Environment & Science

Issues ››› Environment & Science
  • Breitbart’s Climate Science Misinformation Embraced By GOP-Led House Science Committee

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    On December 1, the House Science Committee -- chaired by climate science-denying “bully” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) -- tweeted out a Breitbart.com article promoting false claims about climate science and castigating “climate alarmists”:

    The Breitbart article was written by James Delingpole, who has previously disparaged climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and other respected institutions as “talentless low-lives who cannot be trusted." In the article, Delingpole claimed: “Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record. But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community.”

    As purported evidence, Delingpole cited an article by David Rose in the British tabloid Daily Mail. But Rose’s article is based on egregious cherry-picking, as climate blogger Tamino explains:

    [Rose] wants you to think that the worldwide heating we’ve seen for decades now has somehow, magically, come to an end … that it has shown some kind of “pause.” To give that impression, he had to search far and wide for one set of data from which he can cherry-pick one span of time in which he can focus on one recent event, so he can blame this year’s record-breaking heat on something other than mankind and our greenhouse-gas emissions. Thanks to the many many organizations that publish climate data, there are lots and lots and lots of data sets to choose from … so it’s no surprise he found one.

    [...]

    It’s global average temperature, not for Earth’s surface where we live, but for the lower layer of the atmosphere … not for the whole world, but for the land areas only … and it’s not all the data, it leaves out the part David Rose doesn’t want you to see.

    [...]

    Data like this, in fact almost all data, are a combination of trend — the long-term pattern that actually has some persistence — and fluctuation — the short-term ups and downs that are only temporary. And there are fluctuations. Plenty. They go up and down and down and up, but never really get anywhere.

    It’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, completely clear, and pretty simple, that when it comes to climate what matters is the trend, not the fluctuations. For climate deniers, what’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, and completely clear is what they want to avoid. Because it’s so simple, they have to bend over backwards to distract you from it. Like David Rose did.

    Breitbart has a long track record of blatant climate science misinformation, and is even considered a go-to outlet for academics who are bought off by the fossil fuel industry. So the decision by the Republican-led House Science Committee to approvingly cite Breitbart on climate change is ill-advised, to put it mildly. Indeed, it prompted a quick response from Democratic committee member Mark Takano (D-CA), who tweeted: “If Republicans on the House Science Committee are getting their science news from Breitbart, that would explain a great deal.”

    Republican committee chairman Lamar Smith, a climate science denier who has taken over $770,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas and electric utility industries, has a track record of harassing and falsely attacking climate scientists -- just like Breitbart does. So it should come as no surprise that Smith has written his fair share of op-eds for Breitbart.

  • Conservative Media Wrongly Pin Democrats' Election Losses On Climate Change Focus

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In the aftermath of the election, conservative media figures have alleged that Democratic candidates’ emphasis on climate change was a reason they lost, claiming this focus alienated or drove away voters. But numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it, and an exit poll similarly revealed that most voters in Florida view climate change as a serious problem. While these polls indicate that a focus on climate change didn’t harm environmentally friendly Democratic candidates, a plausible explanation for why the issue may not have helped them is the lack of attention it received from the media, including during debates.

  • Fox News Baselessly Credits Donald Trump With Low Gas Prices

    Fox Reporter Claims Trump’s Victory Contributed To Gas Price Drop, But Expert Says It’s “Based On Market Fundamentals, Not Politics”

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Donald Trump was elected president of the United States just ten days ago, and Fox News is already baselessly giving him credit for lowering gas prices.

    On the November 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters, Fox Business reporter Jeff Flock reported that gas prices started to fall in early November, as Wall Street speculators began to doubt that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would reach an agreement to cap its production of oil, which would have driven up prices. But Flock then asserted that another reason gas prices have fallen is “the election of Donald Trump,” adding, “The general consensus is [Trump’s victory] is going to be positive for oil exploration, so that tends to drive prices down, too. Another 2.6 percent [drop] since Election Day.”

    Gas prices have actually been falling since June and are a little more than half of what they were in the spring of 2014, according to data from GasBuddy.com. And according to GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski, gas prices are currently dropping “based on market fundamentals, not politics”:

    “While it’s less than a week after the biggest upset in U.S. election history energy industry experts are already speculating on what steps a Trump Administration might enact first; whether the earliest initiatives might eliminate regulations or perhaps look to increase domestic oil and gas production,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “The Keystone XL Pipeline, for instance, is expected to find itself in a more favorable environment for approval but it remains debatable whether such a development would directly benefit U.S. consumers,” he noted.

    “Over the next few weeks expect prices at the pump to move lower based on market fundamentals, not politics,” says Laskoski. “Inventories remain healthy and wholesale gasoline prices across the U.S. today, on average, are more than 10 cents per gallon lower than where they stood just a week ago.”

    What impact, if any, Trump’s policies have on gas prices in the long run remains to be seen. According to Bloomberg Gadfly columnists Rani Molla and Liam Denning, oil prices will likely rise if “a more-hawkish Trump foreign policy leads to renewed sanctions on Iran and further conflict in the Middle East.”

    Flock’s report is the latest evidence of Fox News’ blatant double standard when it comes to covering gas prices under Republican and Democratic presidents. In 2008, when George W. Bush was president and gas prices were high, Fox News hosts and contributors argued that the president has no power to affect gasoline prices. But in 2012, Fox pundits urged the GOP to deceptively blame President Obama for high gasoline prices. Then, when gas prices began to fall later that year, Fox anchors portrayed low gas prices under Obama as evidence of a weakening economy.

    Flock concluded his report by stating that auto industry executives believe gas prices could remain low for years. Some auto executives may hope this is the case, because low gas prices tend to increase sales of expensive trucks and SUVs. But the reality is that gas prices are extremely difficult to predict in the long term. Nonetheless, Flock, who is clearly unconcerned about climate change, declared: “I would say put the Tesla in the garage and break out the Hummer.”

    From the November 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters:

     

  • Wash. Post Editor: This Election “Could Change The Climate Debate For The Better” In Political Journalism

    James Downie: “More Journalists Have Seen That The Sky Won’t Fall If They Treat Falsehoods As Falsehoods”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s digital opinions editor, James Downie, wrote that this year’s election cycle has “altered political journalism” in a way that could lead to journalists taking a more aggressive approach to fact-checking climate denial. In a November 7 column, Downie quoted CNN’s Dylan Byers saying, “The traditional model of ‘he said, she said’ journalism . . . was thrown out the window in favor of a more aggressive journalism that sought to prioritize accuracy over balance.” Downie added that “climate change is an obvious area to apply this new model.”

    In the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Media Matters found that media often failed to fact-check candidates when they denied the science of climate change. But media have since scrutinized Republican nominee Donald Trump’s false claims that “there is no drought” in California, that he will put coal miners “back to work,” that he has not called climate change a “hoax,” and more

    From Downie's column:

    Shifting the discussion is one area where, surprisingly, the 2016 campaign could change the climate debate for the better, even though climate change has been absent from the discussion. The contest has altered political journalism in a important way: As CNN’s Dylan Byers writes, “The traditional model of ‘he said, she said’ journalism . . . was thrown out the window in favor of a more aggressive journalism that sought to prioritize accuracy over balance.” More journalists have seen that the sky won’t fall if they treat falsehoods as falsehoods, and climate change is an obvious area to apply this new model. Senators should not be able to bring snowballs onto the Senate floor to “disprove” climate change without every headline fact-checking them. The realities of climate change are as much objective truth as the murder or unemployment rates. Regarding them as such will be an early test of whether political journalism has rededicated itself to the facts.

    The debate over climate change is changing, but not as rapidly as it can or should. We have largely squandered decades that could have been spent heading off the danger, and now the consequences are no longer abstract. Climate change is a perilous threat to the country and the world; we must finally treat it that way.

  • Final Scorecard: Climate Change Absent From Debates In Most Key Senate And Governors’ Races 

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    In late September, we launched a real-time scorecard to keep tabs on how often debate moderators and panelists in the presidential election and 18 tightly contested Senate and governors’ races were asking the candidates about climate change. We’ve been constantly updating the scorecard ever since, publishing transcript and video/audio whenever climate questions were asked. Check out our completed scorecard here.

    The November 4 Senate debate in Illinois was the last of the 55 debates we examined, and the final results are not pretty for those of us concerned about climate change. Here are the key takeaways from our scorecard of climate change questions in presidential, Senate, and governors’ debates:

    • Just 12 of the 55 debates held in these key races included questions about climate change (22 percent). If you exclude the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate, where the lack of climate questions was well-chronicled, the portion of debates with climate questions inches up to 24 percent.

    • Broken down by individual race, only eight of the 19 contests featured at least one debate question about climate change (42 percent). In addition to the presidential campaign, debate moderators completely ignored climate change in the following races: Arizona Senate, Indiana Governor, Missouri Senate, Missouri Governor, Montana Governor, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire Governor, North Carolina Senate, North Carolina Governor, and West Virginia Governor. Each of these states face serious climate-related challenges, some of which I detailed here.

    • Only races in two New England states -- Vermont and New Hampshire -- featured more than one debate with a climate question. The Vermont Governor race had four debates with questions about climate change, and the New Hampshire Senate race had two.

    • In six of the 12 debates with climate questions, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and asked them. The climate change questions generated by voters included a Twitter question in Wisconsin, two Facebook questions in Vermont, an audience question in Ohio, a question from the Open Debate Coalition website in New Hampshire, and a question in Indiana submitted to the Indiana Debate Commission using an online form.

  • STUDY: Fox News Spent Less Than Five Minutes Covering The Dakota Access Pipeline Protests This Week

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    One of the largest tribal protests in modern history is being virtually ignored by Fox News, even as clashes between protesters and militarized police over construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota came to a head. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox devoted less than five minutes to coverage of these events in the past week.

    For months, Native demonstrators known as “water protectors” have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport crude oil near the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation in North Dakota, potentially harming sacred grounds or endangering their water supply. In recent weeks, the ongoing water protection actions have expanded to include larger groups of allies, in what activists say is now “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Local police forces have reportedly used rubber bullets, mace, and other violent means, as well as mass arrests in an attempt to control the ongoing protests. Prominent progressive online publications have been covering the actions against the pipeline for months, and major print outlets have begun writing editorials about the pipeline. The protests even spawned a viral Facebook post, delivering news about the clashes between peaceful demonstrators and local authorities to wider audiences. Cable news coverage this week has not been as comprehensive, with Fox News, in particular, merely mentioning the events during headline readings.

    Media Matters analyzed coverage for the last week -- from October 26 through November 3 -- on the cable news networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and found that all three networks together spent less than an hour covering the ongoing protests and police response. Fox News stood out for its lack of coverage, devoting just four and a half minutes to reporting on the events.

    CNN’s coverage over the same period amounted to 18 minutes and 45 seconds, while MSNBC led the charge with just over 30 minutes of coverage. Both CNN and MSNBC featured multiple updates from reporters on the ground at Standing Rock (Sara Sidner at CNN and Miguel Almaguer at MSNBC), and panel discussions about the ongoing protection actions and the response from local authorities.

    MSNBC’s October 27 edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell provided exemplary coverage of the issue, with a panel discussion that included the leader of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault II, and delved into the nuances of the the pipeline debate.

    Meanwhile, Fox’s scant coverage of the issue was in line with the network’s tendency to overlook or demonize protesters of color while elevating white armed protesters as “patriotic.” In a one-and-a-half-minute segment -- its longest segment on the matter this week -- during the October 28 edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox characterized the protest movement writ large as violent, calling the stand-off “a mess” and saying “there is no evidence” that the pipeline construction will pollute the Sioux tribe’s water. The segment featured a brief interview clip with just one person at Standing Rock -- a local sheriff:

    Media have a responsibility to provide coverage of the environmental and human rights battles of our time because coverage can pressure politicians to speak out. Protests against police brutality in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, for example, were widely covered by media -- and the coverage, though often frustrating and problematic, helped start a debate that has now set needed reforms in motion.

    Raising the voices of the Native water protectors in North Dakota would also improve the lack of representation of minorities of color in media, a challenge that is far from being overcome.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC transcripts using the SnapStream video archive from October 26 at 6:00 a.m. through November 3, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. for any mention of the term "Dakota" within 20 seconds of the terms "access" or "pipeline." We excluded teasers for upcoming segments and duplicate segments that were re-aired.