NBCNews.com falsely claimed that a recent report by the State Department found that the Keystone XL pipeline would create "as many as 42,000 new construction jobs." In fact, the report found that the pipeline would create less than 4,000 construction jobs and only 35 permanent jobs.
Late Friday, the State Department issued a draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that was largely supportive of the project, which will inform President Barack Obama's decision later this year. The report found that "Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2-year construction period." Those jobs encompass everything from food service to health care to finance, which the report estimates would be temporary ripple effects from the "approximately 3,900" annual construction jobs created for the 1- to 2-year construction period.
NBCNews.com not only inflated the number of construction jobs anticipated, but it failed to mention that the long-term economic impact of the project would be minimal contrary to persistent conservative claims. The State Department found that "Operation of the proposed Project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs. Based on this estimate, routine operation of the proposed Pipeline would have negligible socioeconomic impacts."
USA TODAY announced in its cover story today that it will be doing a year-long series on climate change, sending reporters around the U.S. to examine how climate change is already affecting Americans. The series, "Weathering The Change," comes at a time when climate change coverage -- including at USA TODAY -- has been relatively low in the U.S.
USA TODAY covered climate change the least of the major national newspapers in the context of the 2012 presidential election. It entirely ignored how climate change has worsened fire risks in the Western U.S. in its print coverage of the destructive 2012 wildfires. It only mentioned ocean acidification once between January 2011 and June 2012, and ignored a study that found that the Great Barrier Reef has declined by 50 percent in the past 27 years largely due to human activities. And it closed its green blog in September 2012.
The ongoing decline in climate coverage may be influencing public opinion, as research suggests that volume of media coverage has a large impact on what people considerpolicy priorities. This week, conservative media celebrated "Public Concern For Global Warming Hit[ting A] 20-Year Low." Once again demonstrating their inability to fact-check, they got the details wrong -- the survey actually found that global warming is the only environmental issue where concern is higher now than it was from 1998 to 2003. But concern about global warming is still lower than it was before the financial crisis.
A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust's funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests.
Between 2008 and 2011, Donors Trust doled out over $300 million in grants to what it describes as "conservative and libertarian causes," serving as "the dark money ATM of the conservative movement." Donors Trust enables donors to give anonymously, noting on its website that if you "wish to keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues," you can use it to direct your money.
One of the "controversial issues" that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions.* The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged:
Several of these organizations have sown confusion about the science demonstrating climate change. The Heartland Institute, which The Economist called the "world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change," received over $14 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, making up over a quarter of Heartland's budget. in 2010. In 2012, Heartland launched a billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate science to The Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro. Several corporate donors distanced themselves from the organization, but Donors Trust made no comment. Heartland removed the billboard soon afterward but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Meanwhile, The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) received over $4 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, accounting for over 45 percent of CFACT's budget in 2010. The highest-paid member of CFACT's staff is Marc Morano, who runs a website that pushes misleading attacks on climate science. Morano defended Heartland's billboard and said that climate scientists "deserve to be publicly flogged." Despite Morano's sordid background, CNN twice hosted him to "debate climate change and if it is really real" without disclosing that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization. CFACT lists the Forbes columns of Larry Bell, who calls global warming a "hoax," as "CFACT research and commentary." The organization is advised by several prominent climate misinformers, including Lord Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon.
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has revealed the sources of approximately $18.8 million of Donors Trust's funding from 2008 to 2011, culled from Internal Revenue Service filings. That leaves over $281 million in anonymous funds during that period, assuming that the organization gives out approximately as much as it takes in each year.
While the individuals and corporations funding Donors Trust remain largely hidden, we know that at least five separate foundations connected to Koch Industries have given over $3.8 million to Donors Trust in recent years. Koch Industries, owned by brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, is the largest privately owned company in the U.S. and controls several oil refineries and pipelines.
Fox News' Sean Hannity brushed aside Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-MN) assertion that Hannity was "immoral" for "saying things that aren't true." Yet Hannity has a long history of using his Fox News program to push false and misleading claims.
China is reportedly set to impose a modest carbon tax, as well as effectively increase taxes on its coal industry. As the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases continues to take steps to curb climate change, the oft-repeated conservative argument that the U.S. can't act until China does becomes increasingly tenuous.
In 2011, the International Energy Agency warned that unless dramatic action is taken by 2017, it will be effectively impossible to meet the international commitment to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) -- a goal that many nations said still would not be enough to guarantee their survival. Experts say that the longer we delay, the more it will cost to reach the target. In light of this, arguing that we can't work to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions until other nations agree to do the same could be seen as immoral.
But in recent years, it's also become nearly counterfactual: China has been taking steps, including investing more in clean energy than the U.S. and creating a long-term, comprehensive plan for expanding its renewable energy industries. Now this developing nation is set to put a price on carbon -- a move that most economists from across the ideological spectrum agree is one of the best ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (along with cap-and-trade). Yet the U.S. -- a much wealthier nation -- is no closer to making such a move.
It is true that China will play a critical role in whether we are able to limit catastrophic climate change. In 2007, China overtook the U.S. as the largest contributor to global carbon emissions (although the U.S. still emits far more per person), and its emissions are expected to grow until at least 2030. If China goes through with plans to expand coal production, it will emit more carbon than any other planned energy project in the world. However, China has recently signaled that it will take steps to limit its coal consumption.
From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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As government scientists and policymakers attempt to safeguard disappearing populations of Atlantic Cod off of the New England coast with stricter catch limits, state and national media continue to ignore the role of anthropogenic climate change in displacing cod from their longtime habitats.
For over four hundred years, New Hampshire has maintained a thriving commercial fishing industry, reliant to a large degree on groundfish like the cod. Cod are now disappearing from the New England coast, and scientists are attributing this disappearance in part to warmer and more acidic waters -- driven by industrial emissions of carbon dioxide -- that are driving cod northward into preferred cold-water habitats.
Rising ocean temperatures pose a challenge for fish and wildlife managers attempting to protect these cod populations (and, by extension, the fishing industry in New England). From The Boston Globe (emphasis added):
Warming waters and an evolving ocean ecosystem possibly related to man-made climate change are contributing to the anemic populations, not just decades of overfishing, government officials say.
"While we are not blaming fishermen, this is not good news,'' said John Bullard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's regional chief. "We can control overfishing -- it's hard but we can do it -- but how do you control this?"
The only option, Bullard and other regulators say, is to dramatically restrict fishing to give the bottom-hugging fish any hope of a comeback.
On the February 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, New Hampshire Republican and noted "climate change skeptic" Sen. Kelly Ayotte attacked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) attempts to protect U.S. cod populations by implementing stricter catch limits. No one during this segment mentioned climate change:
And in Ayotte's home state, New Hampshire's largest newspaper -- the Union Leader -- has been following suit.
CNN founder Ted Turner said in 2011 that climate change is "probably the most serious ... problem that humanity has ever faced," adding that we need to "increase the amount of the debate" to motivate people to take action.
Unfortunately, the network he created has often failed to live up to that goal, devoting minimal time to the issue even while reporting on its consequences. A recent study by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage found that environmental stories accounted for only 0.36% of CNN's news headlines between January 2011 and May 2012, the lowest of any major TV news network. And when CNN does mention climate change, it too often ignores the role of human emissions and treats the science as a subject for debate.
But big changes are coming to CNN this year under the leadership of Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC Universal who was brought on as the new president of CNN Worldwide in January. Zucker is shaking up CNN's lineup and shuffling personnel in an attempt to boost ratings. He also wants to see CNN "broaden the definition of what news is" beyond "politics and war" in order to stay competitive with other cable networks.
It remains to be seen whether CNN will take this opportunity to expand its focus to include substantive stories that it has typically overlooked, such as the environment and climate change. At NBC Universal, Zucker oversaw the launch of the network's "Green Is Universal" program, which aims to bring an "environmental perspective" to NBC's news and entertainment programs as well as company operations. Announcing the initiative, he emphasized the company's "responsibility ... in driving awareness" of environmental issues.
Now Zucker has the opportunity to implement this vision at CNN. Here's how we recommend he do it:
On Fox News, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman denied the scientific consensus on manmade climate change, saying "For every one scientist that says there is, I'll give you 10 scientists that said it's not manmade":
But in fact, credible surveys have repeatedly found that the vast majority of climate scientists agree humans are changing the climate. For instance, a 2009 survey published by the American Geophysical Union found that 97 percent of those who specialize in climate science said human activity is contributing to rising global temperatures:
Fox News co-host Greg Gutfeld attacked President Barack Obama for connecting wildfires to climate change. But scientists say climate change has increased fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions, and the number of wildfire acres burned each year is on the rise.
In his second inaugural address, Obama called for action to avoid the destructive impacts of climate change, saying, "Some may deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms." On the January 29 edition of Fox News' The Five, Gutfeld criticized Obama for suggesting that wildfires were "somehow linked" to climate change, claiming that there were "a third fewer U.S. wildfires in 2012":
Gutfeld's statistic came from a Washington Post column by George Will that compared the number of U.S. wildfires in 2012 to 2006 -- a year that saw the most wildfires since 1982. By cherry-picking data from that year, Will obscured the upward trend in acres burned from wildfires. In fact, the number of acres burned by wildfires in 2012 was the third-highest on record in the U.S., and the National Research Council states that "large and long-duration forest fires have increased fourfold over the past 30 years in the American West" as increased temperatures have dried soils and plants and boosted tree-killing beetles. While wildfires are influenced by numerous factors, the U.S. Global Change Research Program stated that "Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming":
Fox News seized on a leaked draft of a U.N. climate report to suggest that climate change has been "overstated for the last 20 years." But the draft itself clarifies that observed temperatures over the last 20 years have fallen within the range of past projections despite natural short-term variation.
Fox & Friends First claimed "scientists say" that "global warming been overstated for the last 20 years," based on a draft of the fifth assessment report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report, which was leaked in December 2012 to a blog called "stopgreensuicide," contains a graph that conservative blogs claimed showed observed temperatures were lower than the projections of IPCC's first assessment report in 1990.
But scientists debunked this claim when the IPCC draft was first leaked in December. The draft itself notes that "Even though the 16 projections from the [previous temperature] models were never intended to be predictions over such a short time scale [1999-2010], the 17 observations through 2010 generally fall well within the projections made in all of the past assessments." Indeed, as climatologist James Annan told Media Matters in December, "The grey bounds [...] indicate the range of uncertainty including natural variability, and the observations are well within that range":
A Bloomberg News article claims that new data from Norway "Shows" that global warming is "Less Severe Than Feared." But Bloomberg failed to mention that this claim is based on a PhD thesis that has not yet been peer-reviewed or accepted for publication by any scientific journal.
A press release by the Research Council of Norway states that new research has found that the amount that earth's temperature will rise if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at our current rate will be lower than estimates from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC, a group that assembles thousands of experts to review and summarize predominantly peer-reviewed research on climate change, estimates that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause warming between 2°C and 4.5°C (3.6° to 8.1° F), and estimates that 3°C (5.4° F) is the most likely outcome. By contrast, the Norwegian study estimates that 1.9°C (3.4° F) is the likely outcome.
But the research, which runs counter to the IPCC and the extensive body of research on this topic, is actually a PhD thesis. It has not been accepted by a scientific journal and thus should be treated as preliminary. And according to environmental scientist Dana Nuccitellli, writing at the climate science website Skeptical Science, the study may be flawed, by "overfitting the short-term natural variability" in temperatures.
Conservative media have denigrated solar energy by denying its sustainability, ignoring its successes, and arguing the U.S. should simply cede the solar market to China. Yet this booming industry has made great strides, and with the right policies can become a major source of our power.
Despite the clear scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that humans are causing it, CNN's Erin Burnett treated climate change as the subject of debate.
Throughout the segment, Erin Burnett OutFront aired a badly misleading graphic suggesting that global warming is "on ice" because public opinion has changed. The phrase carried a question mark during most of the discussion, but eventually dropped it:
In contrast, here's a chart from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change showing the long-term change in global temperature:
Last year was also the hottest year on record in the U.S.