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Kevin Kalhoefer

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  • Why does USA Today keep publishing op-eds that dispute climate science?

    The paper’s latest opinion piece on climate change was written by an author with undisclosed fossil fuel ties

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    USA Today has once again invited a climate denier onto its opinion pages to cast doubt on mainstream science, and the paper failed to disclose the author’s numerous industry ties.

    On August 14, USA Today's editorial board wrote a well-reasoned editorial highlighting the scientific consensus around climate science, titled “Case for climate change grows ever stronger.” The board noted that the findings of a draft federal climate report provided “ever more troubling evidence” that “humanity is responsible for a dangerously warming planet.”

    But on the same day, the newspaper also published an op-ed by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that disparaged the draft report, dismissing it as the work of “the career (and holdover) federal employee ‘resistance’” and part of the “big business” of climate change:

    Another week of the Trump presidency, another bout of fevered reporting on claims promoted by the career (and holdover) federal employee “resistance.” But particularly when it comes to climate change, it seems the ordinary way of doing things is simply too much to ask.

    “Climate” has become very big business since Congress first requested quadrennial “National Assessments on Climate Change” in 1990. A big part of that business is government. Another is the news media. Both of which thrive on the end-of-days narrative.

    The two met this week to ride the latest national assessment, a draft of which prompted excited reportage and a particularly embarrassing correction by The New York Times.

    Readers would have taken Horner’s attack with more than a grain of salt had USA Today disclosed his deep ties to oil and coal companies. He claimed that climate change has become "big business," but Horner's own work has been funded by big fossil fuel corporations for years. Horner has gotten payments from Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S., and has numerous ties to the coal industry. And Horner’s employer, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has received more than $2 million from ExxonMobil over almost two decades, as well as funding from Marathon Petroleum, Texaco, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Koch Industries, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, among others.

    In his USA Today op-ed, Horner provided no evidence to support his claim that writing reports on climate change is “big business.” According to a ProPublica article, the draft federal climate report was authored by “a mix of government and academic researchers,” and lead author Katharine Hayhoe noted that the academic contributors were not paid for their work. Horner also didn't give any compelling evidence or argument to dispute the findings of the draft report.

    So then why did USA Today publish Horner’s op-ed? The paper’s editorial board has a long-standing practice of publishing “opposing view” counterpoints to its editorials. As Media Matters has documented on multiple occasions, this “opposing view” format leads the newspaper to publish climate denial and misinformation, and go out of its way to find authors willing to dispute the well-established science of human-caused climate change.

    A 2016 Media Matters study examining four major newspapers’ opinion pages found that USA Today published six opinion pieces featuring climate denial or misinformation from January 1, 2015, through August 31, 2016 -- five of which were “opposing view” responses to editorials. Only The Wall Street Journal, which is notorious for pushing climate denial on its opinion pages, published more. All six of these misleading climate opinion pieces were written by individuals with fossil fuel ties, but USA Today did not disclose any of those ties to readers.

    The “opposing view” format is all the more dangerous now that Environmental Protection Agency administrator and climate denier Scott Pruitt is calling for a “red team” of climate deniers to debate mainstream "blue team" scientists. The Trump administration is even reportedly considering having a "red team" vet the draft climate report that Horner criticized. This sort of approach should not be getting an endorsement from the most widely read newspaper in the United States.

  • STUDY: EPA chief Scott Pruitt has given more interviews to Fox than to all other major TV networks combined

    Pruitt shares the Trump administration’s preference for Fox News and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.

    Pruitt’s media strategy is right in line with that of his boss. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump eschewed mainstream media outlets; it's a pattern his administration has continued since the election, favoring conservative and right-wing media outlets that are friendly to President Trump's agenda. By following the same approach, Pruitt has been able to push misinformation, avoid tough questioning, and appeal to the president’s political base.

    Pruitt appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined

    Scott Pruitt has been a guest on Fox News a total of 12 times since his confirmation. From February 17, when he was sworn in, to August 14, Pruitt made twice as many appearances on Fox News (12) as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined (6).* With the exception of two appearances on Fox News Sunday, Pruitt rarely faced tough questions on Fox News and was able to use the network as a platform for pushing misleading talking points without rebuttal. Pruitt appeared most frequently on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite show, which some journalists have criticized as “state TV” and “a daily infomercial for the Trump presidency” for its sycophantic coverage of the president and his administration. Pruitt made the following appearances on Fox News:

    By comparison, Pruitt made only six appearances on the other major cable and broadcast television networks combined. From the time Pruitt took the helm at the EPA through August 14, he was a guest just six times total on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and NBC, and he made no appearances at all on CBS. On each of these non-Fox programs, Pruitt faced questions either about whether Trump still believes climate change is a hoax or about Pruitt's own views on climate change. In response, Pruitt either avoided answering the question or repeated his “lukewarmer” stance that climate change is happening but we don’t know how much is human-caused. In all but one of these appearances, Pruitt repeated false or misleading talking points about the Paris climate agreement. Here are Pruitt's guest appearances on cable news and broadcast networks other than Fox:

    • One appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room on February 28.
    • One appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • Two appearances on ABC’s This Week on March 26 and June 4.
    • One appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.

    *Pruitt’s appearance on Meet the Press aired on both NBC and MSNBC, but for the purposes of this study, we only counted it as an NBC appearance.

    Pruitt has been a frequent guest on national right-wing talk radio shows

    Pruitt has also been a frequent guest on nationally broadcast right-wing talk radio shows since his confirmation, Media Matters found. We examined the top 10 shows listed on Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list, as well as numerous shows broadcast on the SiriusXM Patriot channel, and found the following:

    • Three appearances on Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show on March 29, May 11, and June 2.
    • Two appearances on Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show on April 27 and May 19.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s David Webb Show on April 26.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily on June 5.
    • One appearance on Westwood One’s The Savage Nation on June 1.

    All of these hosts or outlets have denied climate change:

    • Hugh Hewitt has a years-long record of climate denial: He wrote in a 2011 blog post that “we don’t know” how much humans contribute to global warming, adding “if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it.” Hewitt also downplayed the threat of climate change in a September 2016 episode of his show in which he said that warming might be "a real problem over 500 years."
    • Brian Kilmeade has denied climate change, both as a host on his radio show and as a co-host on Fox & Friends. On a 2013 episode of his radio show (then called Kilmeade & Friends), Kilmeade suggested that only “corrupt” climatologists accept human-caused climate change. On the same day, Kilmeade disputed on Fox & Friends that it is “settled scientific collective thought” that human activity causes climate change. 
    • On the January 12, 2017, episode of the David Webb Show, Webb cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change, arguing that it's not significant that the vast majority of climate scientists publishing peer-reviewed research agree on the human causes of warming: "You can have 99 percent of peer-reviewed, but it doesn’t mean that the one percent like that guy named Copernicus won’t be correct about the fact that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe.”
    • Breitbart.com has a long track record of pushing blatant climate science misinformation and attacking climate scientists and climate science, calling researchers “talentless low-lives” and “abject liars” and climate change a “hoax.” Breitbart is also a go-to outlet for fossil fuel industry-funded academics who want to get publicity for their work.
    • Michael Savage has echoed Trump’s position on climate change, calling it a “scam” and a “hoax,” and has urged the president to continue denying that humans are the cause of global warming. During his June 1 interview with Scott Pruitt, Savage repeated the denier argument that human-made climate change is disproven by samples from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica and criticized Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for promoting “fake science.” In response, Pruitt appeared to endorse Savage’s views and floated the idea of having a "red team" of skeptical scientists debate a "blue team" of mainstream climate scientists, a proposal Pruitt pushed again a few days later on Breitbart’s radio program:
    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): Please explain to me how come ancient core samples from the Antarctic show that there was climate change going on hundreds of thousands of years before man industrialized. [Whitehouse] would not have an answer for us, Mr. Pruitt. The science is fake science that they’ve been foisting upon a gullible public.
    SCOTT PRUITT: You know what’s interesting, Michael? There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal to your point, by Steven Koonin, a scientist at NYU, called “red team/blue team.” I don’t know if you saw it or not. But he proposed that we should have a red team/blue team approach with respect to CO2. We should have red team scientists and blue team scientists, in an open setting, debate, discuss, and have an open discussion about what do we know, what don’t we know, and the American people deserve truth.
    SAVAGE: Amen to that, because we’ve had no debate whatsoever. All Obama told us was 98 percent of scientists agree. So what? There was a time when 100 percent of scientists said the Earth is flat. Did that make them right?
    PRUITT: No, look, I mean the reason there’s not consensus, through policy in Washington, D.C., is because, truly, the American people don’t trust what has happened in the past several years with respect to regulatory policy and this issue.

    Pruitt’s right-wing radio appearances have extended beyond nationally broadcast shows. E&E News reported in May that Pruitt appeared on “the local morning talk radio show of a North Dakota blogger who described the Obama administration's EPA as an enemy to the well-being of his state.” ThinkProgress noted that during a “state listening tour” in North Dakota earlier this month, “Pruitt stopped by the conservative talk radio show What’s On Your Mind to share his thoughts on a number of EPA-related issues.” During that conversation, Pruitt referred to the “so-called settled science” of climate change.

    And on August 10, Pruitt appeared on a Texas radio show, Politico reported, where he said his staff will assess the "accuracy" of a major federal climate report that's been drafted by scientists from 13 agencies. “Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” he said, ignoring the fact that the report has already undergone extensive peer review. Pruitt also used his appearance on the show to cast doubt on climate science in general.

    Pruitt has given interviews to other climate-denying outlets, including online publications and cable business shows

    In addition to his June interview on Breitbart’s radio show, Pruitt granted the Breitbart website an interview in March.

    Pruitt also sat for a lengthy video interview in July with the fossil fuel-funded Daily Caller, another denialist online outlet. And he gave an interview in May to The Daily Signal, an online news outlet run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that casts doubt on climate change.

    Besides his appearances on cable news shows, Pruitt also went on cable business shows and networks that serve as platforms for climate denial -- most notably CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he told climate-denying host Joe Kernen that he did not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt has also frequently given interviews on Fox Business Network, which mirrors Fox News’ denialist stance on global warming. Pruitt made the following appearances on the Fox Business Network:

    Pruitt’s courting of conservative media is “on an entirely different level” from predecessors

    Scott Waldman of E&E News reported that after “weeks of blowback” from Pruitt’s appearance on Squawk Box, the EPA chief “shifted his media appearances to friendlier venues,” a move that “allowed him to tee off on a favorite series of talking points: Obama's energy policy was ‘America second,’ energy industry innovations have reduced the U.S. carbon footprint, the so-called war on coal is now over, EPA's job is to encourage business growth in concert with the environment, and the era of punitive action against energy companies is over.” Waldman also noted that Pruitt’s “courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level” from previous EPA administrators. From Waldman’s article:

    To be sure, all administrations seek out friendly press. President Obama talked about health care on the "Between Two Ferns" comedy program with Zach Galifianakis, which Republicans criticized as undignified. And former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy granted exclusive interviews to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones and Grist.

    But critics say Pruitt's courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level.

    […]

    Liz Purchia, a former EPA spokeswoman under the Obama administration, said it's extremely unusual to place an administrator only on partisan outlets. She noted that McCarthy regularly interacted with reporters from outlets that produced coverage EPA officials did not appreciate.

    […]

    "Only talking to far right-wing media outlets, they are only talking to a small group of Americans that regularly follow them, and they are intentionally going to reporters who will only ask them questions they want to hear and aren't speaking to the broader American people about their actions," Purchia said.

    In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber also reported that “since taking office, Pruitt has almost exclusively relied on a small number of conservative media outlets to tell an upbeat version of his leadership at the EPA, with occasional detours into the Sunday news shows,” creating “an echo chamber cheerleading the EPA’s regulatory rollbacks, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and its newfound anti-science denial.”

    Leber also quoted Purchia remarking on how Pruitt’s approach to media interviews “isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base”:

    Liz Purchia, an Obama-era EPA communications staffer, says the EPA’s attention to right-wing audiences resembles Trump’s tactics at the White House. “They’re tightly controlling [Pruitt’s] public events and interviews, which isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base,” Purchia said in an email. “They’re not trying to use communications tactics to reach a broad audience.”

    Charts by Sarah Wasko

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis, iQ Media, and TVEyes to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA Administrator on February 17 to August 14: “Pruitt,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    For radio appearances, Matters Matters searched the same terms in Veritone for the top 10 programs in Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list and the following programs that air on SiriusXM Patriot: Breitbart News Daily, David Webb Show, Brian Kilmeade Show, and The Wilkow Majority.

  • Newsweek failed to disclose fossil fuel ties in an article promoting industry groups’ claims

    Newsweek also failed to disclose the fossil fuel funding of the story’s sources

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Newsweek missed multiple opportunities to disclose the fossil fuel ties of industry groups when it re-published a Daily Signal article promoting allegations of collusion between Russia and environmental groups that oppose fracking.

    On July 11, Newsweek posted an article by Kevin Mooney that first appeared in The Daily Signal about a letter House science committee members Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Randy Weber (R-TX) had written to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. According to Mooney, the congressmen alleged that “the Russian government has been colluding with environmental groups to circulate ‘disinformation’ and ‘propaganda’ aimed at undermining hydraulic fracturing” in order to prop up Russian gas prices by reducing the United States’ natural gas production.

    Newsweek failed to disclose that The Daily Signal is the news site of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ family foundations.

    And, as Andrew Freedman of Mashable noted, the allegations contained in Smith and Weber’s letter were “based on research done by a PR front group, known as the Environmental Policy Alliance, with a record of ties to the energy industry. This raises the question of whether Smith is using the alleged Russian activities as cover to go after environmental groups, who are no friend of his.” Indeed, the Environmental Policy Alliance is a subsidiary of a group called the Center for Organizational Research and Education (CORE), which was founded and is run by the PR firm of corporate lobbyist Richard Berman. The New York Times reported that Berman had “solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives” in 2014 for a campaign against environmental activists and boasted of being able to keep donors' contributions and involvement hidden.

    Dianna Wray of the Houston Press also highlighted the Environmental Policy Alliance’s industry ties in a July 12 article about the congressmen’s letter, noting that it doesn’t offer proof of its allegations and that the claims come from the “other EPA”:

    The idea that Russians are attempting to meddle in the U.S. energy industry isn't entirely ludicrous. After all, it is believed Russian money was backing protesters opposed to fracking in Romania back in 2014, according to the The New York Times.

    But keep in mind that what Smith presents is far from actual proof. Plus, the letter Smith and Weber signed failed to note one crucial detail about the stories claiming the Russians have been attempting to influence energy policy by dumping money secretly into U.S. environmental organizations like the Sierra Club. Namely, that all of the stories about this big Russian plot to shut down fracking in the United States are based on research from the Environmental Policy Alliance. (The other EPA.)

    While the name may sound fairly innocuous, the organization is actually a public relations firm with ties to the oil industry, i.e., a group that has its own reasons for wanting to cast doubt on any and all environmental reports, particularly any reports that find problems with fracking.

    In its article, Newsweek also failed to note that Smith and Weber themselves have received substantial donations from the fossil fuel industry. Both congressmen have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fossil fuel campaign contributions over their respective careers.

    This isn’t the first time Newsweek has allowed industry-tied authors and groups to push pro-fossil fuel claims without disclosure. In 2015, Newsweek published an article by Randy Simmons, the former Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University, without disclosing his affiliation. The magazine subsequently added an update disclosing his fossil fuel ties after Media Matters flagged the omission. In publishing The Daily Signal's article, Newsweek missed another opportunity to be transparent with its readers and disclose important conflicts of interest.

  • During record heat wave, major TV stations in Phoenix and Las Vegas completely ignored the impact of climate change

    The stations did not mention a new study connecting global warming to extreme heat, but found time to discuss climate change’s impact on coffee

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Major television network affiliates in metropolitan areas most affected by a record-breaking heat wave in June failed to discuss how climate change exacerbates such heat waves or mention that it will make them more frequent in the future, and major national TV networks neglected to report on the connection too. Over eight days in late June, major TV affiliates in Phoenix and Las Vegas aired a combined 433 broadcasts that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave, but only one of those mentioned climate change -- and that one downplayed its impact. The local affiliates also ignored a new study that found one-third of the global population already faces deadly heat waves for at least 20 days a year due to climate change, yet they aired segments focused on how climate change could affect the flavor of coffee.

    Phoenix and Las Vegas affiliates ignored alarming study about climate change’s impact on extreme heat, despite experiencing a record heat wave

    For more than a week in late June, much of the Southwest was hit by a brutal heat wave. In Phoenix, temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees above average and new temperature records were set for three days in a row from June 19 to 21, reaching as high as 119 degrees. Dozens of flights had to be canceled after higher temperatures made it harder for certain types of small planes to take off. Las Vegas saw similar record-breaking daily temperatures and tied its all-time high temperature record of 117 degrees on June 20.

    The heat wave overlapped with the publication of an alarming new study on June 19 in the journal Nature Climate Change that found that, because of climate change, almost a third of the world’s population faces deadly heat waves at least 20 days a year -- and that more than twice that percentage could experience the same by 2100. In his article on the study’s findings, Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press connected the study to the heat wave in the Southwest:

    Deadly heat waves like the one now broiling the American West are bigger killers than previously thought and they are going to grow more frequent, according to a new comprehensive study of fatal heat conditions. Still, those stretches may be less lethal in the future, as people become accustomed to them.

    A team of researchers examined 1,949 deadly heat waves from around the world since 1980 to look for trends, define when heat is so severe it kills and forecast the future. They found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. But the study predicts that up to three in four people worldwide will endure that kind of heat by the end of the century, if global warming continues unabated.

    Yet despite having ample reason to take note, regional media ignored this dramatic study during the heat wave. Media Matters examined news coverage on the Phoenix and Las Vegas network affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX over an eight-day period that spanned the hottest days of the heat wave for those cities, from June 17 to June 24.

    We found that the network affiliates did not air a single mention of the study -- but many of them found time to air segments on a different study published on the same day that found that climate change could lower the quality of Ethiopian coffee. In Phoenix, ABC affiliate KNXV and CBS affiliate KPHO both aired a segment about the coffee study, and in Las Vegas, NBC affiliate KSNV and FOX affiliate KVVU both aired a segment on the coffee study, while ABC affiliate KTNV aired three segments devoted to it. This focus reinforced the mistaken idea that climate change directly affects faraway developing countries, like Ethiopia, but not the U.S.  

    In a June 27 post, Ron Meador of MinnPost’s Earth Journal expressed surprise that regional media coverage of the heat wave neglected to mention the Nature Climate Change study, writing (italics original):

    But it is questionable whether [the heat wave of 2017] will really be one for the history books, driven as it was by climate factors that continue to progress in ways that will likely make many a future hot spell considerably worse.

    This was not an aspect that came in for much discussion in regional media last week so far as I could tell. I was surprised, for example, to see no mention at all of last week’s marquee findings about the likely surge in deadly heat days over the rest of this century.

    Who knows why? Maybe it’s too controversial, still. Maybe it’s considered bad taste to mention this before the instant suffering subsides. Or maybe most people understand and accept this hard truth already, which would seem to be reasonable, wise and unlikely.

    Phoenix and Las Vegas affiliate stations also failed to mention global warming’s impact on heat waves generally -- and in one instance downplayed the connection 

    The heat wave afflicting the Southwest was the sort of previously rare extreme phenomenon that global warming is making more common. As Pacific Standard magazine explained:

    The atmospheric culprit for the heat is a very intense high pressure, which is itself setting records. Though the statistical databases show this high of high pressure to be an approximately one-in-200-year event, these events have been occurring more often lately—with the last one happening just last year. In short, the background signal of global warming makes the entire atmosphere thinner and less dense, supporting stronger high-pressure centers like the one camped out over Arizona this week, which then tend to get stuck in place—cranking up the thermostat over a multi-state region.

    And Arizona State University professor David Sailor explained in an interview with The New York Times that climate change amplifies and exacerbates heat waves and can create a vicious “feedback loop” between climate change and local heat thanks to increased energy consumption:

    A spike in temperature across the Southwest has left many in Arizona gasping for breath.

    [...]

    David Sailor, a professor at Arizona State University and the director of its Urban Climate Research Center, said that such heat waves were to be expected in the summer, but that climate change amplified such spikes in temperature.

    “The science is showing that the likelihood and the magnitude of these heat waves is likely to be exacerbated by climate change,” he said.

    He also emphasized the connection between what he called “global drivers of local weather” and the weather itself.

    “When you have these heat waves, the residents in the area of course are using more air-conditioning than they would otherwise,” he said. “So there’s a lot more waste heat being dumped into the environment from their attempts to keep their buildings cool. That creates a kind of positive feedback loop between local heat and global climate change.”

    Yet over the eight-day time period Media Matters examined, none of the network affiliates based in Phoenix or Las Vegas explained that climate change exacerbates heat waves.

    Las Vegas affiliates did not connect heat waves to climate change in any of their 241 broadcasts on the heat wave. KTNV (ABC), KLAS (CBS), KSNV (NBC), and KVVU (FOX) aired 65, 54, 65, and 57 broadcasts, respectively, that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave. None of them discussed the relationship between climate change and worsening heat waves.

    Coverage on Arizona affiliates featured a single instance of a journalist connecting the heat waves to climate -- and that was to downplay climate change’s influence. KNXV (ABC), KPHO (CBS), KPNX (NBC), and KSAZ (FOX) aired 45, 53, 36, and 58 broadcasts, respectively, that included a segment or weathercast about the heat wave. Yet in all those broadcasts, climate change was brought up only once, in a June 21 broadcast on KPNX in which chief weather forecaster James Quiñones reported on record temperatures and then downplayed the impact of climate change and misled viewers by stating, “In June of 2017, we got 119 [degrees] and June of 2013 we also had 119 degrees, too, so we’re slowly warming up. And if anybody wonders, ‘Oh, is it global warming, climate change?’ Here’s the bottom line is: Ever since the last Ice Age ended about 40,000 years ago, we’ve been warming. Ever since then. So we’re continuing-- and the Earth goes through these cycles where we cool and we warm, and that’s what we are right now. We’re on a warming trend.”

    Among national nightly news shows, PBS NewsHour was the sole program to discuss the relationship between climate change and heat waves

    The major national networks’ nightly news programs also failed to provide context about climate change when they reported on the Southwest heat wave. There were a combined 13 segments or weather reports about the heat wave on ABC (6), CBS (5), and NBC (2), yet none made a reference to climate change.

    PBS NewsHour, in contrast, aired a June 21 segment about the heat wave that directly connected it to climate change, referenced the Nature Climate Change study, and featured an interview with climate scientist Radley Horton, who explained, “If we look at the last decade or two, we are seeing twice as many record-breaking extreme heat events.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched iQ media and SnapStream for local news broadcasts in Phoenix and Las Vegas -- the two largest television markets in the region affected by the Southwest heat wave -- that included a segment about the Southwest heat wave, as well as national news segments about the heat wave, using the search terms (heat OR "heat wave" OR "heat waves" OR heatwave OR heatwaves OR temperature OR temperatures OR hot). A second search adding the term AND (“climate change” OR “global warming”) was used to identify any segments on the heat wave that mentioned climate change. We did not count teasers or rebroadcasts. Our analysis covered the time period from June 17 to June 24.

    Gabby Miller contributed research to this report.

  • How a scheme to discredit climate science spread from conservative media to the EPA chief

    Scott Pruitt has embraced the “red team/blue team” idea that got exposure from Daily Caller and WSJ

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is calling for a “red team/blue team” review of climate science that would attempt to cast doubt on well-established science and lend an outsize voice to fringe scientists. The idea spread from a climate-denying scientist to conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Wall Street Journal to Pruitt, and now more right-wing outlets are promoting it.

    How the “red team/blue team” idea spread

    John Christy, a fringe scientist and climate denier, proposed the creation of a “red team” in comments submitted to the EPA in 2014. His proposal was promoted by the denialist Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of organizations that “question global warming alarmism.” In his comments, Christy wrote:

    The EPA should constitute a “Red Team” of analysts, independent from the climate modeling industry, to judge the current state of knowledge, i.e. the current state of how much we know about the “why” of climate variations. Such an examination would provide transparency to the process and give confidence to the public that the agency values open examination of its methodology.

    In 2015, Christy again promoted the idea of the federal government funding a new “red team” that would review the climate science currently being produced by what he calls the “blue team.” The Daily Caller reported on Christy’s proposal in December 2015:

    Christy told the [Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness] he believes the attempt to study climate change objectively is thwarted by the federal funding process.

    Christy, a well-known climate change skeptic, suggests Congress can fix the problem by directly funding independent “red team” programs.

    And in March of this year, Christy promoted the idea during a hearing held in the House Science Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a noted climate denier. Judith Curry, another scientist who’s been skeptical of the mainstream consensus on climate change, also testified in favor of the idea. The Washington Post reported on Christy and Curry’s testimony and the “red team” idea:

    A main mission of red teams would be to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change, including the work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose reports are widely considered the authority on climate science.

    On April 20, the idea got more exposure when it was endorsed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Steven Koonin, a theoretical physicist who has a history of climate denial and served as undersecretary at the Energy Department under President Barack Obama for two years before resigning. Koonin called on the Trump administration “to convene a ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ process for climate science, one of the most important and contentious issues of our age.” He continued:

    The national-security community pioneered the “Red Team” methodology to test assumptions and analyses, identify risks, and reduce—or at least understand—uncertainties. The process is now considered a best practice in high-consequence situations such as intelligence assessments, spacecraft design and major industrial operations.

    As justification for such an exercise, Koonin claimed that the “public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science.”

    Shortly after his op-ed was published, Koonin told Axios, “I can tell you that’s found some resonance within the administration. I’m just going to say people seem to be interested.”

    One of those people is Pruitt. In a radio interview on Breitbart News Daily on June 5, Pruitt expressed interest in the “red team/blue team” idea. From a Breitbart article about the interview:

    “What the American people deserve is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2,” [Pruitt] said. “There was a great article that was in the Wall Street Journal about a month or so ago called ‘Red Team, Blue Team’ by Steve Koonin, a scientist, I believe, at NYU. He talked about the importance of having a Red Team of scientists and a Blue Team of scientists, and those scientists get into a room and ask, ‘What do we know? What don’t we know? What risk does it pose to health in the United States and the world, with respect to this issue of [carbon dioxide]?’”

    In the days after that interview, right-wing outlets picked up on the idea again. The Daily Caller reported that it “could upset the supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming.” Breitbart said the proposal “has naturally caused massive upset among the ivory towers of climate science academe” where researchers “aren’t at all used to having their dodgy theories exposed to serious scrutiny.” The right-wing website Daily Signal, the conservative blog Power Line, and the climate-denial blog Watts Up With That also highlighted Pruitt's interview and the red team proposal.

    Why the “red team/blue team” idea is wrongheaded

    In advocating for a “red team” review of climate science, Pruitt, Koonin, and right-wing media are glossing over the fact that climate science already has a method for testing assumptions and analyses: the peer-review system. Climate science papers submitted to respected journals are reviewed by other scientists in the field to assess their soundness and validity.

    As Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Washington Post in June, creating a red team to review climate science would constitute an act of false equivalence and lend, as the Post wrote, “more prominence to alternative ideas than they have earned in the refereed journal process.” Earlier, in March, he told the Post, “The notion that we would need to create an entirely different new approach, in particular for the specific question around global warming is unfounded and ridiculous and simply intended to promote the notion of a lack of consensus about the core findings, which in fact is a false notion.”

    The Post also quoted Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia, who called Koonin’s proposal a “gimmick,” saying, “This just feels to me a like another way to skirt the tried and true scientific process that has worked for years in our field and many others.”

    Climate science has already been litigated ad nauseum in mainstream forums. Numerous studies have found that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that humans are the primary cause of global warming. And recent studies examining the robustness of that consensus have reaffirmed it; about 97 percent of publishing climate scientists concur.


    Via Skeptical Science

    Creating a “red team” could lead to scenarios like the one at a House science committee hearing in March, when climate scientist Michael Mann was outnumbered by fringe scientists and forced to be the sole representative of the scientific consensus on climate change. “We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one—myself—who is in the mainstream,” Mann said in his opening testimony.

    The impact of major newspapers’ opinion pages

    Though fringe, right-wing media have played a substantial role in spreading the “red team/blue team” proposal and other denialist ideas, mainstream newspapers also bear some responsibility. When Pruitt referenced Koonin’s op-ed, it was the second time in less than a week that he had lifted an argument from the opinion pages of a major newspaper to cast doubt on established climate science. On June 2, standing at the podium of the White House press briefing room, Pruitt cited an error-riddled, denialist New York Times column by Bret Stephens in order to downplay “exaggerated” concerns about climate change.

    As a Media Matters study conducted last year demonstrated, climate denial remains a significant problem in the major newspapers. The world has just endured the three hottest years on record, and newspapers are still allowing their opinion pages to be used to deny climate change. That trend is all the more alarming now that the Trump administration is quickly adopting those denialist arguments.

  • Here’s why media should steer clear of Trump’s bogus Paris agreement talking points

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement with bogus and easily discredited talking points that have long been touted by right-wing media. Outlets covering Trump’s decision to shirk American climate commitments should avoid repeating the White House’s misinformation.

  • EPA reportedly helped Paris agreement opponents place op-eds in newspapers

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & LISA HYMAS

    President Donald Trump has decided to exit the Paris climate agreement, according to Axios. The news site also reported that the Scott Pruitt-led Environmental Protection Agency has been “quietly working” with opponents of the agreement to help them place op-eds in newspapers. Media Matters identified a number of anti-Paris agreement op-eds that have been published in papers around the U.S. in recent weeks, spreading misinformation about the expected economic impacts of the agreement, the commitment of developing countries to cutting emissions, and climate science in general.

  • Trump's exit from Paris agreement underscores the media’s catastrophic climate change failure during the campaign

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    News outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s reported decision, as well as months of media speculation about whether or not he would remain in the deal, put into stark relief the failure of major TV networks to discuss the climate implications of a Trump presidency during the election campaign.

    According to Axios and The New York Times, Trump has decided to exit the Paris agreement, in which all but two of the world’s countries submitted pledges to curb their greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. Following the news reports, Trump tweeted that he would issue his announcement on the matter “over the next few days.”

    Regardless of when Trump makes his announcement, this alarming development serves as a reminder that major news networks failed to discuss how a Trump presidency would affect climate change and the Paris agreement prior to the election.

    Media Matters’ latest annual study examining the broadcast networks’ coverage of climate change found that in 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC as well as Fox News Sunday did not air a single segment informing viewers of what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies or issues -- including the Paris agreement -- under a Trump or Hillary Clinton administration. This failure was made all the more inexplicable by the fact that Trump had pledged to cancel or renegotiate the agreement during his campaign and that polls conducted prior to the election showed that large majorities of Americans supported the Paris accord.

    PBS NewsHour was an exception to this trend, airing two segments before the election that provided much-needed discussion about what a Clinton or Trump presidency would mean for the Paris agreement and climate policy broadly. A September 7, 2016, segment featured a discussion with The New York Times’ Coral Davenport and The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney about Trump’s pledge to cancel the Paris accord. And a September 22 segment explored “what the early days of a Trump presidency might look like” and featured Judy Woodruff interviewing Evan Osnos of The New Yorker about whether Trump would renounce the Paris climate agreement.

    The major networks did eventually devote a significant amount of coverage to the climate impacts of a Trump presidency in 2016, airing 25 segments on the topic after the election. And TV networks have been covering the Paris agreement this week, just as they covered Trump’s rollback of former President Barack Obama’s main climate policies in March; in both cases, it’s too little much too late.

  • Stephen Moore Still Doesn’t Understand Employment Numbers: Coal Edition

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore has been employing his longstanding practice of misrepresenting jobs data to hail President Donald Trump for a non-existent resurgence of coal mining jobs.

    Employment in the coal industry has been mired in a decades-long decline due to advances in mining technology, increased automation, a shift toward mountaintop removal, and competition from natural gas and renewables. Not surprisingly, numerous experts and industry observers have called Trump’s promise to put coal miners “back to work” by unraveling environmental protections an empty one. From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

    But according to Trump’s former economic adviser Stephen Moore, coal mining’s implausible comeback is already here. Since Trump issued his executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental protections and begin “withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan” regulating coal-fired power plants, Moore has misrepresented jobs data to claim Trump is already bringing back lost coal mining jobs.

    In an April op-ed published in The Washington Times and The American Spectator, Moore wrote:

    Buried in an otherwise humdrum jobs report for March was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Labor Department that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016 and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

    What a turnaround. It comes at a time when liberals have been saying that Donald Trump has been lying to the American people when he has said that he can bring coal jobs back. Well, so far he has.

    Yet those 11,000 jobs referenced in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) March jobs report were not coal jobs, as Vox explained (emphasis added):

    Coal mining, another big revitalization promise from Trump, is an even weaker story. The latest jobs numbers for the mining industry overall look promising, with employment steadily increasing and 11,000 new jobs created in March. On closer inspection, though, most of these jobs are in the category of “support services.”

    In other words, these aren’t the coal jobs that Trump promised to bring back. These are mostly jobs related to fracking, such as those required to install and maintain equipment needed to drill for oil and natural gas, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. When oil prices rise, which has been happening in recent months, fracking activity increases too.

    Nonetheless, Moore doubled down on his misleading claim following the BLS’ April jobs report, writing in a May 9 Breitbart op-ed, “Well, coal is back. The latest jobs report says that 8,000 more mining jobs were added in April. That brings the grand total to more than 40,000 new mining jobs since the election of Donald J. Trump. Does this sound like an industry in decline?”

    Moore once again ignored that the vast majority of those jobs were created in categories other than “coal mining.” Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would know that figure had only grown by approximately 200 and it has barely moved since Election Day.

    Even if there were an uptick in coal mining jobs, Vox makes clear that Trump “couldn’t take credit” for that increase since it’s still too early to see any impact from the Trump administration’s policies.

    This sort of misleading economic analysis has long been Moore’s calling card and illustrates why The Kansas City Star decided to stop publishing Moore’s op-eds in 2014 after a similar series of statistical games (though Moore’s divorced-from-reality economic analysis is still good enough for CNN). Moore’s false pronouncements of a Trump-inspired coal comeback are just more of the same.