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While GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump recently suggested that voters should be allowed to ban fracking at a local or state level, one of Trump’s economic advisers believes that “to be against 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, conservative economist Stephen Moore stated that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer” because it is “one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs” that is “giving us huge amounts of energy at very low prices.” He criticized Florida high school students who oppose fracking, claiming they were “indoctrinated in their high school classes” to think that “somehow fracking is a bad thing.”
Moore also dismissed the widespread concerns about fracking contaminating drinking water supplies by claiming that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “said there were no findings of water contamination from fracking.” But the EPA’s report actually found multiple instances of water contamination from fracking, and that the EPA itself emphasized that its data was “insufficient” to evaluate how often fracking impacts water “with any certainty,” leading its own scientists to call its conclusions into question.
Days before C-SPAN2 aired the discussion, Trump told a local Denver television station that “voters should have a say" in whether to allow fracking, adding, "[I]f a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking I can understand that.” Many towns in Colorado have placed local bans or moratoriums on fracking, and Democrats are currently working to place an initiative for a statewide ban on fracking on the November ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Moore is reportedly one of Trump's "council of wise men" and a campaign adviser, who was picked by Trump, along with CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, to re-write his tax plan. Moore, who is also a Fox News contributor and senior economist at the fossil fuel-funded Heritage Foundation, has compared fracking to a cancer cure in the past, and has also distorted a NASA study to claim that it was an "indication" that global warming is "actually not happening."
From the August 1 edition of C-SPAN2's Book TV:
STEPHEN MOORE: How many of you have seen that video from Gasland where the West Virginia -- they light the big lighter near the water and it looks like -- I'm sure you've seen that, it looks like a blowtorch -- and I remember when that came out, when did that come out? Four or five years ago or something like that? And I remember we went to West Virginia to give a talk about energy policy, and I was talking to these folks about it and I mentioned the Gasland scene, and these people burst out laughing, they were like, "This has been happening for 75 years in West Virginia." ... So the point is, that's not fracking. This is just a perfect example of a propaganda campaign that's going on. It's not fracking, it's natural seepage of that, just as you're describing, it seeps up into the -- so, if that being the case, how do you prevent it from getting into the drinking water? You actually drill it out. If you drill it out, it's less likely to contaminate drinking water. The EPA -- correct me if I'm wrong on this, you're the expert -- but, was it about a year or so ago, the EPA said there were no findings of water contamination from fracking. I've got to say, this is an amazing thing that's going on in this country. I gave a talk two years ago to the valedictorians, high school valedictorians of Florida. And there were about 50 of these kids, and they were incredibly impressive and bright and smart and they were inquisitive and so on. And I remember during my little talk to them -- I gave two or three minutes about this energy stuff and how great this is -- and I remember they started to frown. And I said, "Gee, this is kind of weird." And then all of a sudden I said, "Wait a minute. Wait, wait wait. How many of you in this room, of you 50 kids, how many of you think fracking is a good thing?" About 12 of them raised their hands. "How many of you think fracking is a bad thing?" Thirty of them raised their hands. Now, look, to be against fracking is like being against a cure for cancer. This is one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs. We're way ahead of the rest of the world. It's giving us access to huge amounts of energy at very low prices. How could anybody be against this? And it occurred to me, these kids have been indoctrinated in their high school classes that somehow fracking is a bad thing. And this is a tough thing to defeat, this kind of wacko propaganda campaign that infiltrates every area of our culture.
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MSNBC host Chris Hayes explained in a series of tweets how conservatives’ denial of the evidence of human-caused climate change exemplifies “the rot in the conservative movement” and the Republican Party.
USA Today reported on July 26 that according to the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center, “for the first time on record, every square inch of all 50 states is forecast to see above-average temperatures for the next three months.”
Hayes cited this report in explaining the GOP’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of human-caused climate change. Hayes went on to say the conservative movement’s climate change denial represents “breathtaking epistemic nihilism” and that the three-decade-long “conspiracy theory” that climate change is a hoax is the embodiment of “the Alex Jonesification of the GOP.” (Alex Jones is a notorious conspiracy theorist and 9/11 truther who received special guest credentials at the Republican National Convention):
As the world burns... https://t.co/yryf1u0JC0
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
1) I think climate change is key to understanding a big part of the rot in the conservative movement and GOP.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
2) At one level resistance to climate science is perfectly natural for the right. They've seen (wrong) apocalyptic predictions before...
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
3) they suspect the science is a stalking horse for more state involvement, *and* it's a movement/party hugely backed by fossil fuels
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
4) So I get the instincts. But almost the entirety of the movement/GOP are 3 decades into clinging to a preposterous conspiracy theory
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
5) The theory that climate change is hoax requires such breathtaking epistemic nihilism at this point, any movement that adheres to it..
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
6) Is collectively declaring:we literally have no standards of evidence. Hence the Alex Jonesification of the GOP
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2016
Fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil have known for nearly three decades that fossil fuel emissions harm the climate, but have been working to “deceive the public,” according to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). An earlier UCS report explained that MSNBC’s climate coverage has been overwhelmingly accurate, especially when compared to conservative cable news channel Fox News.
A few months ago, we documented that the American Petroleum Institute (API), the trade group for oil companies including industry giants ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, was blanketing CNN’s airwaves with ads persuading Americans to support the oil industry’s agenda. It’s a standard formula for the well-heeled industry to control the on-air narrative around climate and energy issues -- and one that in this case drowned out the cable network’s meager discussion of the ominous global warming records that were being set.
Now, as the Republican and Democratic parties are in the midst of hosting their national conventions, we are reminded of yet another tool at Big Oil’s disposable for influencing media coverage of key energy issues. Vote4Energy, the same API campaign featured in the ads on CNN, is sponsoring events held by Politico, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post at both conventions.
As reported by The Intercept's Alex Emmons, at the recently concluded GOP convention, The Atlantic hosted a forum on energy and the environment that featured two climate science-denying congressmen and an API lobbyist -- with no one present to address the scientific facts of climate change. The Intercept added that API also sponsored events held by The Washington Post and Politico “where API literature was distributed, API representatives gave opening remarks, and not one speaker was an environmentalist, climate expert, scientist, or Democrat.”
Both The Atlantic and the Post said that they tried but were unable to find speakers who could represent the other side of the energy debate. In any event, the end result was a forum for misinformation. For instance, all three events included at least one speaker who espoused some form of climate science denial, according to remarks included in The Intercept article:
At The Atlantic‘s event, [North Dakota Rep. Kevin] Cramer and [Ohio Rep. Bill] Johnson both downplayed concerns about climate science. “The 97 percent of the scientists who believe [it’s] real, don’t all believe the exact same level,” said Cramer. “Whose fault it is, what’s going to stop it … there’s a wide range in that spectrum.”
At the Washington Post’s discussion, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said that in the past 15 years the earth was, on average, “cooling down,” but stressed “the point is that it’s not a settled science.”
At Politico‘s API-sponsored event, the oil lobbying group’s CEO, Jack Gerard, opened the event by telling the audience that “the United States has become the superpower of energy in the world.”
Rep. Cramer, who was also a guest at the Politico event, joked with the audience that in his home state of North Dakota, “we’re for a warmer climate.”
The media figures hosting the events provided limited pushback, according to The Intercept, even though the media organizations insisted that the presence of their journalists was enough to hold the panelists accountable. The most direct rebuttal to outright denial came from Washington Post opinion writer Stephen Stromberg, who informed Rep. Blackburn that “I think there would be a vast bulk of climate scientists who would disagree” with her statements about climate change, but then allowed that “we don’t have to litigate the science of it this morning.” The Atlantic’s panel moderator, Steve Clemons, told The Intercept that “I had trust in my own ability to be the alternative, and I had trust that the audience would ask questions to provide balance,” but he also conceded that he “should have done more.”
The Atlantic, the Post, and Politico all have similar events lined up for the Democratic National Convention, which has spurred advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote to launch a petition calling on Democratic officials not to appear at the API-sponsored events. As Hill Heat noted, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) recently condemned API for its role in spreading climate science denial during his contribution to senators’ “web of denial” speeches on the Senate floor.
Beyond the conventions, another reminder of the oil industry’s multifaceted approach to co-opting media is taking place at the Los Angeles Times, where the Occidental Petroleum spinoff company California Resources Corp. (CRC) has teamed up with the Times’ “content solutions” team to dole out more industry propaganda on the Powering California website.
As we’ve explained, the Times’ branded content department, which the newspaper says is wholly independent from its reporting and editorial staff, produced a fearmongering video for CRC last fall suggesting that life as we know it would descend into chaos without the oil industry.
A year later, as the oil industry stands in the way of California passing critical legislation that would set the standard for other states to fight climate change, Powering California is out with a series of new videos praising oil and attacking clean energy sources. One of the videos baselessly asserts that “renewable energy can’t replace oil,” falsely claims wind energy is “expensive,” and bombastically declares that “oil and natural gas are woven into the fabric of America.” Another video features feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.
Concerns about these types of arrangements between media and the fossil fuel industry have not subsided, despite media organizations’ assurances that the relationships would not affect their coverage. Pointing to the API-sponsored events and The Hill’s offer to “sell interviews” at the conventions, The Intercept’s Emmons concluded: “What were once blurred lines in the journalism business are becoming increasingly clear -- because they have been crossed.”
Fracking industry billionaire Harold Hamm is the “leading contender” to be energy secretary in a Donald Trump administration, according to a Reuters source, which would make Hamm the first ever U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry. Hamm has a history of influencing government officials to promote legislation that benefits his company’s bottom line, exploited the Orlando shooting tragedy to call for more oil drilling, and tried to suppress scientific research that was unfavorable to the fracking industry.
During Fox Business’ July 20 coverage of the Republican National Convention, host Maria Bartiromo and coal industry executive Robert Murray peddled industry-friendly myths while attacking clean energy with falsehoods. Murray also said he is thus far “elated” with the GOP convention, which is aligned with a radical anti-environmental platform, and he repeatedly declared that the energy policies of the Obama administration and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are “evil.”
Here are five Big Coal myths that Bartiromo and Murray espoused during the segment:
Myth #1: Obama regulations are to blame for the coal industry’s decline. Bartiromo aired a clip of Clinton that has repeatedly been distorted by conservative media to claim she wants to harm coal miners, and then Bartiromo claimed that “the policies in place have already put [coal industry employees] out of work.” Murray declared that “there’s hundreds of thousands of people” at the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies “writing rules against we who are trying to maintain jobs,” and added: “The coal industry is virtually destroyed … we had 200,000 miners before Obama. We now have 60,000.” But industry experts say market forces, including technological advances and competition from natural gas and renewables, are the primary cause of the coal industry’s decline -- not policies from the Obama administration.
Myth #2: Murray “cares” about coal miners. As he was attacking environmental protections, Murray stated: “I’ve been forced to lay off 3,300 coal miners this year. It just kills me because I am a coal miner. I care about these people.” Bartiromo might have pointed out in response that Murray has pressured employees to support his favored political candidates, allegedly fired employees to influence the 2012 presidential election, and has repeatedly fought against health benefits, safety protections, and labor rights for coal miners.
Myth #3: Coal energy is cheaper than wind energy. During the segment, Murray claimed that wind energy is highly subsidized and far more expensive than coal, which he said provides “low-cost reliable electricity.” However, according to both the U.S. Energy Information Agency and the investment banking firm Lazard, the unsubsidized cost of wind energy is substantially lower than that of coal.
Myth #4: It’s not possible to retrain coal miners for jobs in the clean energy economy. Bartiromo baselessly dismissed the concept of retraining coal miners for clean energy industry jobs, declaring: “The other thing is the skill sets and the training. What does a coal miner know about windmills? How do they know about solar panels? There’s no training." However, according to a recent study by researchers at Oregon State University and Michigan Technological University, “a relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to [solar photovoltaic]-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry.”
Myth #5: There is a “war on coal.” The “war on coal” is a favorite talking point of the coal industry and the Republican party, most recently adopted in the GOP’s 2016 energy platform. Fox Business endorsed it with on-screen text:
The “war on coal” was manufactured by the GOP and the coal industry to attack Democrats during the 2012 election -- as Greenpeace has pointed out, then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney released an ad claiming President Obama was “ruining” the coal industry around the same time that House Republicans pushed a “Stop the War on Coal Act.” Associated Press reporter Vicki Smith succinctly explained the misleading nature of the phrase at the time:
The war on coal is a sound bite and a headline, perpetuated by pundits, power companies and public relations consultants who have crafted a neat label for a complex set of realities, one that compels people to choose sides.
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.
The full video, from the July 20 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria:
On July 14, media outlets reported that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will likely name Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate. Here’s what media need to know about Pence’s right-wing record.
A group of U.S. Senators took to the Senate floor on July 11 and 12 to expose the “web of denial” that the fossil fuel industry has spun to block action on climate change. Essential to this effort is a media misinformation campaign that several senators described in detail.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) remarked on the “unfortunate role” that the media has played in spreading misinformation by providing false balance on the science of climate change:
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) noted that “so-called experts” at the Koch- and Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation “publish op-eds and do interviews in media outlets around the country, talk radio, helping to spread disinformation or misinformation or what we sometimes call lies”:
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) noted that some of the same groups that deny climate science are also using the media to push for a “land grab” that would transfer public lands from federal to state control, which could pave the way for more drilling and mining:
And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) explained that the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, whose website Watchdog.org has been described as “delivering political propaganda dressed up as journalism,” has extensive ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers:
On-air meteorologists owe it to their viewers to discuss climate change, says The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow.
In a July 12 column on the Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog, Samenow pushed back against the criticism he has received for writing about climate change as a meteorologist, stating that “climate change is a scientific reality, and it’s one that is modifying the weather in important ways.”
The share of American meteorologists who recognize that human activities are driving global warming has increased in recent years, but that knowledge isn’t typically reflected in on-air coverage -- yet. Samenow lamented that only a minority of television weathercasters “feel very comfortable” presenting climate change information on air, according to the latest survey on the subject from George Mason University.
It is worth keeping in mind that vast differences exist between meteorologists and climate scientists (climate science is not meteorologists’ area of expertise), but Samenow nonetheless argued that “[i]gnoring climate change in weather reporting is anti-scientific by omission, and it’s irresponsible.” He quoted Raleigh, North Carolina meteorologist Greg Fishel, who said that even though broadcast meteorologists "have the least education [on climate change], we have [the] most responsibility to educate ourselves so we can educate the public in the right way.” Curbed urbanism editor Alissa Walker agrees, asking in a July 12 column for Gizmodo: “Why aren’t meteorologists, the people who tell the public about severe weather, also telling us what’s contributing to it?”
Samenow also noted in his blog post that even weathercasters in “politically conservative television markets” have found success when they’ve attempted to educate their audiences about climate change. He pointed to Columbia, South Carolina meteorologist Jim Gandy, who has “hosted a series of educational segments branded ‘Climate Matters’” that “demonstrably improved climate change understanding” among his viewers.
From Samenow’s July 12 blog post:
It is perhaps the most frustrating response I encounter as a meteorologist when I write about climate change. It stems from doubts about climate change or the view that it’s a political issue, one that shouldn’t contaminate straight weather reporting.
“Stick to the weather,” people say.
But climate change is a scientific reality, and it’s one that is modifying the weather in important ways.
Every meteorologist who is in the business of communicating weather information has an obligation to explain why the weather does what it does, and climate change is playing an ever-increasing role in this story. Ignoring climate change in weather reporting is anti-scientific by omission, and it’s irresponsible.
On-camera meteorologists who work in politically conservative television markets with significant contingents of climate change doubters have found success in their efforts to educate their audiences about the state of the science.
Jim Gandy, a TV meteorologist at WLTX in Columbia, S.C., has hosted a series of educational segments branded “Climate Matters,” which has demonstrably improved climate change understanding among his viewers.
“I have been doing it for almost six years and now people consider me an expert on climate change,” Gandy said. “I think our research showed that the subject did not turn people away. In fact, I find people quite interested in how climate change is affecting them and how it will in the future.”
However, despite overwhelming evidence that climate change is impacting weather, George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found that only “a minority” of television weathercasters “feel very comfortable” presenting climate change information on air. Most say discussing climate change won’t help their careers. Some fear discussing the role of climate change on weather will upset their viewers — or even newsroom management.
But TV weathercasters need to find the courage to communicate about climate change responsibly. The science is on their side.
Several environmental organizations called out the oil industry ties of U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Peter Roff, who in a recent column attacked efforts to hold the industry accountable while promoting its misleading talking points and downplaying the threat posed by climate change.
Democratic senators are speaking out against the fossil fuel industry and its efforts to promote climate science denial for financial gain. This comes as ExxonMobil is under investigation by several attorneys general for possibly committing fraud by deliberately misleading shareholders and the public about climate science for decades after its own scientists confirmed that fossil fuels are causing global warming. The senators also introduced a resolution that compares the oil industry’s misinformation campaign to the tobacco and lead industries’ efforts to deliberately deceive the public about the health impacts of their products, stating that each industry “developed a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that funded think tanks and front groups, and paid public relations firms to deny, counter, and obfuscate” peer-reviewed research and “used that misinformation campaign to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.”
In response, U.S. News’ Roff penned a July 11 column lashing out at the senators and proclaiming that there is an “as yet unsettled debate about climate change and what to do about it.” Roff labeled the senators’ resolution an “attack on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.” But as the dean of Yale Law School has explained, Exxon and its allies are blurring “the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.”
And as environmental advocates pointed out on Twitter, Roff’s misleading defense of Exxon is hardly surprising given his own ties to Exxon and the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch.org tweeted to Roff: “[W]hy don't you report Exxon's denial funding @usnews? Because you're a ‘fellow’ at an Exxon-funded op.” Common Cause’s Jay Riestenberg pointed out that Roff “once worked for a Koch funded org.” Greenpeace’s Connor Gibson stated that Roff “often recycles the Koch bros talking points in their defense.”
Indeed, Roff is currently a senior fellow at the conservative think tank Frontiers of Freedom, which received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil between 2001 and 2007. In both 2012 and 2014, Roff’s organization received $50,000 from DonorsTrust -- the dark money group with significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests -- and it got $75,000 from the Charles G. Koch foundation in 2014.
As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) put it, it is “long past time that we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial.” He’s right, and that includes detailing the oil industry ties of a U.S. News contributing editor defending Exxon’s climate change deception.
Image at the top via DeSmogBlog.
From July 11 coverage of the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN2:
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): You have also America's national security, military and intelligence leaders warning us of the threat. You have the pope calling on us to take action, and most world leaders. So, if you are the fossil fuel industry, what do you do? You come to Congress, to the choke point for legislation, and you put a choke chain on the Republican party so you can snap it to heel. And in support of that they perpetrate this web of climate denial. This is actually a graphic of the web that was done by one of the academic researchers who specializes in this area. Why did they do this? Well, to do their best to fool the public about the risk of climate change, to provide talking points to right-wing talk radio, to take advantage of a lazy media's impulse to offer both sides of the story even when one is false, and of course to hide the hands of the fossil fuel protagonists who are behind the scenes.
So it's long past time that we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial and expose their filthy grip on our political process. It is a disgrace, and our grandchildren will look back at this as a dirty time in America's political history because of their work. I'm grateful to my colleagues who are joining in this effort today, and in the days to come, to help spotlight the lengths to which the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel fronts go to advance their economic self-interest by sabotaging America's response to the climate crisis.
Constantine Boussalis of Trinity College and Dr. Travis Coan of the University of Exeter examined more than 16,000 documents published between 1998 and 2013 by these 19 conservative think tanks. Their study demonstrated that in spite of the broken global heat records over the last decade, rising sea levels, and the accelerated melting of our polar ice sheets, these 19 conservative think tanks actually increased their attacks on climate science in recent years. These 19 think tanks, the authors tell us -- and I quote them here -- "Provide a multitude of services -- services -- to the cause of climate change skepticism." End quote. These include offering material support and lending credibility to contrarian scientists; sponsoring pseudo-scientific climate change conferences; directly communicating contrarian viewpoints to politicians, which is how we get infected with that nonsense here; and disseminating skeptic viewpoints out through a lackadaisical media that can be tricked into believing them – all, of course, while keeping the industry’s hands hidden.
Now there are also groups at work exposing the web of denial. One group is American Bridge 21st Century, founded by David Brock, which has launched realkochfacts.com to highlight the truth about the Koch agenda and what it means for working families and states around the country. American Bridge last month reported on the 48 groups that signed a letter attacking the U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general for serving a subpoena on the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute. According to Real Koch Facts, 43 of the groups that signed on the letter defending climate change denial are Koch-linked, and 28 of the organizations are either Koch front groups or the beneficiaries of regular Koch funding -- groups like the James Madison Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, who we will talk of tomorrow. The Kochs blow their dog whistle, and the hounds appear. American Bridge exposed it.
Then there is ProPublica, a group founded by Paul Steiger, an independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Their nonpartisan reporting helped shed light on some of the ways that the dark money flows through the Koch brothers networks and into politics, providing the elections backstop to this web of denial.
Climate Nexus is an organization dedicated to highlighting the wide-ranging impacts of climate change and clean energy in the United States. They recently released an opinion -- an analysis, I should say -- of 20 years of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial opinion on climate change. They found , quote, "A consistent pattern that overwhelmingly ignores the science, champions doubt and denial of both the science and effectiveness of action, and leaves readers misinformed about the consensus of science and of the risks of the threat."
If it’s a day that ends in “y,” then The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board is probably carrying ExxonMobil’s oily water.
In yet another misleading defense of Exxon’s documented deception about climate change, a July 7 Journal editorial asserted that it’s “hard to prove” that Exxon “defrauded shareholders by hiding the truth about global warming … when the company’s climate-change research was published in peer-reviewed journals.”
Exxon’s research confirmed that fossil fuels were causing global warming, but the Journal’s focus on the fact that Exxon published its research in scientific journals is a distraction. The issue at hand in the investigations of Exxon launched by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts is whether Exxon officials violated the law by intentionally misleading investors and the public about climate change in order to achieve financial gain, regardless of whether its scientists published their findings elsewhere.
Indeed, The New York Times reported that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation seeks to “determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business,” and “whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as  were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has similarly indicated that her investigation “seeks information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon's business.”
In other words, publishing research showing that fossil fuels are causing global warming but withholding that information from your shareholders -- or even telling them that the science of human-induced climate change is uncertain -- could fairly be described as “hiding the truth.” And simply having published its scientific findings in journals wouldn’t get Exxon off the hook.
If the Journal’s defense of Exxon sounds familiar, it’s probably because you heard it straight from Exxon itself. When the New York investigation was announced last November, one of the claims put forth by Exxon’s then-vice president for public affairs, Kenneth Cohen, was that Exxon had “published dozens of scientific papers” on climate change.
That may be true, but time will tell if Exxon also committed fraud.
The Washington Post published a letter to the editor by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky that appears to directly violate the newspaper’s policy against publishing letters that deny the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.
In the June 29 letter, which took issue with a recent Post op-ed by Yale Law School Dean Robert Post, von Spakovsky asserted:
[Robert Post] called global warming “perhaps the single most significant threat facing the future of humanity.” But human-induced global warming is unproven, not an undisputed fact.
However, in 2013, the Post’s then-letters editor Michael Larabee told Mother Jones that the newspaper has a policy against running letters that flatly deny human activities are causing climate change. Larabee stated: “It's our policy as well not to run letters to the editor that are factually inaccurate, so we wouldn't publish a letter that simply says, 'there's no sign humans have caused climate change.' … That's a broad absolute that doesn't take into account the existence of large amounts of science indicating otherwise." Larabee is now the oped editor at the Post; Jamie Riley Kolsky is now the Post’s letters editor.
Speaking to Media Matters in 2014, Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said that climate science deniers would not be completely barred from the Post’s opinion pages. But Hiatt also reiterated that the Post seeks to avoid publishing letters that are “factually inaccurate,” which should certainly apply to von Spakovsky’s claim that “human-induced global warming is unproven.” At least 97 percent of climate scientists say that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are causing climate change, and scientists are as certain that human activities are driving global warming as they are that cigarettes can kill.
To make matters worse, the Post also failed to disclose a glaring conflict of interest in von Spakovsky’s letter. The letter was a defense of ExxonMobil, which is currently under investigation by several attorneys general who are seeking to determine whether Exxon committed fraud by deliberately withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. Yet the Post identified von Spakovsky only as a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, neglecting to mention that the Heritage Foundation has received almost $800,000 directly from Exxon since 1998.
The letter by von Spakovsky also marked at least the fourth time that the Post has published the bogus claim the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. If Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection,” as Yale’s Robert Post explained in his June 24 op-ed.
UPDATE (7/7/16): Reached for comment over email, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt told Media Matters:
Our policy hasn’t changed, but I do feel that when someone is mentioned, and especially in an unflattering way, in an article, we should lean toward allowing a response if space allows, and we should lean toward allowing the writer to say what he or she wants to say as far as possible within our bounds. In this case, the writer had been mentioned (in a June 24 oped by Robert Post); and the fact that the letter writer sides with what you describe as the 3 per cent of scientists, and wants to say that climate change is not an “undisputed fact,” is relevant to the argument that Robert Post was making. We thought it fair to let him express his view; useful to readers to understand the debate Robert Post was describing; and then fair to allow for further debate, as happened five days later with David Dunn’s July 4 letter, “Climate-change deniers are spreading a fraud.”