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The editorial boards of many major newspapers have issued stern warnings against the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, saying such a move “risks the planet” and would erode trust and goodwill with international allies.
Frustrated by non-experts taking to the internet to dispute the science behind human-made climate change, North Carolina meteorologist Greg Fishel issued a challenge to climate deniers, urging them to “put up or shut up” and “submit your work the way real scientists do, and see where it takes you.”
The article noted that for most of his career, Fishel, who is the chief meteorologist for NBC affiliate WRAL in Raleigh, did not believe that humans contributed significantly to global warming. "But several years ago, he says he decided he wasn’t being open-minded about the issue and began to study what climate scientists were saying about it. He now approaches the issue on the air and on social media with the zeal of a convert.”
Indeed, Fishel is among a growing number of meteorologists who acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. Some of those meteorologists are urging their colleagues to discuss climate change on the air.
Fishel concluded his post by challenging climate deniers to submit their findings to one of the American Meteorological Society’s peer-reviewed journals, adding, “So prove me wrong bloggers and essayists. Submit your work the way real scientists do, and see where it takes you. Uncover that bias and corruption you’re so convinced is present. If you end up being correct, society will owe you a huge debt of gratitude. If you’re wrong, stop muddying the scientific waters with ideological trash.”
From the The News & Observer:
For most of his 36 years broadcasting the weather in the Triangle, Fishel also held a contrarian view about climate change. He didn’t believe that humans had much to do with warming the Earth’s atmosphere and would say as much when the topic came up on the air.
But several years ago, he says he decided he wasn’t being open-minded about the issue and began to study what climate scientists were saying about it. He now approaches the issue on the air and on social media with the zeal of a convert.
If someone does have “a critical piece to the puzzle no other scientist has,” Fishel implored them to submit their findings to one of the American Meteorological Society’s peer reviewed journals for publication.
“If they are rejected, and the author feels unfairly, then make public each and every one of the reviewers’ comments for the entire world to see,” Fishel wrote. “If there is bias and corruption in the peer review process, everyone needs to know about it so this flawed process can be halted and corrected.”
But Fishel said he doubts any of the climate change deniers “has the guts to do this” and said he thinks they’ll continue “with their pathetic excuse for science education.
Democrats are alarmed that the president was duped by a climate-denier internet hoax
President Donald Trump fell for an internet hoax and popular right-wing myth about global cooling, and that has Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology worried.
"We are concerned about the process by which you receive information," seven committee Democrats wrote in a May 18 letter to Trump, first reported by Popular Science. "Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration."
The letter cited an anecdote from a May 15 Politico story: Deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland put a printout on the president's desk with two Time magazine covers, one from the 1970s about a "coming ice age" and one from 2006 about climate change. "Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy," Politico reported. "But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that’s circulated for years." The hoax and the broader global cooling myth have been thoroughly discredited.
That's what you get when you take a Fox News analyst and give her a job she's not qualified for, as was the case with McFarland. "That views on climate change at the highest level of government are being shaped by this nonsense is ... horrific," wrote David Roberts at Vox.
McFarland, who spouted numerous misleading and bizarre comments during her time at Fox, is so unsuited for her deputy national security adviser position that retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, an accomplished and decorated Navy vet, refused Trump's offer to serve as national security adviser because he didn't want her on his team. McFarland is now slated to be ousted from the National Security Council and nominated as ambassador to Singapore; she has already been "largely sidelined" at the agency, Politico reported, as she waits for a successor to be put in place.
The committee members' letter also cited examples of Trump "peddling fake news" promoted by right-wing media, like when he charged that there was massive voter fraud in the November 2016 election "after reading about subsequently-debunked 'research' pushed by alt-right websites."
The representatives offered a suggestion to help Trump avoid being influenced by fake science news: "If you appoint a qualified [Office of Science and Technology Policy] Director, you will have a reliable source of policy advice for matters related to science and technology, which forms the bedrock of our national security and economic power."
Don't hold your breath. Trump has been removing qualified science advisers, not hiring them.
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency dismissed several members of a major scientific review board; administrator Scott Pruitt is considering replacing them with industry representatives. Also, the Interior Department recently froze the work being done by more than 200 advisory boards, committees, and subcommittees, about a third of which work on scientific issues. Meanwhile, dozens of science and technology positions in the administration remain unfilled, and the Trump cabinet is stacked with officials who reject or distort mainstream climate science.
When the Trump administration does hire science advisers, it prefers the unqualified kind -- like Sam Clovis, a climate-denying radio talk show host with no scientific background, who is Trump's reported pick to serve as chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture. That post is traditionally filled by a scientist with a background in agricultural research.
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Conservative outlets are highlighting a pro-fracking group’s attempt to convince Google, which recently promised to alter its search algorithm to demote fake news, to also tweak it to purge or demote websites critical of fracking.
On May 8, Texans for Natural Gas, an industry group funded by Texas energy companies, published an open letter addressed to Google titled “ANTI-FRACKING ACTIVISM IS FAKE NEWS.” The letter, which was highlighted in the industry-funded outlets The Daily Caller and The Daily Signal, referred to Google’s recent move to alter its search algorithm to “demote misleading, false, and offensive articles online” before claiming, “We believe many of the most prominent anti-fracking websites have content that is misleading, false, or offensive – if not all three. As a result, we urge you to consider purging or demoting these websites from your algorithm, which in turn will encourage a more honest public discussion about hydraulic fracturing, and oil and natural gas development in general.”
The pro-fracking group claimed that environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Earthworks, and others were “peddling fake news” about the link between fracking and drinking water contamination. The letter cited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study to support its claims, saying that the EPA study “found no evidence of widespread water contamination.” The group subsequently urged Google to examine other sites that contradict the findings of the EPA report, stating, “There are certainly other environmental groups that have made similarly false claims about fracking and groundwater risks, despite the conclusions of the EPA and other scientific experts.”
Yet for all the grandstanding the letter makes about rooting out “misleading” information online, it is full of misleading statements. Though the group claimed that the EPA study “found no evidence of widespread water contamination” from fracking, it neglected to mention that the EPA subsequently removed that sentence from the report on the advice of its Science Advisory Board because the findings of the report did not support that conclusion. Additionally, according to Cleveland.com, a study conducted by Stanford researchers in 2016 “found that common practices in the industry may have widespread impacts on drinking water.”
Texans for Natural Gas also said in the letter that statements linking fracking to worsening climate change are further examples of a “false claim peddled by anti-fracking groups and environmentalist websites,” adding that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cited the U.S.’s increased use of natural gas as “an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” But this claim ignores more recent studies, including one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that found that methane emissions were actually "one-fifth higher than IPCC estimates,” as well as numerous studies that have concluded that methane leakage from natural gas production could negate the climate benefits of natural gas.
The term “fake news” has been wildly misused recently, and Texans for Natural Gas is only adding to the trend. If the group wants to cast itself as an ally in Google’s effort to root out misleading information, it would do well to provide an honest accounting of scientific research in its letter.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough attempted to help New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens rehabilitate his climate denialism by presenting him as a climate pragmatist.
The Times hired Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, to “bring a new perspective to bear on the news,” despite his long-standing record promoting conservative misinformation on foreign policy, sexual assault and climate change. On April 29, the Times published Stephens’ first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” which was criticized for containing multiple errors, “unfair comparisons,” “straw men,” “logical fallacies,” and “lazy” and “disingenuous arguments.” Climate experts published an open letter calling for the Times to issue a substantial correction to the many fallacies in Stephens’ column and urged people to petition the paper to stop publishing misinformation about climate science.
On the May 8 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough described the criticism Stephens’ column received as an “uproar,” claiming that Stephens was merely arguing “that there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme [climate change] is.” But as Slate’s Susan Matthews argued, “the goal of [Stephens’] column is not to help readers learn how to reason with people who are skeptical about climate change. Instead, the column reinforces the idea that those people might have a point. … [I]t is a dog whistle to people who feel confused about climate change. It’s nothing more than textbook denialism.”
Stephens also defended his column by claiming that he represents a view “that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.” But recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Joining us now, columnist for The New York Times Bret Stephens.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): He’s a troublemaker.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes he is. I’m reading his latest piece.
SCARBOROUGH: Bret, what’s your problem? You got to the Times and you’re making trouble. What's going on?
BRET STEPHENS: They love me.
SCARBOROUGH: The kids love you in the streets. Serious question, though. Obviously a lot of controversy because you said you believe in climate change, you believe it's man-made, in fact, but we need to figure out the best way forward. That there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme it is. Caused a huge uproar, obviously, for people that don't know, caused a huge uproar. How have the Times editors been? How’s the management been towards you?
STEPHENS: The Times has been terrific. Everyone on the masthead, all of the senior editors have been supportive. Look, they brought me in because I offer a different view, and I think they brought me in also because they know that the Twitter-verse is not -- doesn't represent the entire range of opinion among Times readers.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank God.
STEPHENS: So there was a lot of anger on Twitter and in social media and maybe among a certain demographic, but I think there's also a view that you need a representative sample that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.
SCARBOROUGH: Because, after all, it's a national newspaper. It is the national newspaper, along with The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and if we’ve let anybody out -- and The Washington Post of course. But I'm curious, you had said before that your concerns, you said this to the editors, was that you were going to be the conservative flavor of the month. And you were worried they got you simply because you were a never-Trumper.
STEPHENS: Yeah, and in fact they were very reassuring on that point. I think they wanted -- they were clear that that’s -- and I said to them, look, I don't want to be just the conservative you like because of my Trump views. And they were clear that that’s not what they were -- that they wanted me on board for that.
SCARBOROUGH: They hired you in spite of that.
Fact Check: A Historic Number of Activists Have Taken To The Streets To Protest The Trump Regime
New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear claimed during the May 5 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics that there hasn’t been “the [same] kind of intense activism on the Democratic side” against President Donald Trump and his administration as there was “instantly in the Tea Party revolt” against former President Barack Obama.
Shear must not have been paying attention, because he couldn’t be more wrong about the scope of activism against Trump. Here are some numbers for Mr. Shear:
On Trump’s first day in office, an estimated 3.2 to 5.2 million people marched in the Women’s March across the United States and even more people marched around the world. There was even a march in Antarctica.
Estimates vary on attendance for marches and demonstrations opposing Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. But some estimates put 8,000 people at the U.S. Capitol and 10,000 people at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in New York. Others outlets estimated that 7,000 people protested at Los Angeles International Airport, and an activist leader told NBC that 12,000 signed up for the protest at Battery Park in New York.
An estimated 125,000 marched on April 15, the weekend before Tax Day, to demand that Trump release his tax returns. Shear’s New York Times even had a correspondent embedded with the Tax March in New York.
On Trump’s 100th day in office, roughly 200,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in Washington to demand action against global climate change.
By contrast, the largest protest during Obama’s first few months was the Tea Party protest on Tax Day 2009. A nonpartisan analysis showed that it drew 300,000 total attendees across the country despite heavy promotion and participation by Fox News and major conservative donor groups.
This is a time of historic protests and activism against the bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities. Shear’s dismissal of the efforts of millions of Americans is line with the outdated tradition of mainstream news outlets speculating about and judging protests from a studio, rather than reporting real information from the scene or interviewing activists and protestors.
Media should do better.
Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier featured a segment that baselessly connected the recent shooting at a building on a University of Alabama campus with “animosity in the climate change wars.”
Over the the March for Science weekend, seven shots were fired at a building at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. One of the shots struck the window of an office next to the office of John Christy, a professor of atmospheric sciences, who has testified before congressional committees on multiple occasions to repeat his claim that climate model projections of future warming are overstated. No one was hurt in the incident.
Christy told AL.com that he thought his floor was targeted. But the university said in a statement that investigators believed that the shooting, which they say struck multiple floors of the building, was a “random, isolated event unlikely to be a premeditated act.” AL.com further noted that the investigators “have marked the case ‘inactive’ pending new information.”
Nonetheless, on the May 2 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier introduced a segment on the shooting as evidence that “animosity in the climate change wars is hitting new lows.” During the segment, correspondent Doug McKelway incorrectly reported that Christy “got seven bullet holes in his office windows” (AL.com reported that only “one went through a window in the office next to Christy's”) and made reference to Christy’s skepticism of computer model climate predictions.
From the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier:
BRET BAIER (HOST): We are awaiting a decision from President [Donald] Trump on whether the U.S. will continue to participate in a worldwide global warming treaty that he criticized during the campaign. Correspondent Doug McKelway tells us tonight the animosity in the climate change wars is hitting new lows.
DOUG MCKELWAY: In 1991, climate skeptic John Christy got NASA’s medal for exceptional scientific achievement. Last week, he got seven bullet holes in his office windows during the March for Science weekend at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Police think it was random. Christy thinks he was targeted. Christy measures actual earth temperatures from satellite data. He is skeptical of computer model predictions of warming and government remedies to fix it.
Dozens of climate experts are calling on The New York Times to reaffirm its dedication to the facts and issue a more comprehensive correction to columnist Bret Stephens’ error-laden debut column on climate change.
On April 29, former Wall Street Journal columnist and longtime climate denier Bret Stephens published his first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” for The New York Times. The column was roundly criticized for being full of errors, “unfair comparisons,” “straw men,” “logical fallacies,” and “lazy” and “disingenuous” arguments. Notably, in the one instance where Stephens actually quoted data to make an assertion, the Times was forced to issue a correction, clarifying, “An earlier version of this article misstated the area that warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius as noted in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel report. It was the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface, not only the Northern Hemisphere.”
Now climate experts have issued an open letter calling for the Times to publish a more substantial correction. It notes that Stephens inaccurately and misleadingly uses the term “modest” to describe the rise in temperatures since 1880, cherry-picks “only one side of the range of uncertainties” associated with climate projections, and “mischaracterizes both the certainties and uncertainties regarding climate change, and misrepresents how science reports uncertainties.”
The letter also invites scientists to add their names to the letter and urges concerned members of the public to sign a petition calling on the Times to stop publishing climate science misinformation.
A CHANGING POLITICAL CLIMATE SHOULDN’T CHANGE NYT’S DEDICATION TO FACTS
We are deeply concerned about inaccurate and misleading statements about the science of climate change that appeared in Climate of Complete Certainty by Bret Stephens (April 28, 2017). While “alternative facts”, misconceptions, and misrepresentations of climate science are unfortunately widespread in public discussion, we are dismayed that this practice appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times.
There are opinions and there are facts. Stephens is entitled to share his opinions, but not “alternative facts.”
Fact: The N. Hemisphere warmed substantially more than claimed by the writer. The globe warmed by about the amount Stephens claimed the Northern Hemisphere did when he referenced the 2013 IPCC report. The subsequent correction was inadequate, failing to note, for example, that Stephens understated the warming, and that the record warmth in each of the past three years magnifies this mistake.
Using the term “modest” to describe this amount of warming is inaccurate and misleading. Science has found the warming to date to be large and rapid. Much as a fever of only several degrees can be deadly, it only requires a few degrees of warming to transition the planet out of ice ages or into hot house conditions. Importantly, the recent warming has been extremely rapid: more than 100 times as fast as the cooling that took place over the previous 5000 years. It’s the rapidity that is most troubling. Human society is built on a presumption of stability, and the rapidness of the change is creating instability.
Not surprisingly this warming has already led to impacts that are widespread and costly. The damage incurred in New York City during Super Storm Sandy was amplified by sea level rise that elevated and significantly extended the reach of the storm surge. Estimated costs for the additional damage were in the billions of dollars.
Stephens also mischaracterizes both the certainties and uncertainties regarding climate change, and misrepresents how science reports uncertainties. Contrary to the writer’s false accusation that scientists claim total certainty regarding the rate of warming, IPCC reports present a range of estimates for global warming -- centering around 1°C (1.8°F) of warming since pre-industrial times.
Some things we know for sure, for example that the Earth is warming and that humans are the dominant cause. Yet even the latter is expressed with care; the best estimate of the human influence is 110%, with a range of about 80% to 130%. In other words, natural factors alone would have caused the Earth to cool slightly, but human influences counteracted that and led instead to substantial warming.
Importantly, the scientific treatment of uncertainty extends to climate projections, which give ranges of future warming under various emissions scenarios. However, Stephens suggests that risk management should only be guided by the possibility that warming and its impacts could be less than the best estimate, and not the possibility that it could be more. This cherry picking presents only one side of the range of uncertainties. But uncertainty cuts both ways, and reasonable risk management demands looking at both.
We respect the journalism at the Times and believe its reporters consistently do an excellent job of accurately covering climate change with depth and clarity. But that does not excuse disinformation appearing on the editorial page. Facts are still facts, no matter where in the paper they appear.
We call on the Times to publish a more comprehensive correction to the inaccuracies that appeared in Stephen’s column and to avoid such errors in the future by fact checking editorials as carefully as they do news stories.
There is certainly a place for a variety of well-informed opinions when it comes to societal responses to climate change. But it must be made clear that there are facts that are not subject to opinion.
If you are a scientist, click here to add your name to the letter.
Concerned members of the public, click here to take action.
Barbara Mayes Boustead
Jason E. Box
Michael E. Mann
Richard C. J. Somerville
Kevin E. Trenberth
The Newspaper of Record Earned The Backlash It Has Received
The New York Times finds itself mired in controversy after newly-minted op-ed columnist Bret Stephens devoted his first piece to preaching a “teach the controversy” approach to climate change. The piece has been pilloried by journalists inside the paper and out, the Times is crouched in damage control mode, and some readers say they will terminate their subscriptions because they believe the paper is siding with climate deniers.
The Times is responsible for this backlash. After President Donald Trump’s election, the paper sold new subscribers on providing vigorous resistance to the “alternative facts” that fueled his rise. Now, it's publishing them.
The paper’s subscription growth soared after the election, with new Times customers explaining on social media they wanted to support a bulwark against the new president. The paper fueled that narrative in pursuit of more subscriptions, creating an advertising campaign that depicted the Times as an opponent to Trumpian “alternative facts.” The paper’s CEO and executive editor claimed in earnings calls and cable news interviews that the president’s attacks on the outlet had backfired and generated more readers.
But when you market your paper as an antidote to a worldview that is unmoored from reality, your subscribers will actually expect you to follow through. When you fail to fulfill your promise, those readers will take their money elsewhere.
Flash forward to Friday, when Stephens -- whose hiring drew criticism for, among other things, his past columns calling global warming a “sick-souled religion” whose adherents share the methods of “closet Stalinists” -- authored his first piece for the paper.
In keeping with his past work, Stephens used an “alternative fact” contradicting the paper’s own reporting to compare those who believe action should be taken to halt the consequences of climate change to Cold War-era Polish authoritarians. His “teach the controversy” salvo argued that “ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism” around climate change because “history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”
The column was accompanied by a note from Times editorial page editor James Bennet, who praised Stephens and wrote that “we should have the humility to recognize we may not be right about everything and the courage to test our own assumptions and arguments.”
Stephens’ piece provoked a fierce backlash from embarrassed Times journalists, reporters outside the paper, climate scientists, and angry subscribers, some of whom said they were taking steps to cancel their subscriptions.
Then came the backlash-to-the-backlash, with Bennet issuing a statement defending the column as a necessary part of the Times “promoting the free exchange of ideas,” executive editor Dean Baquet standing by Stephens during an interview on CNN, and several prominent Times journalists lashing out at readers for the “liberal embarrassment” of criticizing the paper and wanting to cancel subscriptions over Stephens.
I’m a third-generation Times reader who finds the paper’s reporting on any number of topics essential, including their excellent news coverage of climate change. I won’t be dropping the paper in light of Stephens’ hiring and first column -- my expectations for the paper’s columnists are astonishingly low after two decades of reading Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman. But I understand where those faltering subscribers are coming from, and the Times’ response to its progressive critics is silly and insulting.
Contra Bennet, the paper is not providing some sort of unique value to news consumers by publishing an op-ed columnist whose writing on climate change defies the facts published in the paper’s news section. If that’s what readers want, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and George Will’s columns in The Washington Post are readily available.
It stands to reason that some Times subscribers signed up precisely because they were looking for something different -- for what the Times itself was promising in its advertising, a paper where “alternative facts” were unwelcome.
Good journalism is an essential part of a democratic system. But newspapers are a commodity in a capitalist economy -- the Times will run you more than $900 a year for seven-day-a-week home delivery -- and if customers aren’t happy with the product, they won’t stick around. They’ll find another source for news, Times political reporters will get to look down their noses at the hippies who don’t want what they’re selling, and people like me will still be reading the paper for what it does well. It’s a win-win-win!
The problem for the Times, of course, is that the faltering financial model for print journalism means that the paper desperately needs to keep its subscription numbers rising, or it’ll be in a financial crunch that will lead to more layoffs. Which is why it tried to juice its subscription numbers by selling itself to liberals as a force against “alternative facts” in the first place.
UPDATE: After Baquet, Bennet, and Stephens all publicly defended the piece, the Times has now added a correction to Stephens' first column. Stephens had falsely claimed that the evidence shows "modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere." The updated column corrects that statement to accurately note that the figure represents the global change, but leaves all Stephens' conclusions (originally based in part on a falsehood) intact. The correction reads:
An earlier version of this article misstated the area that warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius as noted in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel report. It was the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface, not only the Northern Hemisphere.
As Think Progress' Joe Romm has noted, a 0.85-degree warming globally is a substantially bigger deal than the same increase would be in the Northern Hemisphere alone:
The 0.85°C is not “modest.” It is roughly the same as the entire variation the Earth experienced during the several thousand years of stable climate that enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population
So Stephens got his facts wrong, in a way that undermines his argument, but even after the correction sees no need to alter his conclusions. What an embarrassment for the paper.
Broadcast networks are decreasing their climate coverage at a time when the case for reporting on the issue is become more and more compelling. By ignoring this serious matter, media are failing to inform audiences about pressing impacts on human migration patterns, women, and the economy.
In 2016, media had no shortage of compelling reasons to cover climate change -- from the revelation that it was the third consecutive hottest year on record to the United States’ election of a climate denier to its highest office. Yet broadcast news outlets’ coverage of climate change dropped a whopping 66 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it the third consecutive year of declining coverage.
When media turn a blind eye to climate change, they ignore an issue that will have devastating impacts and multiply existing threats across the globe. According to The New York Times, unmitigated climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. But the effects of climate change are already visible. Un the U.S. last year, the federal government allocated $48 million in grants to resettle residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which represents “the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change.”
Climate change poses a particular threat to women. A whole host of studies have concluded that women will bear the brunt of climate change-induced natural disasters and severe weather events. According to a United Nations analysis, “Women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.” The analysis also stated, “When coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, limited mobility places women in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change.”
The prospect of a warming planet also presents a huge risk to the global economy. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley found that climate change could "reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality." The National Climate Assessment reported that in the U.S., “more than 5,790 square miles and more than $1 trillion of property are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of two feet above current level by 2050.” Not surprisingly, Bloomberg recently reported that most of the world’s biggest investors now consider climate change when making investment decisions.
More and more Americans are waking up to the threat of climate change. Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it. And yet there’s an inverse relationship between Americans’ growing concern about climate and the media’s coverage of it.
By dropping the ball on climate change, media are doing audiences a huge disservice. As Washington Post Deputy Weather Editor Angela Fritz wrote, “The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.”
Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry
A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.
Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”
The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):
We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.
Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.
The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)
The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”
Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”
But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”
An op-ed published in The New York Times takes aim at the Heartland Institute’s campaign to bring its brand of climate denial into classrooms across the country.
The Heartland Institute, a fossil fuel-funded think tank known for promulgating climate science denial, is now seeking to influence the country’s educators. The think tank plans to mail its book “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” to 200,000 K-12 and college science teachers across the country. A cover letter accompanying the mailing asks educators to “consider the possibility that the science in fact is not ‘settled’” and argues that the 97 percent consensus among climate scientists “is not only false, but its presence in the debate is an insult to science.”
In an April 27 op-ed published in The New York Times, paleoclimatologist Curt Stager pushed back against Heartland’s misinformation, writing that “multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.” Indeed, in the past decade, there have been numerous surveys by a number of different researchers that confirmed human-caused global warming, and the country’s leading scientific institutions confirm the reality and urge action to address it.
Stager -- who describes himself as having been “cautiously skeptical myself before reaching the consensus position” on climate change -- further noted that increased scientific understanding over the past several decades “made it clear that the recent warming is not simply a result of natural variability or cycles.”
Stager also points out the lack of scientific expertise behind Heartland’s book, noting that despite Heartland’s claim that the book’s authors are “highly regarded climate scientists,” none of them “have the publication record of an accomplished expert in the field, though they may be lauded by the conservative media.” Stager could have additionally pointed out that each of the book’s authors’ -- Craig Idso, S. Fred Singer, and Robert M. Carter -- have extensive fossil fuel ties.
From the April 27 op-ed:
PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. — The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank known for attacking climate science, has been mailing a slim, glossy book to public school teachers throughout the United States. The institute says it plans to send out as many as 200,000 copies, until virtually every science educator in America has one.
The book, “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” presents the false premise that the evidence for human-driven climate change is deeply flawed. To understand where the Heartland Institute is coming from, consider a recent comment by its president, Joseph Bast, who called global warming “another fake crisis” for Democrats “to hype to scare voters and raise campaign dollars.”
The cover letter inside, however, made the book’s premise clear. “Claims of a ‘scientific consensus’ ” on climate change, it read, “rest on two college student papers, the writings of a wacky Australian blogger, and a non-peer-reviewed essay by a socialist historian.” In fact, multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.
For example, a study in 2010 found that 97 percent of the 200 most-published authors of climate-related papers held the consensus position, and a survey in 2013 of 4,014 abstracts of peer-reviewed climate papers found 97 percent agreement. The Heartland-distributed book disputes the methods used in these and similar surveys but provides no definitive counterarguments against the overall weight of evidence. The fact is that survey after survey, involving multiple approaches and authors, finds a strong consensus among scientists who are most knowledgeable about climate change.
This latest edition contains a foreword by Marita Noon, described by the book as a columnist for Breitbart and executive director of Energy Makes America Great.
Ms. Noon introduces the book’s three authors as “highly regarded climate scientists.” Not quite true. Despite their academic credentials, none have the publication record of an accomplished expert in the field, though they may be lauded by the conservative media.
Having been cautiously skeptical myself before reaching the consensus position, I remember that some legitimate uncertainty about the human contribution to global warming did exist within my specialty of paleoclimatology several decades ago. Since then, however, high-quality climate reconstructions from ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments and other geological sources, coupled with rigorous analyses of solar activity, volcanism and fossil fuel emissions, have made it clear that the recent warming is not simply a result of natural variability or cycles. Long after the newer, better data convinced me and the vast majority of other climate scientists of the powerful human role in global warming, climate-change deniers still cling to the outdated idea of natural causes.