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Shauna Theel

Author ››› Shauna Theel
  • California's Plastic Bag Ban: Myths And Facts


    On September 30, California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, leading to a barrage of misinformation from various media outlets claiming the ban would actually hurt the environment. However, these contrarian claims are undermined by research showing that previous bans and taxes have reduced energy use and litter, while doing no harm to the economy.

  • How Texas' Climate Denial Could Harm Your Child's Education

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    TexasThe textbooks that Texas adopts influence those that are chosen by districts across the U.S., which makes it all the more worrying that several textbooks under consideration by the state misrepresent what scientists know about climate change. The distortions in these textbooks mirror the misinformation that has been pushed in Texas media that has contributed to this dangerous ignorance.

    A recent review by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) found that several textbooks under consideration by the Texas Board of Education, which includes numerous members who deny global warming, cast doubt on the basic fact that carbon pollution is driving climate change. National Journal explained that since "Texas is the second-largest market in the U.S. for textbooks after California," the textbooks chosen by the board could affect what publishers sell to states across the country.

    Some of the misleading claims in these textbooks mirror the misinformation that has been pushed in the state's local media. For example, one textbook presents claims from the Heartland Institute, a climate "skeptic" organization that once compared those that "believe" in global warming to the Unabomber and in the 1990s denied the science demonstrating the dangers of secondhand smoke, as equally credible to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assembles hundreds of scientists to review thousands of peer-reviewed articles on climate change. Some Texas media have similarly treated the Heartland Institute as equally or even more credible than the world's top scientists. For example, a news reporter for the Houston talk radio station KTRH hyped a Heartland Institute report when it was released in April 2014 with the headline "New Report Debunks Climate Change," and in May 2014 turned to the group to rebut an actual scientific report on climate change that was reviewed by a National Academy of Sciences panel. An on-air host at KTRH has also called global warming a "scam."

    Other news outlets in Texas have also misrepresented climate science. For example, an East Texas Fox affiliate, KFXK, aired a commentary on September 9 that falsely claimed Arctic sea ice has "expanded":

  • CNBC's Climate "Expert": "Demonization Of Carbon Dioxide Is Just Like" Demonization Of "Jews Under Hitler"

    Exxon-Funded Physicist William Happer Fulfills Godwin's Law

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    William Happer on CNBC

    The cable business channel CNBC continued to push climate change denial on its network, hosting a professor who compared the "demonization" of carbon dioxide to the Holocaust.

    Physics Professor William Happer has published no peer-reviewed research on climate change, yet co-host Joe Kernen introduced him as an "industry expert" on the July 14 edition of Squawk Box. After a softball interview with Kernen, co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin challenged Happer for "not believ[ing] in climate change" -- to which Happer responded by telling Sorkin to "shut up." Sorkin then asked Happer about comments he made to The Daily Princetonian in 2009 comparing climate science to Nazi propaganda. Happer doubled down on his comments, stating that "the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews."

    Sorkin also noted that Happer, who has suggested that people should be "clamoring for more atmospheric carbon dioxide," is the chairman of the Marshall Institute, which received $865,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2011.

    While Sorkin's pushback was admirable, it's difficult to determine what benefit CNBC is giving its business viewers by once again hosting Happer to push climate denial, especially as it's becoming clear that unchecked climate change is inherently an economic issue that provides serious risks to businesses. A 2013 Media Matters report found that 51 percent of CNBC's climate change coverage cast doubt on the basic fact that the Earth is warming and that the majority of recent warming is manmade, contrary to a consensus of 97 percent of scientists. The channel recently came under fire for soliciting a story about "global warming being a hoax."

    CNBC might also be able to find a few scientists who question whether HIV causes AIDS, whether secondhand smoke is dangerous, or whether vaccines cause autism -- as all three have a few contrarian "experts" supporting their cause -- but it wouldn't be responsible to give them a platform.

  • What A German Climate Denial Rap Tells You About The Heartland Institute

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    Austrian rapper Kilez More performs

    The Heartland Institute, an organization notorious for its virulent climate denial, opened its conference on climate change with a German rap on the "Climate Swindle" that claims "saving the climate means wiping out the humans," according to an English translation.

    The conference, which is being held in Las Vegas this week, featured a live performance by Austrian rapper Kilez More of "Klimawandel (Klimalüge, Klimaschwindel)" -- translation "Climate Change (Climate Lies, Climate Swindle)" -- alongside speakers who are largely industry-funded and have no scientific expertise. According to an English translation by the German climate denial blog NoTricksZone, the rap claims that hacked "Climategate" emails showed scientists "fudging the data" to fake warming, contrary to every independent investigation into the matter, in order to gain "more power, more money, more control, more global tax." The chorus repeats that "climate change was not made by man," shouting "nein!" Later, the rap really goes off the rails, claiming that climate change advocates believe that "there's only one way here to clean the planet / saving the climate means wiping out the humans."

    A July 7 Heartland Institute press release quoted More stating he's "honored" and "pleased the Heartland Institute liked the song and invited me to present it live on stage."

    You might have thought that after the Heartland Institute ran a billboard campaign in 2012 comparing those that accept climate science to the Unabomber -- later pulling the billboards but refusing to apologize -- that the media would have already stopped turning to the organization for analysis. However, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and Fox News all quoted Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast casting doubt on a 2013 scientific report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, without noting that he has no climate expertise and previously denied the science showing secondhand smoke can lead to cancer.

    Heartland Billboards

    The conference in Las Vegas is also being co-sponsored by Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., which owns mainstream television and radio stations across the country. What would it take for the media to stop taking the "kings of unintentional climate-comedy" seriously?

  • CNBC Caught Soliciting Writer To Claim Global Warming Is A "Hoax"

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    CNBC sought someone to write about "global warming being a hoax" in order to counter a major new report that shows the economic cost of failing to take climate action.

    As Republic Report first reported, the cable business channel CNBC reached out to DeSmogBlog, a website that rebuts climate change denial, to ask Alan Carlin, an economist who denies that the majority of recent warming is man-made, to write about "global warming being a hoax." (CNBC apparently mistakenly assumed that Carlin worked with DeSmogBlog because they had profiled him.) Media Matters has confirmed that Cindy Perman, the commentary editor of, sent the following message to DeSmogBlog:

    Hi there. Given this new report on the cost of climate change, wanted to extend an invitation to Alan Carlin to write an op-ed for Can be on the new report or just his general thoughts on global warming being a hoax.

    As Media Matters has documented, the majority of CNBC's climate change coverage in 2013 falsely suggested that climate change is not occurring or that it is not mostly man-made, even though 97 percent of climate scientists say it is.

    The new report that CNBC referred to in its message to DeSmogBlog is by the Risky Business Project, which found that on the planet's current path, as much as $507 billion worth of coastal properties will be underwater by 2100. Increasingly extreme heat will harm labor productivity, particularly agriculture, transportation and construction. Furthermore, the report found that unchecked climate change will diminish crop yields by more than 10 percent in roughly two decades, place greater demand on power grids and expose more people to the risk of heat- and cold-related death.

    While the effects of climate change will not be uniform across the United States, the report notes that global warming already is taking its toll on parts of the nation and will continue to do so, hurting businesses and their bottom line.

    This report shows why CNBC's choice to promote climate denial is misguided. Its business viewers would be better served by accurate information about the risks that climate change poses for many businesses.

    Risky Business Project

  • Media Advisory: John Droz Is Not A Climate-Change Expert

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Journalists should not be duped into portraying anti-wind energy activist John Droz Jr. as simply a "physicist" and an expert on issues related to climate change. Droz has cast doubt on man-made climate change and undermined scientifically accurate sea-level rise predictions in North Carolina, despite admitting he has no expertise in either area.

  • Fox News Cites Birther To Claim NASA "Faked" Global Warming

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    Fox News

    Fox News is reviving accusations that NASA's peer-reviewed adjustments to temperature data are an attempt to "fak[e]" global warming, a claim that even a climate "skeptic" threw cold water on.

    Tony Heller, a birther who criticizes climate science under the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," wrote a blog post that claimed "NASA cooled 1934 and warmed 1998, to make 1998 the hottest year in US history instead of 1934." After the Drudge Report promoted a report of this allegation by the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph, conservative media from Breitbart to The Washington Times claimed the data was "fabricated" or "faked." On June 24, Fox & Friends picked it up, claiming that "the U.S. has actually been cooling since the 1930s" but scientists had "faked the numbers":

    However, the libertarian magazine Reason noted that even climate "skeptic" blogger Anthony Watts said that Goddard made "major errors in his analysis" and criticized the implication that "numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way."

    In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA, which both maintain temperature records that use slightly different methods but show close agreement, have publicly documented the peer-reviewed adjustments they make to raw data. NCDC states that the "most important bias in the U.S. temperature record occurred with the systematic change in observing times from the afternoon, when it is warm, to morning, when it is cooler," and so it must correct this cool bias as well as other biases that, for example, result from moving temperature stations.

    NASA's data shows that the nation has not been "cooling" since the 1930s, with several years, including 2012, ranking hotter than 1934 in the continental United States, along with a long-term warming trend. And while The Sean Hannity Show claimed that this shows the "Earth has been cooling," the continental United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface -- global surface temperatures have increased significantly.

    NASA U.S. and global temperature trends

    Independent studies using different methods have consistently found a warming trend. Satellite data confirm that there is a warming trend in the United States:

    EPA U.S. temperature graph

    Fox News has tried to scandalize needed adjustments to temperature data since at least 2007, but it's hard to see who would trust Fox News over NASA.

  • Why Is A Mainstream News Company Sponsoring Climate Denial?

    Hubbard Broadcasting Co-Sponsoring Heartland Institute's Climate Conference

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    KSTP hosts the Heartland Institute

    UPDATE (6/30/14): According to the Minneapolis City Pages, KSTP News Director Lindsay Radford was "in touch with [Hubbard's] camp" and said that Hubbard "isn't actually 'sponsoring' the conference ... [b]ut Hubbard did provide the Heartland Institute with a $1,000 check for an award to be given out during it." However, Hubbard is listed as a co-sponsor on the Heartland Institute's website:

    Heartland Institute screenshot 6/30/14

    When asked why KSTP has aired climate denial, Radford responded, "[j]ust like any story, we strive to give all sides." However, climate change is the classic case of a story where giving "all sides" can be misleading because the scientific facts lie firmly on one side. As New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan explained, the public wants "real answers" not false balance:

    Simply put, false balance is the journalistic practice of giving equal weight to both sides of a story, regardless of an established truth on one side. And many people are fed up with it. They don't want to hear lies or half-truths given credence on one side, and shot down on the other. They want some real answers.


    A news organization that runs several ABC and NBC affiliates nationwide is co-sponsoring a Heartland Institute conference promoting climate denial, in line with its chief executive's views, which have seeped into the stations' reporting.

    In July, the Heartland Institute will host its annual conference railing against the scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of climate change. The conference was nearly ended in 2012, after funders fled the organization for running a short-lived billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate change to the Unabomber. The co-sponsors of the 2014 conference, who pay anywhere from $150 to $10,000 and are asked to "[w]rite at least one story" before and after the event,* are mostly right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Leadership Institute. However, one group stands out: Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., an American television and radio corporation that owns several ABC and NBC affiliates across the country.

    Hubbard Broadcasting is run by billionaire Stanley Hubbard, who, according to Rolling Stone, has said that global warming is "the biggest fraud in the history of America." Hubbard has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates (most of whom are Republicans) both individually and through his corporation. He supported former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who denies man-made climate change, in the 2012 Republican primary for president. He was a major funder of a now-defunct group founded by Newt Gingrich that promoted increased extraction of fossil fuels. Hubbard has also told the Koch brothers, billionaire Republican donors who made their fortune in the oil industry, that they can "count" on him and attended at least one strategy conference run by the Kochs.

    Hubbard Broadcasting's flagship station, KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate broadcasting on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, has cast doubt on climate change by citing the Heartland Institute. In September 2013, the news station conveyed false balance by hosting Heartland Institute CEO Joseph Bast to cast doubt on findings from the "Intragovernmental [sic] Panel on Climate Change." KSTP did not give any background information about Bast, who claimed in the 1990s that smoking "in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects." In 2008, KSTP reportedly aired a 10-minute video by the Heartland Institute titled "Unstoppable Solar Cycles" that espouses the long-debunked claim that recent climate change is being driven by changes in the sun. The station's chief meteorologist has also suggested that the sun, rather than human activities, is the primary driver of climate change.

    Hubbard stations WNYT and WHEC, which serve parts of New York State, have also seen the impact of their CEO's climate denial. In 2008, former WNYT anchor Ed Dague suggested at his Times-Union blog that his popular former colleague Lydia Kulbida was let go in part because she resisted inserting climate denial into the news:

    Lydia Kulbida was a member of the union's "mobilization committee" and had resisted some of management's attempts to insert Hubbard family opinions into news content. The Hubbards do not believe in global warming and have distinct views about unionization. My belief is that her salary didn't make her a target for the cutback but her activism and attitude did.

    WHEC's chief meteorologist, like KSTP's, also denies climate change. At a Tea Party rally in 2010, WHEC's Kevin Williams claimed the "Earth is not warming." Williams has also promoted climate denial on Twitter.

  • Putting The "War On Coal" In Gina McCarthy's Mouth

    What The Head Of The EPA Actually Said On Real Time With Bill Maher

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Conservative media are claiming that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted she is waging a "war on coal" when, in fact, she has consistently stated that the EPA is simply meeting its obligation to serve public health with its new clean power plan.

    In an interview with McCarthy on the June 13 edition of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, host Maher said that he has heard that the EPA's proposed "Clean Power Plan," which will for the first time implement standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, amounts to "a war on coal," adding that he "hope[s] it is." McCarthy responded, "Actually, EPA is all about fighting against pollution and fighting for public health. That's exactly what this is." Maher responded "Oh, great."

    The Weekly Standard declared that this meant that McCarthy "agreed with Bill Maher" that "the Obama administration is engaged in a war on  coal." National ReviewTwitchy and EHS Today all concurred. However, even the conservative Washington Examiner concluded that "[i]t appears Maher's glee was premature" after an EPA spokesperson clarified that McCarthy was not agreeing with Maher and has consistently stated that the agency is not waging a "war on coal."

    Indeed, McCarthy has always responded to claims that the EPA is waging a "war on coal" by explaining that the agency is simply serving its public health mandate and that it is not "fair" to claim the EPA is targeting any one energy source without regard for the facts. For example, McCarthy's testimony before Congress earlier this year:

    SEN. DEB FISCHER (R-NE): And do you think it's fair to say -- maybe the EPA has somewhat of a war on coal so that we can lessen our dependence upon coal in this country?

    McCARTHY: Senator, I -- I don't think that that's fair to say. What we're trying to do is our job to protect public health by reducing pollution from some of the largest sources ...


    McCARTHY: Of those pollutions. [Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, 3/26/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]

    And in an interview with The New York Times:

    "We don't have a war on coal," [McCarthy] said. "We're doing our business, which is to reduce pollution. We're following the law."

    And an interview with Bloomberg News about the carbon pollution standards: 

    PETER COOK (Bloomberg News): The argument is this is a war on coal. You are putting coal out of business with this proposal.

    McCARTHY: Well if you take a look at it, what we're projecting is that coal in 2030 will still be a very significant portion of the electric generating capacity here. And what we're hoping that folks will do is realize that this is an opportunity to actually make investments in coal, to make them more efficient so that we can have the best and cleanest facilities moving forward. But the ultimate choice is going to be up to the states. Do they want to shift towards more renewables? Do they want to focus on energy efficiency? Do they want to do all of those things together?

    And we'll see how they end up, but we know that the - that the reductions that we put in state by state were based on what - what states are doing today and what we think they can do in each of those states moving forward in a way that will maintain reliability and affordability of the electricity supply. But every fuel will have a place moving forward. They just have to get cleaner. And in the end, we have to produce the carbon reductions that we need for public health. [Bloomberg TV, 6/3/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]

    The so-called "war on coal" is empty political rhetoric. Here are facts that put the EPA's plan in context -- facts you likely won't hear from The Weekly Standard or National Review:

    • The EPA is legally mandated to protect public health and welfare, and it has determined that carbon pollution poses a threat to public health and welfare -- as did President George W. Bush's EPA administrator.
    • States that rely heavily on coal and have delayed on moving to cleaner sources of energy, such as West Virginia and Kentucky,would be given less stringent clean-up plans than other states under the proposed carbon pollution standards:State-By-State
    • Coal jobs have long been declining in part due to automation in the industry, while clean energy provides more jobs per dollar of investment. Coal miners face significant health risks, which the Obama administration has attempted to address in proposed rules that have been stymied by Republicans.
    • The Obama administration has invested billions of dollars to Carbon Capture and Storage projects that, if successful, would allow coal plants to become compatible with a low-carbon future.