Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.
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.
Conservative media have long alleged that progressives are waging a "war on Christianity" in the United States. Now many of these same media figures are waging their own war on the man who leads the world's largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church's Pope Francis, for addressing the urgent issue of climate change.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan believes the paper is making progress when it comes to using the more accurate term "denier" -- rather than "skeptic" -- to refer to those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.
In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan described "denier" as the "stronger term" and the appropriate label "when someone is challenging established science." Sullivan said that "the Times is moving in a good direction" on the issue, adding that the newspaper is using the term "denier" more often and "perhaps should be doing it even more."
She also likened the discussion to the Times' process for evaluating whether to refer to "enhanced interrogation techniques" as torture, stating: "After a long time the Times came around to calling it torture and I thought that was a very good thing. I think we're sort of in the same realm with the business about skeptics and deniers."
Sullivan, who briefly addressed the distinction between "skeptics" and "deniers" in her May 7 column, said she doesn't have any immediate plans to return to the topic. But she reiterated that "language choice is something that interests me a lot because I think it's something that matters."
Philip Corbett, the Times' associate managing editor for standards, confirmed to Media Matters that Times staff are "aware of the issue and have discussed it." Corbett said Times reporters and editorial staff "do our best" to keep the proper use of labels in mind "even if the process is not always perfect," and that "[w]e intend to continue scrutinizing future stories with these concerns in mind."
From the June 18 edition of CBS Evening News:
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From the June 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Briet Baier:
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Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change reveals his belief that there is a moral obligation to act swiftly on climate change, which disproportionately harms the world's poor. But conservative media are relentlessly attacking the pope over the encyclical, calling it "insipid" and "blasphemous," and fearmongering that the Catholic leader is a "Marxist" pushing for "a new world order," among other things.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made news on his first official day as a GOP presidential candidate by suggesting that Pope Francis' forthcoming encyclical on climate change could inappropriately push religion "into the political realm" and declaring: "I don't get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope." But the media should be covering Bush's remarks in the context of a closed-door meeting he held with coal industry CEOs earlier this month -- an important piece of information that could shed some light on who Bush is actually getting his "economic policy" from when it comes to climate change.
Bush's June 1 appearance at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum was first revealed in a May 29 report by The Guardian, based on materials the newspaper received from the Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit watchdog group. As The Guardian reported at the time:
The former Florida governor is appearing at the invitation of six coalmining company owners and executives: Joe Craft III of Alliance Resource Partners, Kevin Crutchfield of Alpha Natural Resources, Nick DeIuliis of Consol Energy, Garry Drummond of Drummond Company, John Eaves of Arch Coal, and Jim McGlothlin of United Coal Company.
Between them, the six companies have spent more than $17.4m on campaigns and lobbying since the last presidential elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets website.
The Guardian further noted that the meeting occurred "at a critical time for the energy industry and for Bush's political ambitions," with the Environmental Protection Agency "expected to finalize new rules for carbon pollution from power plants this summer" and Bush "relatively free of fundraising disclosure requirements until the official launch of his presidential campaign."
From the June 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A June 13 New York Times article about the pope's forthcoming climate change encyclical failed to follow leading Times staffers' recommendations by using the term "climate skeptic" to refer to those who blatantly deny established climate science.
The Times article stated that the Vatican's stance on climate change has "rankled ... climate change skeptics, who have suggested that Francis is being misled by scientists[.]" It added that "a group of self-described climate skeptics, led by the Heartland Institute" organized a protest of the Vatican's position in Rome, and described Marc Morano, a member of the Heartland delegation to Rome, as a former "aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and climate change skeptic."
But these descriptions of Heartland, Morano, and Inhofe run counter to the recommendations of The Times' public editor and one of its environmental reporters, each of whom has firmly gone on record against referring to climate science deniers as climate "skeptics."
Just last month, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan responded to an open letter from a group of Fellows from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a petition by Forecast the Facts (which Media Matters supported by conducting research into media coverage) asking media outlets to stop incorrectly referring to climate science deniers as "skeptics." Sullivan stated: "The difference between skeptic and denier ... may seem minor, but it's really not. Simply put, words matter." And in February, Times environmental reporter Justin Gillis wrote that the term "skeptic" should not apply to those who "make scientifically ludicrous claims, such as denying that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas or rejecting the idea that humans are responsible for its increase in the atmosphere."
But making "scientifically ludicrous claims" about climate change is precisely what the Heartland Institute, Morano, and Sen. Inhofe have done:
Conservative media outlets are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley for purportedly "taxing the rain" as governor of Maryland. But as The Baltimore Sun noted, the state did "not tax the rain." O'Malley approved an anti-pollution levy on certain property owners to comply with federal law protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
The talking point that O'Malley allegedly "taxed the rain" has been frequently used by conservatives since his presidential announcement. For instance:
Bloomberg has published several columns by contributor Robert Bryce that either attack renewable energy or promote oil without disclosing that he is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment, which has long received significant funding from ExxonMobil.
The Wall Street Journal's opinion page has been serving as a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry's attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Nearly every WSJ op-ed about the proposed rule since it was released on June 2, 2014 has been written by people with ties to the energy industry -- and every single one has attacked it.
From the June 8 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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Many major media outlets reported that a new Environmental Protection Agency study found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") has had "widespread" impacts on Americans' drinking water, but did not mention the EPA's explanation for why the study doesn't necessarily indicate "a rarity of effects on drinking water resources." The EPA study identified several "limiting factors," including insufficient data, the lack of long-term studies, and inaccessible information, which it said "preclude a determination of the frequency of [drinking water] impacts with any certainty."