it, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) is the latest oil industry front group to run a deceptive op-ed campaign against the EPA's climate change plan, with NBCC president Harry C. Alford alleging in newspapers across the country that the Clean Power Plan will impose "economic hardship" on blacks and Hispanics. None of these newspapers disclosed that the NBCC has received $1 million from the ExxonMobil Foundation, and the op-eds themselves rely on climate science denial and thoroughly debunked industry-linked studies in an attempt to dismiss the financial and health benefits the Clean Power Plan will provide to black and Hispanic communities.