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?
A gas company is attempting to use a half-century old Pennsylvania law to frack underneath the land of property owners who refuse to allow the controversial practice on their land, yet a majority of Pennsylvanians may be unaware as two of the state's top three newspapers have failed to mention the contentious issue.
Hilcorp Energy, a Texas-based oil and gas company, is pushing legal action in Pennsylvania to be able to drill underneath the property of landowners that have refused to sign a lease if enough of their neighbors have already signed, a practice known as "forced pooling." The "unused and outdated" law, which is "pitting neighbor against neighbor" as reported by the Associated Press, would "shred private property rights" according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the only of the three highest circulating papers in Pennsylvania to cover the story. The other two, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have completely overlooked the issue which has received national attention.
The "forced pooling" law would force landowners to allow the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to extract natural gas reserves underneath their property without their consent, creating concerns about the impact on property values and the threat of water pollution. A leaked document from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that natural gas extraction has caused methane to leak into domestic water wells, causing "significant damage" to the drinking water supply of the town.
Pennsylvania isn't the only state dealing with the "forced pooling" issue. Energy companies have been exploiting similar laws in many states including in Illinois and Ohio to the outrage of unsuspecting landowners. In Ohio, citizens are "furious" about the ruling that one citizen fears will "make him legally responsible for spills and other damage" according to the Associated Press. Some residents have "resigned to losing future income," while dozens of others are pushing forward lawsuits in an attempt to stop the forcible drilling.
There is a similar sentiment in Pennsylvania even among those who support natural gas drilling and fracking. For example, Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett -- a strong proponent of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania -- opposes the law, likening it to "private eminent domain." And Marcellus Drilling News, a pro-fracking news site, has expressed disapproval of Hilcorp's use of the law, calling it "the low road."
The desert tortoise has become a symbolic scapegoat for right-wing media figures running defense for an anti-government cattle rancher who's threatening to wage a range war against federal law enforcement officers.
Conflict has erupted in Nevada between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the family and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy, a man who has refused multiple court orders to remove his cattle from public land. Bundy has stated that he does not recognize federal law and in fact argued in court in 1998 that the United States government didn't own the land in question (he lost). Now BLM officers and contract cowboys have begun confiscating Bundy's herd. And the scofflaw rancher has emerged as a right-wing folk hero after repeatedly stating that he owns firearms and is willing to "do whatever it takes to gain our liberty and freedom back."
At the center of the controversy -- according to right-wing media figures -- is the formerly endangered (and still threatened) desert tortoise. When Bundy's grazing rights were modified by BLM in 1993, it was in part to protect the species, which inhabits the same publicly-owned desert areas trodden by Bundy's cattle and was at the time on the brink of extinction.
That's where the connection to the tortoise ends, however. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay grazing fees required by the new rules. This led to an escalating series of reprisals from the judicial system that culminated in an order to confiscate Bundy's cattle in order to repay $1 million in fines and fees that over 20 years later remained unpaid. The current enforcement has less to do with protecting the tortoise, and more to do with Bundy's refusal to comply with the law or recognize the legitimacy of the federal government.
Nevertheless, right-wing supporters of Bundy's stand have tried to pin the conflict on the tortoise and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is being depicted in negative terms ranging from being dismissed as irrelevant and economically harmful to becoming the basis for conspiracy theories about unlawful land grabs by Big Government.
On Fox, the situation afforded the network the opportunity to perpetuate the conservative narrative that the ESA unjustly puts the rights of wildlife above the rights of people. One host declared, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition." His co-host sarcastically (and inaccurately) described the government's position as "get the cows off so they can have the desert tortoise live there in peace."
David Blackmon, a Forbes contributor, penned a piece titled, "Using Snipers To Protect A Tortoise." (It's since been taken down, but cached here). In it, Blackmon argued that protecting the desert tortoise was merely a pretext being used by the government "with the clear expectation of running the Bundys off the land entirely."
As evidence that the protection of the tortoise is a scam, some in conservative media have pointed to the Bureau of Land Management itself, claiming it's been euthanizing tortoises and/or "planting" them in the desert in order to make a case that they're endangered.
In fact, a BLM tortoise conservancy in Nevada was forced to shut down due to budget cuts. Prior to its closure, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center had to make the difficult decision to put down the tortoises that carried disease or were too feeble to survive on their own. The others were released back into the wild.
But despite how real the concerns about the future of desert tortoise may be, the reality is that the right-wing media is simply providing cover to a rancher who refuses to obey the law.
Fox News continues to reverse the success of the federal clean energy loan program by cherry-picking from a small minority of failures, magnifying the trend of mainstream media distorting the program's success.
In an April 11 segment titled "Who's Ruining the Economy?" Fox & Friends denounced the Department of Energy's (DOE) low carbon vehicle program despite its success. Fox Business host Stuart Varney pointed to a few companies that received government assistance and later filed for bankruptcy, saying "they thought they could pick winners. They picked losers." He went on to decry the announcement that the DOE will revamp their advanced technology vehicles manufacturing (ATVM) program, saying "they're not reversing course at the sight of failure, they're actually speeding up down the same road":
Fox News' myopic view of the loan program is a lie by omission -- 98 percent of the funds in DOE's clean energy loan programs have been successful. Of the 31 ventures awarded DOE loans, only four have been discontinued -- a far greater success rate than that of venture capital investments, which typically consider three in ten successes to be a successful portfolio.
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.
The Department of Energy's clean energy loan program helped fuel the achievements of electric car company Tesla Motors, yet the major broadcast, cable and print media only mentioned the loan in 20 percent of their coverage of Tesla in 2013 (and in only 7 percent of coverage of Nissan's best-selling electric car, the Leaf). Meanwhile, 84 percent of coverage of Fisker, an electric car company that declared bankruptcy, mentioned its federal loan. This skewed coverage may have misinformed the public about the overwhelmingly positive success rate of the program.
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.
The Daily Caller attempted to generate outrage about the Environmental Protection Agency's research by stating that it "tested deadly pollutants on humans," without noting that the EPA followed strict regulations to protect the consenting research subjects. The research was done to inform regulations on the harmful pollutants that the Daily Caller has suggested should not be further regulated.
On April 2, a Daily Caller article titled "Report: EPA tested deadly pollutants on humans to push Obama admin's agenda" claimed that the EPA has been "conducting dangerous experiments on humans." The article, hyped at the top of the Drudge Report, failed to mention that the Inspector General report on the matter found that "The EPA followed applicable regulations" including obtaining approval from a biomedical Institutional Review Board and informed consent forms from all of the subjects before exposing them to the pollutants.
The article, written by Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastasch, also claimed that the agency "conducted tests on people with health issues and the elderly, exposing them to high levels of potentially lethal pollutants, without disclosing the risks of cancer and death." However, the three studies with consent forms that did not alert subjects "to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease" only examined healthy adults and adults with mild to moderate asthma, thereby not placing them at risk. The Inspector General report did conclude that the EPA should include long-term cancer risks for some of the pollutants studied, which it had initially excluded because an EPA manager "considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures." The Daily Caller left out that the EPA accepted the report's recommendation to rectify this and all of the other recommendations from the report.
The news site further distorted the report by mentioning that one person was "hit with" pollution concentrations above the approved target, without mentioning that the EPA followed approved safety protocol in the situation. According to the report, the "protocol stated that an exposure was to be shut down if particulate concentrations exceeded 600 [micrograms per cubic meter] for over six minutes" and "real time data from the exposure chamber showed that the exposure session was shut down six minutes after the first concentration of 600 [micrograms per cubic meter] was recorded."
The Daily Caller has previously downplayed the lethality of the key pollutant at hand, particulate matter, even running an opinion piece in 2012 that claimed it is "rarely considered a killer by physicians or toxicologists." However, the news site is now stating unequivocally that it is "dangerous" and "deadly" in an attempt to attack EPA regulations on it.
The EPA follows extremely strict regulations for the use of human subjects in research, which have been conducted for about 40 years. For instance, the report notes that after a subject developed a migraine during the study, the EPA "revised the consent forms to exclude future human subjects with a history of migraine headaches from participating in the study." The Institutional Review Board, which approved EPA's study, requires "avoidance of using human subjects if at all possible." However, for controlled scientific studies, human subjects are often necessary. The results will be used to inform EPA's regulations under the Clean Air Act, which help reduce exposure to pollution nationwide.