Republican Representative Joe Barton denied manmade climate change by citing the biblical story of Noah's flood, yet no major news outlet except for the online publication Buzzfeed has noted his comments.
Rep. Barton stated in a hearing on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that climate change could be natural because the biblical story of the Great Flood, wherein God told Noah to build an ark to prepare for the flood, occurred prior to the Industrial Revolution:
I would point out, though, that people like me that support hydrocarbon development don't deny that the climate is changing. I think you can have an honest difference of opinion on what's causing that change without automatically being either all in, it's all because of mankind, or it's all just natural. I think there's a divergence of evidence. I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. And that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. So, in any event -- I would ask the gentleman from the Canadian government if you agree with the professor at the other end of the table that if we don't do Keystone, that these projects won't be developed to get the oil to the West Coast of Canada and on to Japan and China?
Bloomberg published a 650-word plus article about the hearing, but ignored Barton's comments. Buzzfeed noted his comments but did not note that they run counter to 97 percent of actively-publishing climate scientists, who agree that recent climate change is mostly manmade.
The press' failure to call out distortions of science does a disservice to the public, many of whom are under the mistaken impression that global warming either isn't happening or is mostly natural:
Rep. Barton has repeatedly suggested that climate change is entirely natural and misled on climate science, including commissioning a reportedly plagiarized report casting doubt on climate change. He has also received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
UPDATE (4/11/13): The Huffington Post, MSNBC's First Look, and ABCNews.com have covered Barton's remarks. ABCNews.com stated that a "group of extreme athletes, however, disagree" with Barton, but did not note that the vast majority of scientists also disagree with him.
An Orange County Register editorial used the struggles of the electric car company Fisker to claim that all green energy technology is a poor investment for the government.
In the editorial (behind paywall), the paper cites several green energy companies that have not produced desired returns to support its argument that government should stop investing in green energy technology:
Either way, Fisker provides a business-school-worthy case study in how not to invest in start-up companies in nascent industries.
Indeed, in a presentation this past fall at MIT's annual EmTech conference, Bill Banholzer, chief technology officer for Dow Chemical, cautioned investors that it was mistake to throw money at green energy start-ups, which promise to bring disruptive technologies to market.
Mr. Banholzer's PowerPoint included a slide with a dozen green energy companies, including the aforementioned Solyndra, A123 Systems, which was to supply state-of-the-art lithium batteries to Fisker and other electric car manufacturers, and other much-hyped start-ups.
Congress should explicitly forbid the Obama administration from making any further "investments" in green energy companies, the failures of which should not come at the expense of taxpayers.
While the PowerPoint presentation by Banzholzer -- whose Dow Chemical just lost a suit over the $1 billion in tax deductions the company tried to put into tax shelters forcing it to pay a 20 percent penalty -- highlighted the failures of several green energy companies, this anecdotal evidence obscures key facts about the green energy industry as a whole. Due to increases in federal investment, the U.S. clean tech industry has grown rapidly. The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the last several years and is on track to be as cheap as our current electricity by 2020. Wind turbine manufacturing and installed wind capacity have also grown significantly. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, "US wind turbine manufacturing has grown 12-fold" since 2005 while "costs have been reduced by 90% since 1980."
Fox News is claiming that a top climate scientist said global warming "doesn't equal warming," when he actually pointed out that much of recent warming has gone into the oceans.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that much of the warming since the year 2000 has been absorbed by the ocean. In a story on the new findings, Reuters quoted Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, as saying "Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways":
"Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways," said Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Warming can go, for instance, to the air, water, land or to melting ice and snow.
Warmth is spreading to ever deeper ocean levels, he said, adding that pauses in surface warming could last 15-20 years.
However, on Tuesday's edition of Special Report, Fox's flagship nightly news show, Trenberth's words were warped beyond recognition. Claiming that there may be "a breach in the wall of climate science," Fox News played a clip of industry-funded climate misinformer Marc Morano alleging that Trenberth "is announcing that global warming doesn't mean rising temperatures. In other words, that warming doesn't equal warming."
Actually, Trenberth noted that air temperatures make up only a small fraction of the way we measure climate change. As this chart from a study published in Physics Letters A shows, oceans have absorbed much of recent warming -- a factor that Fox News completely ignored:
Bill O'Reilly labeled electric carmaker Tesla Motors a failure, claiming it had net losses. But Tesla has actually turned a profit, leading Fox News to label it a "success story" just last week.
O'Reilly stated that Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan guarantee, had "$523 million in losses." But Tesla actually made a profit in the first quarter of 2013, and has arranged to repay its loan five years early. O'Reilly's figure is from a 2011 Investor's Business Daily editorial, as Raw Story first noted. In 2011, Tesla had annual net losses of $254 million, adding to previous losses, but CEO Elon Musk always saw Tesla turning a profit in 2013 once its car production ramped up.
In fact, Fox News itself labeled Tesla a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs reluctantly acknowledged that it was one of the "winners" of the Obama administration's clean energy programs.
Fox News reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found 679 renewable energy initiatives to be overlapping -- but the GAO only stated that 679 was the number of such initiatives that existed in 2010; further, the GAO explicitly stated that it could not evaluate whether the programs overlapped.
In the GAO's 2013 annual report, which seeks to identify wasteful and overlapping federal government programs, the office determined that "23 agencies and their 130 subagencies implemented 679 renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010."
Fox's Special Report, however, claimed that all 679 of these programs were duplicative and wasteful. Host Bret Baier reported: "Fox has obtained the results of a new GAO report finding 162 areas of duplication or wasteful spending, adding almost $100 billion a year on top of a larger amount from two previous reports. Renewable energy programs topped them all with 679 overlapping programs."
This characterization is actually contradicted by the report itself. While the report found that a handful of wind initiatives may have "provided duplicative support," the GAO specifically stated that the office "could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication" among the renewable energy initiatives:
Although GAO examined characteristics, such as energy source and recipient type, for the nearly 700 renewable energy initiatives identified in its February 2012 report, GAO could not comprehensively assess the potential for overlap or duplication among the initiatives because existing agency information was not sufficiently complete to allow for such an assessment.
Fox's falsehood echoes a release from Republican Senator Tom Coburn that also claims 679 renewable energy initiatives were found to be duplicative.
Fox News is now acknowledging that Tesla Motors is a "success story," but only a year ago the network declared the company "failed." This distortion played into its attempts to boost then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama only "pick[s] the losers."
Discussing the Obama administration's investments in green technology, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett recently stated that Tesla is a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs acknowledged on Monday night that it is one of the "winners." Tesla recently announced that it made a profit in the first quarter of 2013 after exceeding sales goals for its electric sedan, and the company plans on paying back its Department of Energy loan guarantee five years early.
But an oft-aired Fox News graphic previously listed Tesla as "failed," a claim that Romney later echoed. In fact, several of the companies that Fox News declared "failed" are still successfully operating (circled in green), and contributing to technological advances that could help us transition to a clean energy economy, as can be seen in this interactive graphic created with ThingLink:
The companies circled in yellow did not actually receive any funds from the loan guarantee programs, instead receiving either grants, tax credits, or no federal funds at all. Nevada Geothermal Power's project, at far left and not circled in the graphic above, is still operating and part of the 87 percent of loan guarantee funds under the 1705 program awarded to projects that experts say pose almost no risk to the taxpayer. By lumping all of these programs together from the more than 1,460 companies that have received such awards, Fox News was able to paint a distorted picture of the Obama administration's energy policies.
On the April 5th edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, science education activist Zack Kopplin confronted The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore over myths about science funding, pointing out that Moore, who questioned the need for funding research on "snail mating habits," is "not a scientist":
As it turns out, the reason actual scientists are conducting this type of research is because snails carry parasitic worms that kill children:
Fox News is using the struggles of Fisker, an electric carmaker that received federal loans, to claim that the government only picks "losers." But just one week prior, the network declared Tesla, which received loans from the same program, a "success story."
On Monday's edition of Fox News' America Live, Lou Dobbs treated the struggles of Fisker, which has reportedly hired a law firm to prepare for a possible bankruptcy filing and cut staff, as a reason that "we have got to get this government, and this administration, out of picking winners and losers, because all they pick are losers." In 2009, the company received a $529 million conditional loan guarantee through the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, of which it received $192 million before DOE froze the loan. Later in the segment, Dobbs added: "I've looked at the winners and the losers. I cannot find the winners."
Dobbs might have started by watching Fox News, which reported the previous week on Happening Now that Tesla, another hybrid electric automaker that received ATVM funds, was a "success story":
Indeed, Tesla recently announced that it turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013 and plans on paying back its DOE loan five years early. The company has seen sales of its Model S electric sedan, which was named 2013's car of the year by both Automobile and Motor Trend, exceed goals set by the company.
In agitating for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, CNBC host Jim Cramer falsely claimed that the transnational oil pipeline could create 60,000 jobs in four weeks and further erroneously claimed that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years" in the United States. In fact, evidence from the State Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate Cramer has vastly overestimated both Keystone XL's job creation potential as well as the impact of the pipeline industry as a whole in adding jobs to the economy.
Cramer's erroneous comments about Keystone XL came during the April 7 edition of Meet the Press on NBC:
Contrary to Cramer's assertion, a State Department report on Keystone XL released on March 1 found that the pipeline would create approximately 42,100 jobs for a one-to two-year period, including 3,900 annual construction jobs during this period. However operation of the pipeline would only create "35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs" meaning that Keystone XL "would have negligible socioeconomic impacts."
Cramer is also wrong that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pipeline industry employs approximately 43,310 individuals annually, with jobs involving the transportation of crude oil accounting for 8,680 of that total. By comparison, the BLS estimates that, in the private sector alone, over 2.5 million individuals are employed in "green goods and services," a designation created by BLS to describe jobs and businesses "that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources."
Evening network news shows have largely ignored the filibuster brinkmanship of Senate Republicans in blocking President Obama's judicial nominees, as well as the resulting vacancy crisis at the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is considered the most important court in the country after the Supreme Court, in part because many of its judges go on to become justices, and in part because it is by far the most powerful appellate check on the federal government. Since it is required to examine challenges to a wide range of federal action - from environmental regulations to consumer protections to voting rights - it has the ability to uphold or strike down law on a national level.
However, as another victim of relentless Republican filibustering and the ensuing inability to hold up-or-down votes on the president's nominees to the federal courts, the D.C. Circuit currently has nearly 40 percent of its judgeships vacant. A Nexis search of evening network news shows in the past six months indicates that this problem has been ignored by ABC, CBS, and NBC.
From the April 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Although the Dayton Daily News accurately reported on the agricultural industry's effect on dangerous algae blooms in Lake Erie, it failed in its original reporting to identify climate change as a crucial factor in creating ideal conditions for the algae growth.
A recently released report by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science found toxic cyanobacteria -- which also plagues Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio -- in Lake Erie, creating a smelly coating on the water's surface and causing the death of "untold numbers of marine creatures by hypoxia" in 2011. As explained in a piece in Atlantic Cities, two main factors were to blame: the agriculture industry's spreading of phosphorus-based fertilizers, which ran into the lake, and climate change, which fed the algae with warmer temperatures and weak water circulation:
Who's to blame here? The likeliest culprit is the agricultural industry with a helping hand from global warming, according to researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science. The scientists conducted a detailed postmortem on the 2011 muck-up using satellite imagery and computer models. As in past years, the process began with farmers spreading phosphorus-based fertilizer in the fall to prepare for spring planting. Because of ideal growing conditions, they were especially fertilizer-happy in the autumn of 2010.
Much of this fertilizer was then washed into the lake by rain, where it acted as a "nutrient load" (aka dinner) for a legion of tiny microorganisms. The river washing was especially intense in May 2011, because a number of massive storms swept great amounts of sediment into Erie. The algae was not only well-fed but encouraged to grow by warmer temperatures and a weak water circulation that kept the stuff near the sunny surface. The result was a bumper year for algae farmers, which might actually become a thing in the future if the algae-based biofuel industry ever gets off the ground.
While the Dayton Daily News reported on the agriculture industry's effect on the short-term algae blooms, it missed the connection to climate change, which could have longer term effects on algae blooms, according to the report's findings. On March 30, the paper published a piece discussing the algae bloom's effect on fishing in the lake. On January 19, it published a piece on Lake Erie's algae bloom diverting attention away from the algae problem at Grand Lake St. Marys, highlighting agriculture's role in the algae bloom:
Governor John Kasich said recently, "We are making progress," but did not elaborate about the problems at Grand Lake St. Marys. He, too, realizes the problems at Lake Erie have taken center stage.
The only real "progress" will come when the last farmer stops pouring manure on his land without safeguards against runoff into the lake. Achieving that goal might mean such steps as mandatory filter strips in the watershed, hauling away manure, created wetlands in every feeder stream and any other innovation that comes along.
In a mystifying attempt to turn the tables on science itself, Fox News is trying to reclaim the term "climate deniers" to refer to people who accept the preponderance of evidence confirming manmade climate change and support action to limit its impacts.
On Friday's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy promoted National Review Editor Rich Lowry's attempts to paint "advocates of limits on carbon emissions" as "deniers." Doocy proclaimed that based on our carbon emissions "you would think it would be 900 degrees right now on planet Earth, but instead over the past 15 years or so, we have been flat temperature-wise":
It's interesting that Lowry is now attempting to co-opt the term "climate deniers," when in the past he condemned it as a way of equating climate "skeptics" with Holocaust deniers:
Climate alarmists conjured a world where nothing was certain but death, taxes and catastrophic global warming. They used this presumed scientific certainty as a bludgeon against the skeptics they deemed "deniers" -- a word meant to have the noxious whiff of Holocaust denial.
But advocating action is in no way denying science. Fox News is once again trying to obscure the long-term warming trend, driven by greenhouse gas emissions:
It is true, as Lowry points out, that scientists are continually examining just how much the climate will warm in response to our emissions, but those uncertainties are hardly a good excuse for inaction. After all, we know that scientific studies continue to indicate what they did in 2007: the amount that the Earth would warm in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide "is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C," or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. This led the International Energy Agency to warn in 2011 that drastic actions needs to be taken in order to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
NPR gave undue credence to wind power opponents who claim turbines are "making them ill" with a variety of symptoms. But there is no demonstrated link between wind turbines and health impacts, and studies suggest that psychological factors are behind these symptoms.
In a post titled, "Could Wind Turbines Be Toxic To The Ear?" NPR gave pediatrician Nina Pierpont a platform to promote "wind turbine syndrome," a term she coined. Although NPR noted that her claims "have been met with heavy skepticism from a host of experts in energy and public health," it nonetheless suggested that a recent scientific review supported her "self-published report."
Pierpont's report consisted of telephone interviews with 23 people who responded to an ad asking for people who claimed to experience "wind turbine syndrome," and their anecdotes about 15 family members.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, Canada stated in a report that "no conclusions on the health impact of wind turbines can be drawn from Pierpont's work due to methodological limitations including small sample size, lack of exposure data, lack of controls and selection bias." Pierpont claimed that her paper was peer-reviewed, but it was actually evaluated by people she selected, including her husband, an anti-wind activist who compares his struggle to the civil rights movement:
Dr. Martin Luther King (see below) didn't use lawyers. Neither did Gandhi, who was a trained lawyer. Wrong strategy. If you think the Big Wind Onslaught is not on the scale of a Gandhi and King, but just a minor issue -- think again.
As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus.
NPR also trumpeted the significance of a new scientific review, saying it "showed that outer hair cells of the cochlea respond to infrasound, which could affect the functioning of the ear." But there is no evidence that the outer hair cell response actually does "affect the functioning of the ear." Previous reviews have also noted that outer hair cells respond to infrasound, but nevertheless concluded "[a]vailable evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system."
After promoting anecdotes from a firefighter to claim that polar bears are "doing just fine," Fox News has ignored new research that confirms they are still existentially threatened by climate change. This divide in coverage is illustrative of what University of Alberta scientist Dr. Ian Stirling called a "new element" of media -- "the deliberately misleading, and sometimes downright dishonest, treatment of the science around polar bears when it relates to climate warming." In conversations with Media Matters, Stirling and other leading polar bear scientists outlined eight tips for media outlets seeking to accurately cover the plight of the polar bears.
In February, Fox News repeatedly promoted a book by firefighter Zac Unger on his time in Churchill, Manitoba to claim that "the polar bears are doing just fine." Even though bears in that region are actually among the subpopulations in decline, Fox News suggested that the book undermined climate science. Dr. Andrew Derocher, a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, called that premise "flawed" and told Media Matters that "scientific literature shows very clearly the loss of sea ice in the satellite record and the projections (many many scientific papers) show that the future will be particularly challenging for polar bears as the sea ice disappears." He added, "I've worked on polar bears for 30 years and the changes are incredibly easy to see but as scientists, we don't just look at bears, we measure them and analyze the data."
Stirling criticized Unger for "a very sad piece of deliberately misleading and dishonest writing" that "tells only parts of the story that suit him." Similarly, Derocher said it was "unfortunate" when "someone who clearly doesn't understand a subject well botches up the science." Furthermore, media should not rely on anecdotal information when there is "a lot of data" on sea ice and polar bear body condition. He added:
The book you mentioned was written by someone who spent a few months in 1 place with his family talking to people. What I did on my last trip to Kentucky doesn't qualify me to rewrite the history [of] the eastern US. I've worked on polar bears for 30 years. Many of my colleagues for even longer. You don't go to a plumber for heart surgery but when it comes to polar bears "everybody is an expert". In science, an expert has to demonstrate expertise. Hanging around in Churchill for a few months talking to the locals doesn't qualify as an expert. Our last paper on polar bears in Conservation Letters had something like 200 years of cumulative polar bear expertise. How it can be that media put the scientific perspective on par with a casual observer is beyond me.
In fact, some reports that rely on polar bear sightings to conclude they are doing "fine" may be unwittingly underscoring the urgency of sea ice melt. As lost habitat drives bears from their hunting grounds, they sometimes wander into towns and garbage dumps. This may lead to more contact with humans, and an overall impression that polar bears are abundant, even to the point of being a nuisance. In fact, as Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a former polar bear project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told Media Matters, a bear sighting in a new place "probably means the bears are having a hard time making a living where they used to make a living."
Unger promoted the popular media claim that polar bear populations have increased -- or are even "exploding" -- since the 1960s or 1970s, but those reports omit necessary context. Many of the starting-point estimates are based on a Russian calculation from the 1950s -- 5,000-8,000 bears -- that has never been broadly accepted by scientists. Amstrup told Media Matters that "we really don't know how many polar bears there were in the 60s [or 70s]" and it is "important to set the record straight." In 2008, Stirling told then-CNN Executive Producer for Science Peter Dykstra that the estimate was "almost certainly much too low."
In some places, thanks to conservation efforts like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and a subsequent international agreement, it does appear that polar bear populations have increased. According to Amstrup, Alaskan populations are a good example of such managed recovery. But in other areas, such as western Hudson Bay and the southern Beaufort Sea, populations are thought to be declining. And as Derocher pointed out, conservation biology is concerned with the future, normally examining issues three generations down the road. By this measure, polar bears are indeed in trouble, and looking back to the 1960s or 70s makes no sense:
What climate deniers like to pull out is that there are more polar bears now than in the 1960s. That doesn't matter and just because we've corrected excessive harvest rates (commercial hunting for example) in the 1960s doesn't make this argument any more relevant to the conservation of the species today moving forward in time.
Amstrup echoed this point, saying "the population on the Titanic was doing just fine until just before it slipped beneath the waves." Overall, the USGS has projected that changes in Arctic ice conditions could result in "loss of approximately 2/3 of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century."