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Max Greenberg

Author ››› Max Greenberg
  • After Hottest Year On Record, Fox News Buries Its Head In The Sand

    Fox News Ignores Announcement That 2012 Is The Hottest Year On Record For U.S.

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    Federal scientists have announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S., an illustration of the kind of extremes we can expect with unchecked climate change. The news was widely covered, but Fox News has ignored it entirely. 

    Every major news outlet* except for Fox News has covered the record heat announcement, which drew above-the-fold, front-page coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post. This record year was an illustration of how greenhouse gases are warming our atmosphere. Thomas R. Karl, the director of the National Climatic Data Center, which made the announcement, told the Post, "you're going to see [records] with increasing frequency," and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Jake Crouch told ClimateWire "Climate change has had a role in this," adding "Going into the future, we would expect warmer years, or years with temperatures much above the 20th century average, to become more frequent." 

    Every state in the contiguous U.S. experienced above-average annual temperatures in 2012 and 19 states broke their all-time records:

    Source: NCDC

  • CNN's Hour-Long Climate Change Special Ignores Emissions

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    A CNN special on the threat of more frequent extreme weather events fueled by climate change ignored the role of manmade greenhouse gas emissions in warming the atmosphere, sparking criticism from a scientist and a CNN veteran.*

    The hour-long program, titled "The Coming Storms," set out to examine "the factors that made the impact of superstorm Sandy so devastating," featuring "insights from researchers and scientists on climate change[.]"

    CNN did explore how climate change will amplify the impacts of disastrous weather events like Hurricane Sandy. Given the network's track record of paying scant attention to climate change even while reporting on its consequences, it was a commendable effort. But CNN failed to make the distinction that climate change is not a natural phenomenon; rather, it is driven by human activity. A CNN.com article promoting the special posed the question: "Are we ready for the next one?" Indeed, the program focused overwhelmingly on safeguard measures to protect against "inevitable" extreme weather, without mentioning the role of manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

    Scott Mandia, a professor of Physical Sciences, wrote in emails to Media Matters that although he was pleased CNN connected climate change to extreme weather events, "A perfect show would have used the last five to ten minutes to clearly link climate change to record increases in CO2 from burning fossil fuels followed by case studies of countries, states, towns that have used renewables to clean the environment, create jobs, and save money. ala [PBS documentary] Earth: The Operator's Manual."

  • Fox News' Bogus Hunt For Pork In Sandy Bill Continues

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    Photo: Steve Zaffarano, silive.com

    Fox News is continuing its hunt for "pork" in a Hurricane Sandy relief bill blocked by House Speaker John Boehner, claiming that the bill included $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change. But the funds in question actually focused on ensuring affected states' access to clean water, a crucial issue in the wake of the storm - and emblematic of future consequences of climate change. 

    Rep. Boehner recently canceled a vote on a Sandy relief bill, prompting heavy criticism from some members of his own party. He later reversed course and called for a vote on $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program, with another $51 billion in relief spending to be voted on later. 

    Continuing Fox News' attempts to find "pork" in the bill, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer proclaimed lawmakers "were just chucking everything" including "$600 million for climate change for the EPA"  into the bill, and "that's where the resistance" from Rep. Boehner came:

    But the previous day, Rep. Carolyn Maloney had explained to Fox Business that the "money is for wastewater treatment," which she pointed out is "very much needed" in many areas hit by Sandy. Indeed, The New York Times reported that sewage from storm-battered treatment plants had flowed into New York and New Jersey waterways after the storm, "a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy."

  • 2012: A Year Of Gas Price Fibs On Fox

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    In 2012, like most years, U.S. gasoline prices fluctuated according to global market conditions, seasonal changes in demand and several other factors. Fox News fluctuated too, finding bad -- often contradictory -- news in the ups and downs alike. No matter which way gas prices went, the network always found a way to forecast doom for the economy and pin it on Obama. But experts agree that no president can control gas prices.

    From GasBuddy.com

    As Gas Prices Rise, Fox News Launches Relentless Campaign To Falsely Blame Obama 

    Early in the year, Fox News launched a relentless campaign to pin unseasonably high gasoline prices on President Obama. The network had tried this before, but this time the coverage reached a fever pitch. During the first two months of 2012, Fox News blamed gas prices on Obama more than three times as often as all other major news outlets combined, even distorting charts to serve their agenda. To do this, Fox often claimed that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline or expanded domestic drilling could lower gas prices, while ignoring that Obama has significantly raised fuel economy standards -- a measure that would help consumers reduce their dependence on oil and vulnerability to price spikes.

    The network gloated that prices at the pump could be an "opportunity to disrupt" good economic news for Obama, or maybe even "enough to derail his return to the office." To support that goal, Fox News regularly hosted Eric Bolling, a former minor league baseball player and major Wall Street oil and energy futures trader. While Fox News presented him as an expert, actual experts, even those who support increasing access to oil, have called his claims "absolute and utter rubbish," "idiotic," "nonsense," and "not correct."

  • WSJ Obscures Contributors' Fossil Fuel Ties

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    An analysis by the Checks & Balances Project finds that 60 major newspapers frequently quote fossil fuel-funded think tanks on energy and environmental issues without disclosing their industry ties. Further research by Media Matters finds that the Wall Street Journal's lack of disclosure has been especially glaring.

    The Checks & Balances Project found that between 2007-2011, industry-funded organizations like the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation were cited or quoted over 1000 times in 60 publications, often to attack environmental regulations or renewable energy technology. Their ties to fossil fuel interests were disclosed only 6 percent of the time, despite the fact that 17 percent of mentions promoted fossil fuels. The analysis concluded that "a transactional relationship of contributions in exchange for national media traction is playing out" between these groups and their corporate benefactors.

    Expanding on these results, Media Matters found that the Wall Street Journal cited, quoted or featured these think tanks on energy issues more than 100 times between 2007-2011 -- more than any of the other other major papers evaluated by Checks & Balances. But the Journal -- which has a history of failing to disclose fossil fuel ties - mentioned the funding sources for these groups just under 4 percent of the time, slightly worse than the average disclosure rate for the other 60 publications.

  • WSJ's Climate "Dynamite" Is A Dud

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    In a Wall Street Journal op-edMatt Ridley attempted to cast doubt on the severity of manmade climate change, arguing that future warming will be modest and "good" for the planet. But experts say the author flubbed the science, and continue to project that the earth will warm between 2 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit), unless mitigating action is taken.

    Ridley's argument goes something like this: climate models are "unproven." Therefore, it is now possible to rely solely on "observations" -- which show that temperatures are "no higher than they were 16 years ago"--to determine that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the end of the century would cause modest warming, a development he says is "dynamite." Further, that amount of warming would be a "net good."

    Putting aside the fact that Ridley cites a "semiretired successful financier" and an unnamed scientist to support his claims, his arguments are not well-founded. Or, as John Abraham, an IPCC reviewer and the director of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, put it to Media Matters: the column "has such elementary errors in it that [it] casts doubt on the author's understanding of any aspects of climate change." 

    Let's look at each of those errors, one by one.

    First, Ridley wrongly argues that three variables factored into current climate models are overstated (and thus that climate models are "unproven"). In fact, experts agree that the basic impacts of each variable that Ridley cites -- the cooling effect of aerosols (or particles in the air); the rate of heat absorption by the world's oceans; and the role of water vapor in amplifying climate change -- are unambiguous.

    With regard to aerosols: Abraham told Media Matters: "it is very clear [they] have a cooling impact," adding, "I don't know of any reputable scientist that would dispute that." Boston University's Robert Kaufmann, lead author of a 2011 sulfur emissions study, agreed:

    I know of no evidence that would suggest that the temperature effect of sulfur emissions are small.  This conclusion is totally at odds with my peer reviewed publication in the area, which indicate that sulfur emissions have a significant effect on temperature.

    With regard to the feedback effect of water vapor: Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Media Matters in an email: "water vapor effects are well established as an amplifier (strong positive feedback)." Abraham further noted that Ridley has apparently confused water vapor with clouds, whose effects are not as well understood. He said, "it is very clear water vapor...is an amplifying effect. It is a very strong warmer for the climate" and challenged Ridley to name the anonymous scientist who gave him his information.

  • Fox Paints Birther's Climate Change Antics As Serious "Dissent"

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    Monckton dressed up for the conference in Qatar, via CFACTFox News portrayed the dismissal of British politician Christopher Monckton from the UN climate conference in Qatar as evidence that there was legitimate "dissent" against climate change being quashed. In fact, Monckton, who is known for incendiary antics and remarks, was expelled for violating the conference's code of conduct, and protesters on the other side of the issue were also expelled for similar violations.

    Monckton was removed from the 2012 UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, after impersonating a delegate from Myanmar in order to misleadingly claim that there has been "no global warming at all" for 16 years, obscuring the clear warming trend. He was subsequently barred from all future UN climate conferences.

    The following morning, Fox & Friends seized on the episode to paint "Lord Monckton" as a martyr of climate "dissent" and bemoan a lack of "debate" on the issue. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed somewhat dubiously that "Everyone took notes and they learned from that, and global warming is indeed now wrong." Gretchen Carlson declared that the conference "was supposed to be a debate apparently at this convention, but a debate usually involves two different points of view. I guess this time they're just going to have one point of view." Steve Doocy conceded that Monckton had spoken out of turn in Doha, but concluded of his dismissal, "There goes for dissent."

    But Monckton wasn't being singled out. A group of activists was also expelled from Doha for "unfurling an unauthorized banner calling for the Qatari hosts to lead the negotiations to a strong conclusion," according to Greenwire (subscription required). And contrary to Carlson's suggestion, the purpose of the Doha conference is not to "debate" the widely-accepted and extensively documented science behind manmade climate change. Rather, it is to "speed up global action towards a low-emission future where everyone has the chance of a sustainable life."

    More significantly, Monckton, who has no formal scientific training, is a notorious and prolific peddler of climate myths, and he wasn't being punished for "dissent" -- he was expelled for "impersonating a Party" and violating the conference's code of conduct.

  • Fox News Slams Emissions Proposal They Didn't Even Read

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    Fox News mischaracterized a new proposal to set emissions limits for existing power plants, suggesting that Environmental Protection Agency regulation would make electricity rates increase and likely draw the opposition of "carbon state Democrats." In fact, the plan is expected to lead to lower power bills through improved energy efficiency, and allows states with carbon-intensive power to make cost-effective and realistic steps toward sustainable power. 

    Laying out a plan for President Obama to address climate change in his second term, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a proposal to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act using a flexible approach that can be tailored for each state and would minimize economic impacts. William Reilly, a former EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush, stated of the plan: "This is an imaginative proposal that addresses some real needs. It deserves to be carefully analyzed and taken seriously by all the affected interests." 

    But Fox News' America Live claimed that "this kind of proposal would obviously have huge economic impact that could spread across industries." Fox News Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt said that under any EPA regulation of existing power plants, Americans "may see their power bills go up and they may see scarcity down the road." He offered that "there are enough carbon state Democrats" that could try to prevent the EPA from acting. 

    But EPA regulations could actually lower power bills. The NRDC proposal gives plant owners credit for energy efficiency increases, which, according to the analysis from a widely-used modeling firm, would lead to lower power bills. Grist's David Roberts explained

    The fact that energy efficiency counts as compliance is crucial to the economics of NRDC's proposal. If avoided carbon counts toward reducing average fleet emissions, then every utility, in every state and region, has access to inexpensive compliance measures.

    [...]

    Remember: Efficiency saves ratepayers money. According to modeling of the NRDC proposal done by ICF International, by complying through efficiency measures, utilities could achieve the proposed carbon standards while slightly reducing power bills. And every dollar not spent on power is a dollar of annual economic stimulus.

  • Fox Cries "Overregulation" Even When EPA Backs Industry

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    Fox News is suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency is targeting the logging industry, citing water runoff standards as an instance of "overregulation." But the EPA actually exempted the industry from the standards in question and is siding with them in a Supreme Court case on the matter.

    On Monday's edition of Fox News' evening news show Special Report, reporter Shannon Bream claimed that the Obama administration has recently proposed "6,000 new regulations," and suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency was adding to this "overregulation" with standards for water runoff from logging roads:

    But Fox got it backwards -- the EPA is actually "backing Oregon and the timber industry," according to CNN. A 2010 Circuit Court of Appeals decision ruled that rain runoff from roads used for logging required permits under the Clean Water Act as this runoff can be deadly to downstream wildlife. The logging industry appealed the ruling, but before the case got to the Supreme Court the EPA issued final rules that reportedly "exempted logging road runoff from storm water permit requirements." The EPA states that it "did not intend for logging roads to be regulated as industrial facilities," but the industry is asking the Supreme Court to nevertheless rule on the case. 

    As for Fox's claim that the administration has imposed "6,000 new regulations," these notices "run the gamut from meeting notifications to fee schedules to actual rules and proposed rule changes," according to the conservative website CNSNews.com.

  • Who Ignored The New Report Warning Of Calamitous Climate Change?

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    A recent World Bank report warned that we are on the path to a world "marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise." Yet The Los Angeles Times, CNN and Fox News ignored the report entirely, continuing a pattern of deficient climate coverage.

    In November 2012, a World Bank report concluded that a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) worldwide temperature increase by the year 2100, of which there is approximately a 20 percent likelihood even assuming current commitments to greenhouse gas reduction are honored, would lead to "unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions" and the "regional extinction of entire coral reef species" that provide "food, income, tourism, and shoreline protection" for many communities. It also determined that the consequences of climate change would most adversely affect "many of the world's poorest regions," which have contributed among the least to climate change and have the least ability to adapt.

    Of the major print outlets The Los Angeles Times was the only one that didn't mention the World Bank report (The New York Times only covered the report online, but recently created an interactive graphic illustrating one of the report's major warnings: sea-level rise).*

    MSNBC's The Cycle, on the other hand, dedicated an entire segment to the report and climate change policies:

    Unfortunately, it appears that their climate coverage made them an outlier once again among cable news outlets, as CNN and Fox News skipped the report. Fox News routinely ignores or downplays the veracity and urgency of climate change, and CNN has been criticized for under-covering it.

    *This post has been updated to reflect changes in Daily Kos blogger RL Miller's reporting.