The evidence for climate change only got stronger this year, with a major climate report finding 95 percent confidence in manmade global warming and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hitting a record 400 parts per million. Climate doubters, in turn, became increasingly desperate, citing everything from a verified scam artist to the "Ouija board of weather."
We've compiled the 13 dumbest things media said about climate change in '13 -- you might be surprised to find which mainstream media outlets made the list.
13. Rush Limbaugh: Carbon Emissions "May Actually Be Making Things Cooler, Not Warmer." In April, Rush Limbaugh claimed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "may actually be making things cooler," going on to say that manmade global warming is a "political hoax." But the Economist article Limbaugh cited actually examined how much the Earth is warming from emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which by definition trap heat in the atmosphere.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board has accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama of violating federalist principles for a rule that would limit air pollution that drifts across state lines. However, the same editorial page previously urged President George W. Bush to implement similarly designed policies during his presidency.
In 2005, the Bush administration's EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule to address pollution that drifts across state lines, "contribut[ing] significantly" to other state's smog problems. At that time, the WSJ did not appear to have an issue with programs that limit one state's pollution to help other states meet Clean Air Act obligations. For example, on July 12, 2006, the WSJ argued that "[o]ne of the great revolutions in environmental policy has been the adoption of the 'cap-and-trade' method for controlling air pollution, starting with the 1990 Clean Air Act. The basic idea is to have the government set overall limits and let the market figure out how most efficiently to achieve the goal. And it has been a major success" (retrieved via Factiva).
Now that President Obama is in office, the WSJ believes such cap and trade designs violate federalist intentions. Writing about a Supreme Court challenge to EPA's "Transport Rule," which has been proposed to replace the now-overturned Bush-era rule, the WSJ complained that it violated "the federalist structure of the Clean Air Act" because it "no longer gave states a chance to develop their own plans to meet their required 'good neighbor' emissions targets." The WSJ editorial ultimately concluded that "[t]he Supreme Court should overturn [the rule] for violating the federalist intentions of Congress[.]"
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":
CNN gave a platform to "toxic and divisive" Marc Morano to dismiss global warming on its new program, The 11th Hour. But the network did not disclose that Morano, who has no scientific expertise, is paid by fossil fuel companies to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change, as he did on CNN.
On December 10, The 11th Hour host Don Lemon tweeted a preview of the show: "Is #climatechange real? We discuss tonight on @The11thHour on #CNN." Such a "debate" over verifiable facts is often counter-productive, but if CNN is going to air it, the network needs to at least disclose if any of its guests have a financial incentive to deny the facts on climate change.
The CNN segment featured Marc Morano, who currently runs a climate skeptic website paid for by a fossil fuel-funded lobbying group, alongside the Sierra Club's Michael Brune and Earth Echo International's Philippe Cousteau. However, Morano commandeered the majority of the segment -- at one point Lemon joked to Cousteau, "Philippe, you've got to be aggressive if you want to get in on these guys because they're really fired up about this." Morano, who previously made a living by feeding misleading talking points on global warming to Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe, used his CNN airtime to claim that the "most pro-child thing you can do" in poverty-stricken areas is to build coal plants -- despite the fact that many countries are struggling with fatal levels of air pollution from those plants. After Morano rattled off his usual talking points, dismissing any trend of increasing extreme weather events, Lemon said, "We get your point. You don't think [climate change] is real." Morano responded, "Scientific journals don't think it's real."
To which scientific journals might Morano have been referring? Currently, 97 percent of all papers that take a stance on climate change have found that human activities contribute to global warming.
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."
The Daily Caller reported that a new survey of meteorologists contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a simple opinion survey does not debunk that 97 percent of climate science papers found that human activities contribute to global warming -- rather, it only shows the stark differences between climate science research and meteorologists' beliefs.
A recent study conducted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its "professional members" to test how political ideologies and climate expertise influence opinions on manmade global warming. The study found that only 52 percent of its members believe global warming is happening and is caused mostly by humans. However, this study merely shows that the average opinions of meteorologists are at odds with the majority of scientific research on climate change, and does not, as the Daily Caller claimed, show that "there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought":
Not all scientists agree that global warming is man-made. Nearly half of meteorologists and atmospheric science experts don't believe that human activities are the driving force behind global warming, according to a survey by the American Meteorological Society.
This new AMS survey runs counter to the notion of a "97 percent" scientific consensus and shows that there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought. The 97 percent number came from a survey of published environmental papers written by scientists from around the world, while the AMS survey measured U.S.-based scientists.
This is not the first time that meteorologists and climate scientists have been at odds. A previous survey of TV weather forecasters found that 27 percent of respondents believed that "global warming is a scam," and more recent survey found that over half of TV forecasters don't believe in manmade climate change.
There are vast differences between meteorologists and climate change scientists, not limited to that their models are different and they ask different questions. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained in an email to Media Matters why a weather forecaster like Joe Bastardi should not be featured in the media to discuss climate change:
I might point out that Bastardi's background is in weather forecasting, not climate science. Asking him to comment on the science of climate change is rather like asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research. The media really ought to know better.
The AMS itself has criticized broadcasters for offering "nonscientific" opinions on climate change:
Increasing numbers of broadcast meteorologists, to whom the public looks for information and guidance on climate change and global warming, are not offering scientific information but rather, all too often, nonscientific personal opinions in the media, including personal blogs. Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any sold scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research."
The expertise of scientists actively researching climate change is well beyond that of most professional meteorologists, some of whom may only have basic training in weather analysis and forecasting. Nonetheless, the public sees media meteorologists as experts.
The antagonism between climate scientists and meteorologists is illustrated within the AMS survey itself; of the survey respondents with expertise in climate science and who actively publish on climate-related issues, 88 percent believe that humans play a major role in perpetuating global warming, and only 1 percent believe that global warming is not happening.
Fox News uncritically aired attacks on the approval of an environmental science textbook by the Texas Education Agency, saying its passage will "push particular viewpoints" as a result of "socialized education." But the textbook's passage had nothing to do with the Common Core Standards, and simply contains scientifically accurate information about hydraulic fracturing and climate change.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) approved a textbook titled Environmental Science to be on its list of recommended science textbooks last week, despite testimony from oil and gas advocate Becky Berger who claimed that the book is full of inaccuracies and "very one-sided." On November 25, Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Cynthia Dunbar formerly of the Texas State Board of Education, who fears that the passage of the scientifically accurate textbook is evidence that Common Core standards will beget "indoctrination through our textbooks."
Berger complained in the hearing that Environmental Science was full of "misleading, inaccurate and partial explanations" on the subjects of climate change, wind power, ozone layer depletion, and hydraulic fracturing risks. Berger, an oil and gas geologist who grew up deeply involved in the energy industry, claimed that the textbook in question misleads on the risks of hydraulic fracturing to water supplies. She reportedly spent two hours evaluating the book and provided "no actual written documentation to back up her claims," contrasting the months-long evaluation process from the state's official review teams, which did not find any substantive factual errors in the textbook. The review panel "identified three minor errors, but none of them having to do with the substance of the textbook," the Texas Tribune reported. However, this did not stop Doocy from suggesting that Berger's testimony was "disqualified" solely because she is currently "running for office as a Republican" to be Texas railroad commissioner.
Meanwhile, Common Core Standards have not been enacted in the state of Texas, something that Dunbar even pointed out during her interview with Doocy; the hearing was held by a state agency to approve new science textbooks in Texas public schools. However, Dunbar then advised citizens to be concerned about "socialized education," as textbook publishing companies "gear towards" the Common Core standards. In fact, Common Core currently doesn't have any specified regulations for textbooks; its website explains that the standards are designed simply to "enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies, including [...] the development of textbooks, digital media and other teaching materials aligned to the standards."
This is not the first time Fox has fretted over environmental education in public schools; when the Environmental Protection Agency hosted lesson plans on climate change, Fox Business cried "propaganda."
The New York Times has produced less environmental news coverage overall since dismantling its reporting team and blog devoted to this issue area earlier this year, the newspaper's public editor said.
In her November 23 column, New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan reported that environmental coverage and investigative projects decreased significantly since the newspaper disbanded its issue-specific team in January and discontinued the Green blog in March. This decision drew wide criticisms and concerns, which were substantiated by a corresponding drop in coverage on environmental issues, including the omission of two major climate stories in August. The decrease came despite assurances from editors that "they were not abandoning the subject -- just taking it out of its silo and integrating it into many areas of coverage," Sullivan reported:
Times editors emphasized that they were not abandoning the subject -- just taking it out of its silo and integrating it into many areas of coverage. The changes were made for both cost-cutting and strategic reasons, they said, and the blog did not have high readership. Readers and outside critics weren't buying it. They scoffed at the idea that less would somehow translate into not only more, but also better.
While current events may develop and influence a media outlet's news agenda, the loss of environmental coverage from the New York Times after the changes went into effect was noticeable and immediate. Specifically, climate change coverage dropped by one-third to 242 articles from April to September this year, compared to 362 articles during the same time period in 2012, Sullivan reported, citing work from the University of Colorado's Maxwell T. Boykoff. Similarly, the New York Times only ran three front-page articles that delved into climate change between April and September, versus nine stories produced during the same time period in 2012. Sullivan highlighted that "[w]ith fewer reporters and no coordinating editor, what was missing was the number and variety of fresh angles from the previous year."
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
Loading the player reg...
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change.
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?
Climate change discussions in the aftermath of a record-shattering deadly typhoon serve as "an excuse" to avoid helping people living in the storm's path, according Fox host Dana Perino, who argued that instead of taking action on climate change, we should provide developing nations with "more fossil fuels." Perino's concern for affordable electricity starkly contrasts with the network's usually dismissive attitude toward those living in poverty and ignores the fact that fighting climate change and keeping energy prices in check for low-income families are attainable and confluent goals.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the island nation of the Philippines last week. The storm may be the most powerful typhoon in recorded history, and the death toll left in its wake is still rising, estimated to be between 2,300 and 10,000.
On the November 14 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino attacked environmentalists who express concern that manmade global warming could impact the strength of major storms like the super typhoon that devastated the Philippines. Perino argued that discussing global warming "is the perfect excuse not to do anything for people living in the Third World." Perino later doubled down, saying, "it's an excuse to not help people in poverty."
Instead of focusing on global warming, Perino's solution to help those vulnerable to the impacts of climate change would be to "help provide affordable electricity to people that are living there, so that they could've had more information so that they could've gotten out of harm's way. With more affordable electricity that is steady, you have better education, you have better health care, you have better well-being and you have the possibility of trade, which will actually help everybody." Perino concluded, "What we should be doing is providing them with more fossil fuels."
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.: