Fox News runs with global temperature decline falsehood

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Several Fox News figures have used a purportedly "suppressed" EPA document to advance the falsehood that, in Steve Doocy's words, "for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping."

Following allegations that the EPA "suppressed" an internal document that was skeptical of climate change, several Fox News figures have advanced the document's false claim -- previously repeated by CBS -- that, in Fox News host Steve Doocy's words, "for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping." In fact, Doocy's claim simply is not true.

A draft of the EPA document stated in one of its "principal comments" that "[g]lobal temperatures have declined -- extending the current downtrend to 11 years with a particularly rapid decline in 1907-8 [sic]." The document went on to state that "[g]lobal temperatures have declined (Figure 1a) -- extending the current run of time with a statistically robust lack of global temperature rise to eight years (Figure 1b), with some people arguing that it can be traced back for 12 years."

In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, annual global average temperatures have both risen and fallen over the past 11 years, and while there have been some relatively cooler years during that period -- including a decline in each of the past three relative to the year before -- climate scientists reject the idea that those temperatures are any indication that global warming is slowing or does not exist. Scientists have identified a long-term warming trend spanning several decades that is independent from the normal climate variability -- which includes relatively short-term changes in climate due to events like El Niño and La Niña -- to which they attribute the recent relatively cooler temperatures.

As this graph of annual global average temperatures from the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre shows, the claim that, in the words of Doocy, "for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping" is simply not true:

Nonetheless, Doocy and other Fox News personalities used the document's statements to advance false claims about global temperature. For example:

  • On June 30, Fox & Friends interviewed EPA research analyst Alan Carlin -- one of the authors of the "suppressed" document. After Carlin stated that he wrote the document because the "EPA, in my view, needed to look at the science behind global warming and not depend on reports issued by the United Nations," Doocy replied, "And, in fact, it's problematic because for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping." Carlin did not challenge Doocy's statement.
  • On the June 29 edition of Hannity, former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore said that Carlin "is with the EPA, and he put a report -- 98-page report out," at which point host Sean Hannity interjected, "That they hid." Moore continued, "[T]hat said there was no increase in temperature; in fact, it's been going down for the past 11 years. And the Obama administration stopped the report." Hannity later stated that "[Sen.] James Inhofe [R-OK] is saying ... that they purposefully hid this information. They buried it."
  • On the June 29 edition of The Live Desk, Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon said: "There was an important report issued by an EPA scientist, about 100 pages long -- almost 100 pages long -- that said that maybe we really shouldn't be regulating carbon dioxide. After all, global temperatures have fallen for the last 11 years."

By contrast, Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in a June 26 RealClimate.org post that in reading the internal EPA document that Carlin co-authored, "[o]ne can see a number of basic flaws [in its main points]; the complete lack of appreciation of the importance of natural variability on short time scales, the common but erroneous belief that any attribution of past climate change to solar or other forcing means that CO2 has no radiative effect, and a hopeless lack of familiarity of the basic science of detection and attribution."

From the June 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Welcome back. As Congress debated energy legislation just last week, a disturbing story was quietly spreading about an internal report at the EPA that had to be used or hushed -- what is the word? Hushed, before anyone heard about it. The report debunked the science behind global warming, and its conclusions proved so inconvenient that that report was shelved.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): All right, so we have the person who wrote this report, Alan Carlin, a researcher at the EPA and the author of that controversial report. He joins us live this morning from D.C. Good morning to you, Mr. Carlin.

CARLIN: Good morning.

CARLSON: All right, so most of us are not scientists. You are. You've worked for the EPA for 38 years. Tell us in a nutshell what your report said this spring.

CARLIN: The most important finding was that EPA, in my view, needed to look at the science behind global warming and not depend on reports issued by the United Nations, which is what they were thinking of doing and have done.

DOOCY: And, in fact, it's problematic because for the last 11 years, temperatures had been dropping.

From the June 29 edition Fox News' Hannity:

MOORE: Let me tell you what Alan Carlin said. Alan Carlin is with the EPA, and he put a report -- 98-page report out --

HANNITY: That they hid.

MOORE: -- that said there was no increase in temperature; in fact, it's been going down for the past 11 years. And the Obama administration stopped the report.

HANNITY: James --

BOB BECKEL (Fox News contributor and USA Today columnist): Roy, Roy --

HANNITY: Hang on.

BECKEL: -- you know what's amazing about that is that you actually quoted a federal government document in defense of something --

HANNITY: Wait, wait. Wait, wait. There's more to that, though.

BECKEL: -- which is something you've never done. Wait a second.

HANNITY: James Inhofe is saying --

BECKEL: In that --

HANNITY: -- wait a minute -- that they purposefully hid this information. They buried it.

MOORE: The people in this country don't know that, that somebody from the EPA under the Obama administration came out and said, "There's no evidence of this."

HANNITY: That's a great point.

MOORE: They stopped the report and said, "You can't have it."

From the June 29 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

TRACE GALLAGHER (co-host): I wanted to point out, Bill, the story that you kind of informed us about earlier: these emails. The EPA kind of suppressing this scientific information, scientific evidence, that maybe global warming is not as bad as we think and maybe carbon dioxide emissions are better today than they were 50 years ago. Talk about those emails more.

SAMMON: There was an important report issued by an EPA scientist, about 100 pages long -- almost 100 pages long -- that said that maybe we really shouldn't be regulating carbon dioxide. After all, global temperatures have fallen for the last 11 years.

He listed a number of other pieces of data such as, for example, the ice in Greenland is not melting as fast as everybody thought it was. The EPA is now accused of ignoring this guy's dissenting report and forwarding their own sort of politically arrived-at conclusion.

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