Fox Business is crying foul over Environmental Protection Agency-hosted climate change lesson plans, which it calls "propaganda." However, the material is aligned with the National Research Council, reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and covers many topics that conservative media have flagrantly misreported in the past.
The lesson plans, which have been available online to middle school educators for months, drew conservative ire after a tweet from the EPA appeared on Fox contributor Michelle Malkin's social media aggregation site, Twitchy.com, on September 12. By the next morning, it was considered big enough news that Fox News contributor Monica Crowley covered it on Varney & Company, asking, "Are they going to tell these kids to not exhale? Because every time you exhale, that's carbon dioxide."
Equally uncontroversial is the view that industrial activities -- particularly the burning of fossil fuels for energy -- have led to a surplus of life-supporting gases like carbon dioxide, which has made the planet hotter -- too hot, in fact. Even many prominent climate deniers acknowledge this much.
It is no surprise that the EPA's lesson plans are grounded in good, basic science; they were adapted from material designed by preeminent scientific institutions including the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The material is also aligned with the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards.
Fox figures would do well to take a look at these plans. Here are three issues they cover that have proven tricky for them in the past:
The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial dismissing the alleged "fear and disinformation" surrounding hydraulic fracturing to claim it is "not so toxic," but admitted the process is not safe enough for Virginia.
The September 11 editorial attacked opponents of hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking - claiming that they "have waged a campaign of fear and disinformation" about the process, which is "not so toxic as its foes make it out to be."
But the Times-Dispatch quickly pivoted to denounce fracking in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which provides drinking water to millions of people. As the editorial explains, it's still a process "that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery," which is "a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape":
The U.S. Forest Service is completing a 15-year management plan and soon will decide whether to permit fracking in George Washington. While fracking is not so toxic as its foes make it out to be, it remains an industrial process -- one that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery. That is a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape.
Granted, the federal government owns far too much real estate -- particularly out west. Public lands should not be categorically sealed off from private use. The George Washington Natural Forest, however, is not just any old lump of real estate. It is a treasure that merits close guarding.
The Times-Dispatch's NIMBYism is clearly concerning. It is understandable that the editorial board would not want to contaminate the drinking water and decimate the beauty of Virginia's natural landscape, but it is unclear why it is willing to tolerate such damage in another state. The Times-Dispatch's reasoning that public lands should be targeted because "the federal government owns too much real estate - particularly out west" is misleading, as approximately 3,400 wells, or about 90 percent of those drilled on Federal and Indian lands, are already "stimulated using hydraulic fracturing techniques."
Conservatives are still turning to British tabloids for their climate science, most recently treating a single year's Arctic sea ice -- which is still far below previous and long-term averages -- to claim that the region is not melting.
The latest instance of tabloid-reviewed science began when the The Mail on Sunday -- a sister newspaper to serial climate misinformer the Daily Mail* -- published an article titled "And now it's global COOLING!" suggesting that an increase in Arctic sea ice cover between September 2012 and August 2013 is among "mounting evidence that Arctic ice levels are cyclical." The story was summarily picked up by other British tabloids and a variety of conservative outlets, all to cast doubt on climate change. Notably, Rush Limbaugh used the report to claim "the Arctic ice sheet is at a record size for this time of year. They told us the ice was melting in the Arctic Ice Sheet. It's not."
Actually, Arctic sea ice is nowhere near "a record size." A graph from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) illustrates that 2013 Arctic sea ice extent minimum (beige line), while not as low as last year's record (dotted line), is still tracking well below the 1979-2000 average (as have the minimum extents of every year since 1997). It is on track to be the sixth-lowest in satellite annals:
As 2012 was a record low, it is not terribly surprising that 2013 looks like it will be higher. This is due to a phenomenon known as regression to the mean, eloquently illustrated by this Skeptical Science graphic:
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is using the victory of conservative Tony Abbott in Australia's recent race for prime minister as a cautionary tale, warning American politicians to "beware the faddish politics of climate change." The warning, issued by an editorial board with a long history of misinforming the public on climate policy, comes on the heels of accusations that Abbott's victory was influenced by severe attacks on his opponent lobbed in the pages of Murdoch's Australian press empire.
Over the weekend, Australians elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott -- a man who has been compared to former American President George W. Bush -- to serve as the nation's 28th prime minister. Among other initiatives, Abbott intends to dismantle the country's fight against climate change, arguing that the science behind the phenomenon is "absolute crap."
In an editorial September 9, The Wall Street Journal attributed former PM Kevin Rudd's loss, and the overall defeat of the center-left Labor Party, to the party's push for a tax on carbon emissions and other "anticarbon policies." The Journal argued that Abbott successfully made the carbon tax a "political liability," and the editorial board used the opportunity to warn Republicans in the United States against going along with attempts to curb carbon emissions:
A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.
Despite The Wall Street Journal's claim, voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn't even break voters' top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country's climate policies should remain the same or stronger.
Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian's Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it "became an issue of her [former PM's] credibility really rather than carbon pricing." The Journal did not see fit to include this important context in its editorial.
From the September 7 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
Loading the player reg...
The Daily Caller wrote that a recent survey of scientific literature only confirmed the "uncontroversial points" that warming has occurred and that it is in part manmade, but the Daily Caller itself has cast doubt on these facts.
The peer-reviewed survey found that 97 percent of scientific abstracts that stated a position on global warming endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. While these points are uncontroversial in the scientific world, they are controversial among many in Congress and the public -- due in part to the misinformation pushed by conservative media outlets such as the Daily Caller.
The Daily Caller also regularly publishes articles that cast doubt on global warming -- including near-transcriptions of Sen. Inhofe's latest attacks on climate science -- yet conveniently leave out the "uncontroversial" fact that the majority of scientists agree that manmade, or anthropogenic, climate change is occurring. For instance, the online publication promoted "Lord" Christopher Monckton, who likes to compare climate activists to Nazis, challenging "Al baby" (Al Gore) to debate him on climate change without stating that the majority of scientists accept that climate change is real and manmade.
The Daily Caller article, headlined "Report: There is no 97 percent global warming consensus," quoted the Global Warming Policy Foundation's Andrew Montford (who is not a scientist) quibbling with the survey by claiming it didn't examine whether the papers endorsed the view that "human activity is the main driver behind global warming" (emphasis added). However, the authors of the report have already addressed this criticism, a fact the Daily Caller left out, explaining that the scientific abstracts they examined didn't go into this detail, but they contacted the authors and 96 percent of them agreed that humans have caused more than half of recent warming (emphasis removed):
Multiple mainstream media outlets have covered a new report touting the economic benefits from hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") without disclosing the report's industry funding.
The recently released study, titled "America's New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil & Gas Revolution and the US Economy," received widespread media attention on Thursday. The report, conducted by consulting group IHS CERA, was commissioned by multiple fossil fuel organizations that stand to benefit from growth in the oil and gas industry. According to the report, the increase in unconventional oil and natural gas extraction has added an average of $1,200 in discretionary income to each US household in 2012, and now supports 1.2 million jobs -- projected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020. These figures are much larger than the findings of many previous economic studies.
However, multiple major news outlets, including Reuters, CNBC, Forbes.com, and the Los Angeles Times, covered the new report with no mention of its financial ties to the industry. The research was monetarily supported by America's Natural Gas Alliance, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and others who stand to gain economically from an unregulated increase in fracking. Kyle Isakower, vice president of regulatory policy at the American Petroleum Institute -- the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry -- lauded the new report, saying "[f]or an organization like the American Petroleum Institute, being able to cite the findings and reputation of IHS goes a long way toward making its point to government officials." According to Steve Forde, vice president of policy and communication at the Marcellus Shale Coalition (an industry trade group), economic impact studies such as this are "an important advocacy tool" for industry development.
Bloomberg, which did disclose the report's industry ties, reported that the IHS report didn't take potential environmental impacts from extracting unconventional oil and gas through drilling and fracking, such as groundwater contamination and strains on water resources, into account.
UPDATE (9/10/13): The Wall Street Journal joined the slew of coverage that failed to disclose the report's oil and gas industry funding, in an editorial published on Tuesday. The editorial claimed the IHS report was "evidence" that fracking "may be the country's best antipoverty program." The Wall Street Journal has published editorials downplaying the risks of fracking before.
Environmental activists, spurred in part by a Media Matters study that found CNBC was misleading on climate change, held a protest in front of CNBC's headquarters Tuesday and submitted more than 42,000 signatures in support of a petition urging the cable network to improve its coverage of that issue.
Members of Environmental Action and Forecast the Facts gathered in front of the business network's offices in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for a 20-minute event. Their protest highlighted the damage done to New Jersey during last year's Hurricane Sandy and pointed out that CNBC's poor climate change coverage does a disservice to its audience, whose companies can reduce risk and increase profits with accurate information on how climate change is impacting their industries.
"There is this growing evidence of the economic impact of climate change," said Jesse Bacon, field organizer for Environmental Action. "It is crucial and we hope to see an improvement in their climate coverage. CNBC has a reputation as a journalistic outlet so people take them seriously."
The protest is, in part, a response to findings by Media Matters in June that the majority of CNBC's climate coverage cast doubt on the validity of the situation.
At the end of Tuesday's event, Bacon and other organizers presented the petition with what they said were more than 42,000 signatures to CNBC spokesman Brian Steel.
The petition states:
To CNBC Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hoffman:
Tell Joe Kernen and your other on-air personalities and guests to stop denying climate science and start reporting the facts on the economic risks of fossil-fueled climate change.
Media Matters identified Kernen, the co-anchor of Squawk Box, as "the most vocal CNBC figures on climate change in 2013, frequently pointing to cold weather to suggest that global warming is not occurring."
Bacon said more than 42,000 signatures was "a very high number of people for us. This really resonated. People do care what's on television and what's being covered."
Steel met the group in the parking lot of CNBC and said he "will commit to read these. We always appreciate the feedback, we love viewer feedback."
Fox News reported on the "very unusual problem" of diminishing sand at Florida beaches, terming it an "environmental ... crisis of the future." However, the network did not mention that phenomenon's connection to sea level rise, a major consequence of climate change.
On Tuesday's edition of Happening Now, correspondent Phil Keating checked in from Miami Beach to relate that some beaches in Florida are "running out of sand." This, he said, threatens the region's booming tourism industry and indirectly weakens an important buffer against hurricane damage as municipalities are forced to take sand from offshore to replace what has been lost. The segment went on to explain that Broward County, which contains Fort Lauderdale, has considered grinding up glass as a substitute:
To its credit, Fox News explained that erosion is to blame for this sand shortage (rather than, say, aliens). Unfortunately, the network did not mention any of the underlying trends driving such changes, prominent among which is rising sea levels along with coastal development and high foot traffic. As Climate Central reported in 2012, climate change could make matters much worse:
And then there's the growing danger of sea level rise, caused by climate change. "Even 25 years ago, sea level was rising," [U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Asbury] Sallenger said in a recent interview, "but not a heck of a lot." But that's changing as the planet's temperature keeps going up, sea water keeps expanding and ice is flowing faster to the ocean, especially in Greenland and Antarctica. "If sea level rises another foot," said Duke University beach expert Orrin Pilkey in an interview, "the shoreline in northeastern North Carolina could be pushed back 5 or 6 miles. And all of the projections I've seen suggest it will be more like 3 feet by 2100."
CNBC host Larry Kudlow believes the Keystone XL pipeline will be good for wildlife because animals will "snuggle" underneath it for warmth, even though the Interior Department found Keystone XL would have "permanent impacts" on wildlife, including threats to several endangered species.
As fossil fuel advocates become increasingly worried that President Barack Obama won't approve Keystone XL, they are resorting to fallacious arguments to purport benefits of the pipeline. On Monday night's The Kudlow Report, Larry Kudlow declared that wildlife will benefit from Keystone XL, dismissing a letter from the Interior Department warning of the dangers it would pose to wildlife. Despite the threats to several endangered species, Kudlow believes that animals would "like to snuggle under the pipeline" for "warmth." Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute, agreed, claiming "animals like the Alaskan crude oil pipeline quite a bit."
Strangely, "animals cuddling for warmth" is absent from the Interior Department's review of the pipeline's wildlife impacts. The Department outlined many ways the pipeline would "wreak havoc" on plants and animals around the prospective route, including "wildlife collisions and electrocutions with power lines." The agency reported that Keystone XL would cause habitat loss and species displacements, resulting in "permanent impacts" on wildlife.
Fox News seized on a cold winter forecast from the Farmers' Almanac to mock global warming. But meteorologists say the periodical, whose prediction has been hyped by many in the media, is "like the Ouija board of weather."
Even if the publication's predictions were accurate, it would do nothing to contradict the long-term trend of warmer global temperatures, including warmer winters in the U.S.:
Yet more remarkable than Fox's annual mockery of global warming is that its source essentially gives out the horoscopes of the weather world. Farmers' Almanac broadcasts vague predictions based on a "secret formula" of "tides, astronomical events" and other factors known only to their pseudonymous weatherman Caleb Weatherbee. It then declares itself correct 80 percent of the time -- apparently based on its readers' assessments, as the outlet has not done any actual analysis. Due to this, a Fox News meteorologist previously said she was "weary" of Almanac forecasts.
Yet now the channel is hyping a prediction that The Washington Post Chief Meteorologist Jason Samenow called "outrageous" and "baseless," concluding that "only a fool would take them seriously."
What's worse is that Fox News is not alone: The Associated Press, in a widely reprinted article, broadcast the same weather predictions from the Farmers' Almanac, noting that "[m]odern scientists don't put much stock in" the Farmers' Alamanac's methods, but then credulously repeating its claim that it is "correct about 80 percent of the time." Additionally, in a seeming violation of their own stylebook, AP referred to "Caleb Weatherbee" without explicitly stating that this is a pseudonym.
Seeking to downplay the impacts of climate change, Fox News claimed that sea-level rise would only amount to "a few inches over a century" in a "worst-case scenario." However, just a few days prior, a draft report from the world's top climate scientists showed that the actual number would be around three feet, exacting a great toll on coastal cities.
On Fox News' America's Newsroom Thursday, anchor Gregg Jarrett suggested that former Vice President Al Gore "tends to exaggerate" the consequences of global warming, alleging that Gore said "the sea level would rise 20 feet" (more on that later). Jarrett continued, "Scientists are laughing at that, saying 'wait a minute, okay, maybe, worst-case scenario, a few inches over a century.'"
But if anyone is "laughing," it should probably be at Gregg Jarrett, who has evidently modeled his own disregard for science on that of the North Carolina general assembly. Earlier this week, a leaked draft of a major report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise rapidly -- in other words, a "worst-case scenario." Only in a scenario in which "the world's governments would prove far more successful at getting emissions under control than they have been in the recent past" would sea level rise be limited to "as little as 10 inches" in addition to the eight-inch rise we've already experienced, according to The New York Times. Some scientists have said this assessment is "overly conservative," and there are studies suggesting "the possibility of as much as two meters (six feet) sea level rise by 2100."
From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Bloomberg News gave a platform for a fossil-fuel funded climate misinformer to advance groundless allegations against scientists -- the second time this year it has drawn a false equivalence between top climate scientists and climate deniers.
In an article on the recently leaked draft of a climate change report authored by the world's top scientists, Bloomberg News quoted Marc Morano, who runs the industry-funded blog Climate Depot that Bloomberg described as "skeptical of climate change" (New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin has called it "divisive and toxic"). Morano has no scientific background, yet Bloomberg gave him space to baselessly assert that the report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is based on "predetermined science" and will "add very little to the scientific debate." The global panel of scientists actually determined with over 95 percent certainty that human activities are the primary drivers of climate change, and found that global sea levels are rising swiftly, potentially adding 3 feet by the end of the century and bringing devastating impacts to several parts of the world including three major cities in the United States.
Bloomberg's article paralleled Fox News' coverage of the report, which also quoted Morano in an effort to cast doubt on the IPCC's findings. In the article, FoxNews.com promoted Morano's claim that "all of these fatuous figures are pulled out of the air to support the IPCC ideologies and not based upon any statistical analysis or science." (The report is actually based on the synthesis of the peer-reviewed scientific literature by hundreds of top scientists.)
This is the second time this year that Bloomberg has given false balance or "false equivalence" to claims that run counter to established climate science, even though the facts lie squarely in one camp. In May 2013, Bloomberg also gave a platform to Morano, uncritically repeating his absurd claim that catastrophically high carbon dioxide levels should be "welcomed" because "plants are going to be happy."
During its first day on the air, Al Jazeera America gave climate change nearly half as much coverage as network news programs did during the year 2012, all while avoiding common pitfalls like providing false balance to those that deny the science and leaving the crisis' manmade origins ambiguous.
The fledgling network's first climate report comprised the entirety of Tuesday's edition of Inside Story, a half-hour news discussion program that promises to "take an in-depth look at the story behind the headlines." Indeed, the inaugural show featured a meaningful dialogue on -- in guest Heidi Cullen's words -- "coming to terms with the fact that we're all part of the problem ... [and] the solution" to manmade global warming, and discussed consequences like extreme weather and rising sea levels. It never wavered on the veracity of the issue:
Al Jazeera America's 30 minutes of climate coverage (about 24 minutes not including commercial breaks) represented nearly half of what was seen on all network nightly news programs in 2012, and more than what was featured by CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront and Anderson Cooper 360 and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity combined in the past four and a half months:
While the network's early attention to climate change is a breath of fresh air, it may not qualify as a surprise. After all, network heads promised serious, in-depth reporting with "less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings," and commentators have held out hope for a new source of solid TV journalism ever since the sale of Current TV was finalized early this year.
Bottom line: this was a great start. But just as encouraging as what Al Jazeera America discussed last night -- climate change -- is the list of things it didn't do:
Perhaps most significantly, Inside Story explored public opinion on climate science, and even presented differing views on climate policy, without once offering marginal contrarian viewpoints as a "counterbalance." Ehab Al Shihabi, Al Jazeera America's acting chief executive, has cited PBS as a model, and it showed. Other cable news channels have sometimes run afoul of this standard.