Environment & Science

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  • Bloomberg Editorial Urges Chris Wallace To “Make Room For Climate Change” In Final Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Bloomberg View editorial board expressed bewilderment and concern that climate change has been “conspicuously absent” from the presidential debates so far this year, and called on Fox News host Chris Wallace to “make room for climate change” when he moderates the third and final presidential debate on October 19.

    In an October 18 editorial headlined, “The Missing Climate Change Debate,” Bloomberg said that it is “difficult to comprehend and harder to justify” that climate change did not come up in the earlier presidential debates and is not among the topics Wallace selected for the final presidential debate. The editorial board pointed to the fact that “President Barack Obama has embarked on one climate initiative after another” and that “the past two years have been the hottest on record.” Bloomberg further noted that the approaches to the issue taken by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump “could hardly be more different.”

    Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine have each brought up climate change on their own during debates, and at the second presidential debate an audience member asked Clinton and Trump about their energy policies. But debate moderators have not yet asked a single question about climate change.

    Although climate change is not among the topics for the final debate, there are many climate-related questions Wallace could ask that would fit within those issue areas. As Bloomberg noted, the October 19 debate will provide a “final chance” for the candidates to discuss climate change, and “Americans deserve better than a blackout.”

    From the editorial:

    For a presidential campaign notable for dark warnings of the coming apocalypse, the one thing that actually could bring about an apocalypse -- climate change -- has been conspicuously absent from the debates. A final chance to raise the issue will come Wednesday, during the campaign’s last debate.

    Last week, the feckless Commission on Presidential Debates announced the topics for the upcoming meeting. Fox News host Chris Wallace, the moderator, has selected six areas for discussion, including several that have been amply covered in previous debates. (“Fitness to be president,” anyone?)

    Climate change is not among them. Nor was it a topic at the two previous presidential debates, nor at the vice presidential debate.

    This is difficult to comprehend and harder to justify. It’s not as if it’s an unimportant or uncontroversial issue. In his seven-plus years in office, President Barack Obama has embarked on one climate initiative after another, always to strenuous (and occasionally justified) objections.

    In his first term, Obama invested billions in green energy stimulus. In 2014, he negotiated an agreement on greenhouse gas reductions with China, then followed it with the Paris agreement in 2015, in which almost 200 countries pledged to limit emissions. The administration’s Clean Power Plan is the subject of bitter politics and an all-out legal assault.

    Meanwhile, the past two years have been the hottest on record, and the two candidates’ approaches could hardly be more different. Hillary Clinton has promised to invest in clean energy infrastructure and to phase out greenhouse-gas pollutants. Donald Trump has promised to roll back environmental regulations, expand U.S. coal production and disregard climate science.

    Too much time in the debates thus far has been spent on the tawdry and embarrassing. Partly this is inevitable -- those have been the defining characteristics of the 2016 campaign, after all -- but it needn’t be this way. Wallace should make room for climate change in the discussion. On one of the most momentous and difficult issues facing their nation and the world, Americans deserve better than a blackout.

  • Five Climate Change Questions Chris Wallace Could Ask At The Final Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace has selected “Debt and entitlements,” “Immigration,” “Economy,” “Supreme Court,” “Foreign hot spots,” and “Fitness to be President” as the topics for the final presidential debate, which he will moderate on October 19. But the fact that neither “the environment” nor “energy” are among the topics would not excuse Wallace if he fails to ask a question about climate change.

    Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our country and the planet, and it’s far more than strictly an environmental or energy issue. As Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, has said, climate change “has very serious implications for our country from a national security point of view, from an economic point of view and a health point of view.”

    The nonpartisan Open Debate Coalition recently launched a petition urging Wallace to ask the questions on the coalition’s website that have received the most votes from the public. A question about how the presidential candidates would address climate change currently has the fourth-most votes, trailing only two questions about guns and one about Social Security.

    If Wallace refuses to ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about climate change, it will mark the culmination of a stunning media failure. It would mean that presidential debate moderators failed to address climate change in two consecutive election cycles, after climate questions were asked in two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate in 2008. Even worse, it would mean that Trump avoids fielding a single debate question on climate change during the entire presidential campaign, spanning 14 primary and general election debates over the last 14 months.

    Climate change has far-reaching impacts and ramifications, as Whitman explained, so there are many ways Wallace could weave it into most -- if not all -- of the topics he’s selected. Here are five questions that he could ask:

    Topic: Immigration

    Possible Debate Question: Studies show that climate change worsened the extreme drought in Syria that contributed to the Syrian refugee crisis, and that the effects of climate change on crop yields will drive millions of Mexicans to seek entry into the United States in the coming decades. Will you incorporate climate change into your immigration policies, and if so, how?

    Topic: Economy

    Possible Debate Question: A 2016 survey of 750 top economists found that climate change is now the single greatest threat to the global economy. What will you do to protect our economy from the effects of climate change?

    Topic: Supreme Court

    Possible Debate Question: Following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling and a scientific assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA is legally required to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change under the Clean Air Act. Will you implement the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the EPA’s emissions reduction strategy, and if not, how will your administration fulfill the Supreme Court’s mandate to cut greenhouse gas pollution?

    Topic: Foreign Hot Spots

    Possible Debate Question: The Pentagon has determined that climate change will “aggravate existing problems -- such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions -- that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries.” To what extent do you believe climate-related risks should be integrated into military planning?

    Topic: Fitness To Be President

    Possible Debate Question: The scientific community is nearly unanimous in saying that global warming is happening and caused by burning fossil fuels, yet many politicians refuse to acknowledge this is the case. Will you listen to the scientists on climate change, and do you believe that those who refuse to do so are unfit for our nation’s highest office?

  • Evening News Programs, USA Today Ignore Climate Change Context Of Hurricane Matthew

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The broadcast networks' evening news programs did not address climate change in their coverage of Hurricane Matthew, even when they reported on an event where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore explained the role that climate change played in worsening the storm's damage. USA Today also ignored the climate context of the storm, while other major newspapers covered it briefly in their print editions, and some published more extensive articles on their websites.

  • The Five Most Ridiculous Things Trump Advisers Have Said About Energy And Climate

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Media Matters has released a media guide to the fossil fuel industry lobbyists, executives, and front groups shaping Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s energy agenda. Here are the five most outrageous statements about climate change and energy that we've seen from Trump's energy advisers so far.

    Stephen Moore: Opposing Fracking “Is Like Being Against A Cure For Cancer”

    During the August 1 edition of C-SPAN2's Book TV, while discussing his new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, Trump’s top economic adviser, Stephen Moore, stated that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer”:

    Harold Hamm Points To Orlando Shooting To Claim “Every Time We Can’t Drill A Well In America, Terrorism Is Being Funded”

    Trump is reportedly considering Harold Hamm, CEO of fracking giant Continental Resources, as energy secretary. During a July 20 speech supporting Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Hamm exploited the June mass shooting at an Orlando, FL, nightclub to baselessly call for more drilling, saying, “Every time we can't drill a well in America, terrorism is being funded”:

    Myron Ebell: "I'd Like To See A Lot More Funding" From Big Coal

    Myron Ebell is reportedly running the Trump campaign’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team. During an interview on the August 5 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Environmental Defense Fund's Jeremy Symons confronted Ebell on his organization’s funding from coal company Murray Energy, and Ebell responded: “I'd like to see a lot more funding from all of those companies”:

    Rep. Kevin Cramer: “The Idea That CO2 Is Somehow Causing Global Warming Is On Its Face Fraudulent”

    Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), one of Trump’s key energy advisers, is a vocal climate science denier. In audio uncovered by Hill Heat, Cramer alleged, “We know the global climate is cooling,” and declared that “the idea that CO2 is somehow causing global warming is on its face fraudulent”:

    Mike Pence Raised The Fictitious “War On Coal” Five Times During The Vice Presidential Debate

    The “war on coal” was manufactured by the GOP and the coal industry to attack Democrats during the 2012 election, and the phrase has remained popular among the coal industry's biggest advocates. But the phrase is misleading, as Associated Press reporter Vicki Smith has explained: "It's easier to call the geologic, market and environmental forces reshaping coal — cheap natural gas, harder-to-mine coal seams, slowing economies — some kind of political or cultural 'war' than to acknowledge the world is changing, and leaving some people behind."

    During the vice presidential debate on October 4, Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, pushed the myth that the Obama administration has been waging a “war on coal” five separate times:

  • Will Climate Change Come Up In The Second Presidential Debate?

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    By any reasonable measure, climate change is a serious issue that is worthy of significant attention during the presidential debates. Yet as our debate scorecard documented, the topic was ignored by the moderators of the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate, further heightening the need for ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper to lead a substantial climate discussion when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off on October 9.

    Global warming is having profound and wide-ranging impacts in the United States, and a climate question would be just as relevant to a discussion about national security, the economy, or public health as it would be to a discussion about environmental protection. And as climate scientist Michael Mann recently pointed out, climate change meets all the key criteria for a debate question:

    Indeed, the stakes for climate action are high this election year, and the gulf between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the issue is massive.

    The Obama administration has taken many important steps to combat climate change, including the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and the historic international agreement to cut global emissions reached in Paris, which was recently ratified by enough countries to formally take effect. But the next president could either help these climate policies come to fruition or try to undercut them.

    Clinton has said she will “[d]efend, implement, and extend” key climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan, and “deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference.” Trump, meanwhile, has said he will “cancel” the Paris climate agreement, “rescind” the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, initiate a “targeted review” of the Clean Power Plan, and dismantle the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

    Americans deserve to hear more detailed explanations of these proposals, and the upcoming debates provide the best and most high-profile opportunities before Election Day for that conversation to occur. But it can’t be taken for granted. In 2012, the presidential candidates were not asked about climate change in any of the general election debates. And this cycle, Trump has yet to field a single climate change question through one general election debate and 11 GOP primary debates (he skipped one).

    The story is much the same throughout the country, as our scorecard shows. Through the first 21 debates in the presidential election and closely-contested Senate and governors’ races, only two debates -- in New Hampshire and Vermont -- have included questions about climate change. Like the presidential election, these races could also have climate consequences. Newly-elected senators could propose new climate legislation, or they could seek to block the EPA from limiting carbon pollution. And newly-elected governors could either work constructively with the EPA, or fight tooth and nail against implementing the Clean Power Plan.

    Thankfully, it’s not too late for citizens to make their voices heard and convince moderators to ask about climate change in upcoming debates. The nonprofit and nonpartisan Open Debate Coalition notes that the ABC and CNN moderators of the next presidential debate have “agreed to consider the Top 30 questions voted up” on the coalition’s website. The following climate-related questions are currently among the top 30 vote-getters:

    Citizens can also request climate change questions in several Senate and governors’ debates. In Arizona, Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, has an online form for submitting questions ahead of the October 10 Senate debate. In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association told Media Matters that citizens can suggest questions on Twitter during the October 14 Senate debate, using the hashtag #wbadebate. In Ohio, WBNS-10TV is accepting video questions that may appear during its October 17 Senate debate. In Vermont, roundtable organizers will be crowdsourcing questions on Twitter in advance of the October 17 governors’ debate using the hashtag #innov802. And in Indiana, the Indiana Debate Commission has an online form for submitting questions for all of the state’s Senate and gubernatorial debates.

    We’ll be continuing to update the scorecard with additional information about upcoming debates right up until Election Day -- including an update soon on whether climate change comes up at the October 9 presidential debate.

  • Matt Drudge Peddles Irresponsible Conspiracy Theory Downplaying Deadly Hurricane Matthew

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    As millions evacuate the east coast of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, which has already been responsible for more than 113 deaths across the Caribbean, the curator of the most widely read conservative website, Matt Drudge, irresponsibly peddled a conspiracy theory that federal officials have exaggerated the danger posed by Hurricane Matthew “to make exaggerated point on climate.”

    On October 6, Drudge claimed “the deplorables” were wondering if the government was lying about the intensity of the deadly hurricane and also questioned the legitimacy of the National Hurricane Center’s data:

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]


    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    Drudge also used his website, one of the most widely read sites on the internet, DrudgeReport.com to put Florida residents in danger and push the conspiracy theory with a banner titled “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!,” alongside links titled “IT’S A 4?” and “RESIDENTS NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY...”.

    In direct contrast to Drudge, Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott warned those in the hurricane’s path that “this storm will kill you,” while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) described the storm as “dangerous.” Fox News host Shepard Smith warned Floridians that if they did not evacuate “you and everyone you know is dead,” and that “you can’t survive it,” while The National Weather Service for Melbourne, Florida warned residents that the storm was “LIFE-THREATENING,” and “more impacting than Hurricane David and 2004 hurricanes!”:

    Drudge joined Rush Limbaugh in peddling irresponsible conspiracy theories about the hurricane, placing their audience in danger. Earlier, Limbaugh downplayed the storm by ranting about “politics in the forecasting of hurricanes because there are votes,” and previously claimed the National Hurricane Center is "playing games" with "hurricane forecasting" to convince viewers of climate change.

    UPDATE: Conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones retweeted Matt Drudge, expressing support and agreement with his dangerous hurricane conspiracy while adding the white supremacist “altright” hashtag:

     

  • Media Should Not Forget About Climate Change In Coverage Of Hurricane Matthew

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Hurricane Matthew was reportedly the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti since 1964, and the National Hurricane Center is now warning that there is “a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida east coast and Georgia coast.” Alerting the public to the threat and urging people to take all precautions necessary to stay safe are the top priorities for reporters covering this historic storm. But media outlets should also keep the broader climate change context in mind as they report on Hurricane Matthew in the coming days.

    When record-breaking rainfall and flooding struck Louisiana in August, major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post addressed how the devastation was in line with the predicted impacts of a warming planet, but the major TV networks’ nightly newscasts did not. As CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter noted at the time, it’s essential for media to explain that extreme weather events “are happening more often due to climate change and are more extreme due to climate change,” particularly in the “early stages” of covering a weather disaster.

    Time will tell if the major television networks cover the relationship between climate change and Hurricane Matthew, but the scientific evidence is clear.

    As Climate Nexus’ Climate Signals has explained, Matthew has been “fueled by seas warmer than the historical average” and the threat of catastrophic flooding from heavy rainfall is “significantly amplified by climate change”:

    As the global temperature has increased, so too has the capacity of the atmosphere to hold and dump more water. At the same time warming of the ocean increases evaporation making more moisture available to the atmosphere. In parallel, coastal flooding has been amplified by sea level rise which extends the reach of storm surge driven by hurricanes such as Matthew.

    Similarly, The Guardian reported on October 5 that scientists say major storms like Matthew “will grow in menace as the world warms and sea levels rise.” The article quoted Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel, who said, “We expect to see more high-intensity events, category 4 and 5 events” due to global warming, and “there are hints that we are already beginning to see it in nature.” The Guardian also cited James Done of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who said, “The message is that hurricanes that do occur in the future, the major ones, will be stronger. Category four and five hurricanes could double or triple in the coming decades.”

    Emanuel added that scientists expect the damage from hurricanes like Matthew to “steadily increase” as sea levels continue to rise over the rest of the century.