Environment & Science

Issues ››› Environment & Science
  • As Trump Visits Flint, Media Should Remember His Anti-Clean Water Agenda

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is visiting Flint, MI, a city that is still struggling to recover from a drinking water crisis that Trump claimed “would have never happened if I were president.” Media should be wary if Trump repeats this claim, given his plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and rescind the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, as well as his energy adviser’s reported statement that the Clean Water Act would likely be “rolled back" by a Trump administration.

  • Media Call Out Trump For Dodging Key Science Questions

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Media are calling out GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for providing vague and evasive answers to a series of science-related questions posed by a coalition of major science organizations, including a question about climate change. Trump has a long track record of denying the reality of climate change, but he was not asked about the topic during any of the 12 GOP presidential primary debates.

  • Why Is USA Today Willingly Confusing Its Readers About Climate Change?

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    The USA Today editorial board is well-versed in the science of human-caused climate change and its impacts. So shouldn’t USA Today make sure that the op-eds it runs alongside its climate-related editorials aren’t scientifically inaccurate?

    In a recent study, we documented that 12 percent of the climate-related opinion pieces that USA Today has published since January 2015 contained climate change denial or other climate science misinformation. Most of these opinion pieces were what USA Today calls “opposing view” op-eds that ran alongside USA Today editorials (“our view”) that accurately reflected climate science.

    The end result was false balance, where a factually accurate statement about climate change was pitted against a factually inaccurate one, and USA Today’s readers were forced to decide which side to believe.

    This dynamic was once again at play when USA Today published a September 8 “opposing view” from Patrick J. Michaels, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science. USA Today deserves some credit for properly disclosing that “Cato has received funding from fossil fuel interests,” but that doesn’t excuse publishing an op-ed containing claims about climate change that USA Today knows to be untrue.

    In the op-ed, Michaels asserted that “glib attributions” of a climate change role in the recent extreme rainfall and flooding in Louisiana are “more wishful than reality.” As purported evidence, he cited a recent study of the contiguous United States by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which found that “no evidence was found for changes in extreme precipitation attributable to climate change in the available observed record.” Michaels then added: “What’s good for the U.S. is also good for Louisiana.”

    The NOAA study Michaels cited did not assess whether the devastating flooding in Louisiana was related to climate change, but another study by many of those same NOAA scientists did. It found, “Human-caused climate warming increased the chances of the torrential rains that unleashed devastating floods in south Louisiana in mid August by at least 40 percent.” And the lead author of both studies, Karin van der Wiel, stated: “We found human-caused, heat-trapping greenhouse gases can play a measurable role in events such as the August rains that resulted in such devastating floods, affecting so many people.”

    USA Today published Michaels’ distortion of NOAA’s climate research despite being well aware of the Louisiana-focused study. In its editorial that ran alongside Michaels’ op-ed, USA Today wrote that the “science of heavy rain events is straightforward” and noted that “a new federal report concluded that human-caused climate change played a ‘measurable’ role in last month’s catastrophic flooding in Louisiana and increases the chances of such torrential downpours by at least 40%.” And a USA Today news article stated that the NOAA study found climate change “played a major role in the historic rainfall that caused catastrophic flooding in Louisiana last month, nearly doubling the chance of such a deluge taking place.”

    Much of the climate science misinformation on the pages of USA Today stems from this “our view”/“opposing view” format, but it doesn’t have to be this way. USA Today would do a service to its readers by committing to fact-checking all of its climate-related opinion pieces -- “opposing view” or otherwise -- to ensure that they don’t contain false claims about climate science. 

    The September 8 USA Today editorial concluded: “There’s plenty of room for debate on the best ways to adapt to climate change, mitigate its effects and curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. After another long, hot, soggy summer, however, neither [GOP presidential candidate Donald] Trump nor any other candidate for public office should be allowed to get away with the argument that climate change is a ‘hoax’ or something not worth sweating over.”

    It’s a good point -- and one that should apply to USA Today’s opinion pages, too.

    Kevin Kalhoefer assisted with the research for this article.

  • Denial Redux: Fox News, WSJ Pundits Dispute The Reality Of Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News and The Wall Street Journal have once again reminded us that their heads are deep in the sand when it comes to the scientific reality of climate change.

    During a discussion about the presidential campaign on the September 7 edition of Fox News’ America's Newsroom, Fox host Tucker Carlson denied the findings of major scientific institutions around the world when he asserted that “there’s literally no proof” that climate change is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. He added that the notions that humans are causing climate change and can reverse it by cutting emissions are “articles of faith”:

    Meanwhile, on September 6 the Journal posted another interview on its website between editorial board member Mary Kissel and Rod Nichols, chairman of the climate science-denying CO2 Coalition. Kissel introduced Nichols as a “guy who takes no coal money or big energy money, as far as I know.” However, Nichols has served on the boards of the Manhattan Institute and George C. Marshall Institute, which have each received funding from ExxonMobil and foundations run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    During the interview, Kissel and Nichols agreed that climate change is “a non-problem,” because according to Nichols, carbon pollution “is going to be good for the world.” He also claimed that there has been “practically no warming” in order to suggest that climate change is not a cause for concern:

  • CNBC Debunks Industry-Backed Study Behind Trump's Dirty Energy Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s promise to boost the U.S. economy by rolling back environmental protections rests on a deeply flawed study linked to the oil and coal industries, CNBC.com reported.

    In his energy plan, the GOP presidential candidate cites the Institute for Energy Research (IER) to claim that “lifting the restrictions on American energy” will create “a flood of new jobs,” increase annual wages by $30 billion over seven years, and increase annual economic output by nearly $700 billion over the next 30 years.

    But as CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher pointed out in a September 6 article, Trump misstated the scope of IER’s report, which “does not actually attribute the gains to a lifting of restrictions, as Trump indicated, but to opening all federal lands to oil, gas, and coal leasing.” Furthermore, economists explained to CNBC that the IER report relies on a forecasting model that “often overstates the benefits of increased drilling,” is based on the “questionable assumption” that government policies -- rather than economic conditions -- are limiting fossil fuel production, and makes “no attempt to weigh the environmental and social costs of opening federal lands against the benefits.”

    DiChristopher also detailed IER’s ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. He explained that IER’s affiliated organization American Energy Alliance is “one of a number of groups funded by a network of donors” connected to the Kochs, whose companies “explore for and produce oil and natural gas; market coal; and operate or own 4,000 miles of oil, fuel, and chemical pipelines.”

    From the September 6 CNBC.com article:

    Donald Trump has promised to roll back regulations and unleash an energy revolution in America — but economists have their doubts about the plan.

    The Republican presidential candidate says he will boost America's economic output, create millions of new jobs, and put coal miners back to work. But the windfalls Trump touts originate from a report commissioned by a nonprofit with ties to the energy industry and whose findings rely on a forecasting model that often overstates the benefits of increased drilling, according to economists who have researched the U.S. shale oil and gas revolution.


    The IER report uses a method of forecasting called the input-output model, which is frequently used by consultants and government agencies to make projections about the effects of economic activity.

    But a number of economists say that model is not well-suited to predicting how more drilling will produce windfalls in other sectors, and academics are skeptical of the method because the results, or outputs, rely so heavily on the assumptions, or inputs.

    "This is not academic research and would never see the light of day in an academic journal. The pioneering research ... from years ago is rarely employed any more by economists," said Thomas Kinnaman, chair of the Economics Department at Bucknell University, who reviewed the IER report for CNBC.

    Kinnaman said the technical assumptions used throughout the study are not "egregious," but he noted that the paper makes no attempt to weigh the environmental and social costs of opening federal lands against the benefits.


    Peter Maniloff, assistant professor of economics at the Colorado School of Mines, said the IER study is based on a questionable assumption.

    "The IER report assumes that policy restrictions are the major factor holding back coal, oil, and gas production," but it has more to do with straightforward economics, he said. "Domestic oil drilling on available land has dropped by three-quarters since 2014 due to low prices."

  • EXPOSED: Fox News Scrubs Climate Change Mention From Article About Tropical Storm Hermine

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    For one brief moment over the weekend, Fox News did the unthinkable: acknowledge some of the real-world impacts of climate change in an online article about Tropical Storm Hermine. Soon afterward, though, Fox got back on message, erasing all mentions of global warming from the piece.

    The Fox News article, which was initially attributed to The Associated Press and published on FoxNews.com on September 4, reported that climate scientists say “the storm surges pushed by Hermine could be even more damaging” because “sea levels have risen up to a foot due to global warming.” The article cited Penn State University scientist Michael Mann and Princeton University scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who each stated that warming-induced sea level rise has already significantly worsened flooding from major storms:

    Forecasters expected Hermine to regain hurricane force on Sunday as it travels up the coast before weakening again to a tropical storm by Tuesday.

    And since sea levels have risen up to a foot due to global warming, the storm surges pushed by Hermine could be even more damaging, climate scientists say.

    Michael Mann at Pennsylvania State University noted that this century's one-foot sea-level rise in New York City meant 25 more square miles flooded during Superstorm Sandy, causing billions more in damage.

    "We are already experiencing more and more flooding due to climate change in every storm," said Michael Oppenheimer, a geosciences professor at Princeton University. "And it's only the beginning."

    It was a notable acknowledgement of climate science from Fox, a media outlet that previously directed its journalists to cast doubt on the science, and which continues to frequently deny the scientific consensus around human-caused climate change to this day.

    But as it turned out, Fox News’ progress on climate change was short-lived. After FoxNews.com assumed “ownership” of the article by changing the article’s byline from The Associated Press to FoxNews.com (and adding a note stating that the AP had “contributed” to the report), Fox removed all of the portions of the article that related to climate change.

    In other words, Fox indicated that while The Associated Press may choose to report on the impacts of climate change, Fox News will most certainly not. Or, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) coincidentally put it on September 5, the debate over climate change is over, "Except on Fox.”

    Here's an excerpt of the original Associated Press article published on FoxNews.com on September 4:

    Here's what that portion of the article looked like after the attribution was changed to FoxNews.com:

    And finally, here's an excerpt of the revised Fox News article that scrubbed all mentions of climate change, as it now reads on FoxNews.com:

  • ANALYSIS: Wall Street Journal Opinion Section Is Chief Apologist For Exxon’s Climate Change Deceit


    The Wall Street Journal has published 21 opinion pieces since October opposing state or federal investigations into whether ExxonMobil violated the law by deceiving its shareholders and the public about climate change, a new Media Matters analysis finds, far more than The New York Times, The Washington Post, or USA Today published on either side of the issue. The Journal has yet to publish a single editorial, column, or op-ed in support of investigating Exxon’s behavior, and many of its pro-Exxon opinion pieces contain blatant falsehoods about the nature and scope of the ongoing investigations being conducted by state attorneys general.

  • STUDY: Newspaper Opinion Pages Feature Science Denial And Other Climate Change Misinformation


    The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Washington Post all published climate science denial and other scientifically inaccurate statements about climate change on their opinion pages over the last year and a half, while The New York Times avoided doing so, according to a new Media Matters analysis of those four newspapers. The Journal published by far the most opinion pieces misrepresenting climate science, while all three instances of climate science denial in the Post came from columns written by George Will. The Journal and USA Today also published numerous climate-related op-eds without disclosing the authors’ fossil fuel ties, while USA Today, the Post, and particularly the Journal frequently published some of the least credible voices on climate and energy issues.

  • WSJ Video Instructs Viewers To “Trust” Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel told viewers that if they are “confused about the science surrounding climate change,” they should “trust” Rod Nichols, chairman of a climate science-denying fossil fuel front group known as the CO2 Coalition. During the interview, Nichols denied that human activities such as burning oil and coal are responsible for recent global warming, claiming that “[c]limate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” that “[t]here is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and that “CO2 will be good for the world.” Kissel asked Nichols, “why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents,” and concluded that the CO2 Coalition’s research papers are “terrific.”

    Here's the August 17 video:

    MARY KISSEL (Wall Street Journal editorial board member): Are you confused about the science surrounding climate change? Don't know who to trust? Well, we have help for you! Rod Nichols is chairman of the CO2 Coalition ... Rod, I want to start with the CO2 Coalition. What exactly is it, and who's involved?

    RODNEY NICHOLS (CO2 Coalition chairman): We formed about a year ago -- a group of scientists, mostly physicists, a few chemists, engineers, economists -- who are convinced that the public is being misled about carbon dioxide. CO2. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is not a pollutant. But if you read the editorial pages and the news pages of most papers the word "pollutant" is always used with CO2. 

    KISSEL: So does that mean that your group doesn't believe in climate change? Or doesn't believe in something called "catastrophic climate change"?

    NICHOLS: Climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. Everybody should recognize that there is climate change. There is not going to be any catastrophic climate change. CO2 will be good for the world. CO2 enhances agriculture. Crops tend to grow on the average of 15 percent more per year given more CO2. And even more important, crops don't need as much water when they're growing if they have more CO2. You can see this at the edges of deserts where struggling little green plants -- you couldn't see them 35 years ago. Thirty-five years later the satellite photos clearly show that these little green plants -- with more CO2 and needing less water at the edge of deserts -- they're fluorishing!

    KISSEL: So this is a completely opposite viewpoint than what is represented in, as you say, most of the media, most of our college classrooms. How did they get to this point, Rod? Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents?

    NICHOLS: Well, that's a really good question that I don't have a completely satisfactory answer to. I shy away from conspiracy theories, I don't think -- but it's true in the scientific literature, you can find "skeptics" as we are sometimes called who are arguing against what appears to be a consensus but their views are not covered. Their views are not debated. If nothing else, the CO2 Coalition wants to open up a real debate. Science thrives with discovery and debate. And the subtitle of our first report, about six months ago, was called "See For Yourself."

    KISSEL: So where do viewers go to find out more information about what you're doing and to get educated on science about climate change?

    NICHOLS: Good questions. CO2Coalition.org is a storehouse of very reliable data. We've surveyed data over decades published in our reports. One is called White Paper 1, and White Paper 2. You can get these, we'd be glad to send them to you.

    KISSEL: And you don't need to be a scientist to understand these papers?

    NICHOLS: They're prepared to be readable by any intelligent citizen. Even my daughter found them readable and she's not an environmentalist, she's not an alarmist, she's an art history major. She loved them.

    KISSEL: Maybe even I will find it readable. In fact, it is readable. I have read these papers. They're terrific. CO2Coalition.org, go check it out, Rod Nichols is the chairman, thanks for joining us.


    Climate Nexus Analysis: How The Wall Street Journal Opinion Section Presents Climate Change


    Breitbart News: Go-To Outlet For "Academics-For-Hire" By The Fossil Fuel Industry?

    Slate Destroys Climate Denier Myth That CO2 Is Not A Pollutant

    The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976

  • Nightly Newscasts Ignore Climate Change In Coverage Of Worst U.S. Weather Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    UPDATE (8/18/16): After this piece was published, PBS NewsHour aired an August 17 segment with Louisiana state climatologist Barry Keim and Columbia University professor Adam Sobel that discussed how the Louisiana flooding and Blue Cut wildfire in California are “related to climate change.”


    The major U.S. broadcast news networks have all ignored climate change in their nightly news coverage of Louisiana's recent record-breaking rainfall and flooding. The New York Times and The Washington Post, by contrast, have explained how the extreme weather and flooding in Louisiana are in line with the predicted impacts of a warming planet.

    The disaster in Louisiana killed at least 11 people and displaced thousands more. The American Red Cross described the state’s flooding as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy,” and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association classified the record rainfall as a once-in-every-500-years event -- the eighth such event to take place in the U.S. since May 2015.

    Climate Nexus’ Climate Signals, a tool designed to “[e]xplore how climate change affects your world by searching events, impacts, and related climate signals,” explained how Louisiana’s increased atmospheric moisture and unusually heavy rainfall were “classic signals of climate change”:

    At least nine people have died in what the American Red Cross is calling the "worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy." On August 11, a measure of atmospheric moisture, precipitable water, was in historic territory at 2.78 inches, a measurement higher than during some past hurricanes in the region. Increased moisture in the air and unusually heavy rainfall are classic signals of climate change. As the world warms, storms are able to feed on warmer ocean waters, and the air is able to hold and dump more water. These trends have led to a pronounced increase in intense rainfall events and an increase in flooding risk. In the Southeastern US, extreme precipitation has increased 27 percent from 1958 to 2012.


    The storm in the Southeastern US was supercharged by running over a warmer ocean and through an atmosphere made wetter by global warming. 

    Climate change is now responsible for 17 percent of moderate extreme rainfall events, i.e. one-in-a-thousand day events. The more extreme the event, the more likely climate change was responsible, as climate change affects the frequency of the extreme events the most.

    However, the major broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts have ignored climate change in their otherwise extensive coverage of the floods. NBC Nightly News aired five segments on the floods without mentioning climate change, while ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News each aired three such segments and PBS NewsHour aired two.

    By contrast, two major newspapers have noted how Louisiana’s deadly floods are in line with expectations for a warming planet. In an August 15 Washington Post article, Chris Mooney wrote that climate researchers were affirming that the heavy rainfall Louisiana experienced is “precisely the sort of event that you’d expect to see more of on a warming planet,” and quoted climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe explaining, “Louisiana is always at risk of floods, naturally, but climate change is exacerbating that risk, weighting the dice against us.” Moreover, an August 16 article in The New York Times quoted Texas’ state climatologist stating, “There’s definitely an increase in heavy rainfall due to climate change.” And another August 16 Times article -- headlined “Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change” -- quoted David Easterling, a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, stating that Louisiana's heavy rainfall and flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models.”

    Media Mattersannual study of how the major networks cover climate change found that PBS, CBS, and NBC frequently addressed the link between climate change and extreme weather in their nightly newscasts in 2015. However, the broadcast networks appear to have regressed in their extreme weather coverage this year, with every major TV network ignoring the role of human-induced climate change in their coverage of Texas’ record rainfall and flooding throughout April and May, despite both NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News explaining the climate connection in their coverage of similarly drastic Texas floods the year before. The nightly newscasts’ omission of climate change in their coverage of Louisiana’s horrific flooding marks a continuation of that discouraging trend.

  • Scientific American Takes A Stand Against Trump’s “Lack Of Respect For Science”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a rare move, Scientific American’s editorial board has taken a stand against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “antiscience” views, including his denial of man-made climate change and pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Trump “has repeatedly and resoundingly demonstrated a disregard, if not outright contempt, for science,” wrote the Scientific American editors in an editorial that will be published in the September 1 edition of the magazine. The editorial noted that Scientific American is “not in the business of endorsing political candidates,” but is taking a stand for science this year because the current presidential race “takes antiscience to a previously unexplored terrain.” Scientific American concluded that it will support ScienceDebate.org’s efforts to persuade moderators to address science in the presidential debates and “encourage the nation's political leaders to demonstrate a respect for scientific truths in word and deed.”

    The Scientific American editorial follows a July 22 Washington Post editorial that came out against Trump as “a unique threat to American democracy.” The Post editorial board stated that while it would typically wait to weigh in on the candidates until much later in the campaign, it “cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall” because a “Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.”

    From Scientific American’s editorial titled, "Donald Trump’s Lack of Respect for Science Is Alarming”:

    Scientific American is not in the business of endorsing political candidates. But we do take a stand for science—the most reliable path to objective knowledge the world has seen—and the Enlightenment values that gave rise to it. For more than 170 years we have documented, for better and for worse, the rise of science and technology and their impact on the nation and the world. We have strived to assert in our reporting, writing and editing the principle that decision making in the sphere of public policy should accept the conclusions that evidence, gathered in the spirit and with the methods of science, tells us to be true.

    It won't come as a surprise to anyone who pays even superficial attention to politics that over the past few decades facts have become an undervalued commodity. Many politicians are hostile to science, on both sides of the political aisle. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has a routine practice of meddling in petty science-funding matters to score political points. Science has not played nearly as prominent a role as it should in informing debates over the labeling of genetically modified foods, end of life care and energy policy, among many issues.

    The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain. When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

    In October, as we did four years previously, we will assemble answers from the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees on the public policy questions that touch on science, technology and public health and then publish them online. We will support ScienceDebate.org's efforts to persuade moderators to ask important science-related questions during the presidential debates. We encourage the nation's political leaders to demonstrate a respect for scientific truths in word and deed. And we urge the people who vote to hold them to that standard.

  • TV Weathercasters: We Have A "Responsibility" To Educate Our Viewers About Climate Change

    In New Video, Formerly “Skeptical” Meteorologists Describe How They Came To Recognize The Truth About Global Warming

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF