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  • How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2016


    In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial -- the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.

  • STUDY: How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2015


    ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife.

  • Ted Nugent: Wildlife Populations "Actually Increase" Because Of Energy Development

    Falsely Claims Flora And Fauna Thrive In Areas Where Oil, Gas, And Coal Production Dominate

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In a factually baseless column published in The Daily Caller, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed that wildlife populations increase and thrive in areas where pipelines, oil drilling, fracking, coal mining, and other forms of energy production occur, an evidence-free claim that contradicts scientific studies proving the opposite.

    Nugent's September 8 column, headlined, "Flourishing Wildlife In Harmony With 'All Of The Above' Energy Production," claimed that on thousands of privately-owned properties across the country, "wildlife and flora and fauna rich wilderness thrives side by side with gas, oil, shale, coal, wind, solar and hydro driven energy production."

    Nugent claimed that areas where energy production happens are actually beneficial to wildlife populations, writing, "From the lichen enhancing heat from Alaska pipelines benefitting caribou, to the game rich biodiversity of reclaimed coal mines in the east, the great fishing around oil platforms in the oceans, wildlife populations actually increase and expand as a result of energy development."

    However, Nugent's anecdotal claim of a "mutually beneficial" relationship between wildlife and energy development is flatly contradicted by the numerous, well-documented threats that things like oil and gas production pose to wildlife -- including habitat loss, increased death rates, oil spills, and many more negative impacts. It also ignores the effect that unchecked climate change from burning fossil fuels poses to plants, animals, and indeed, entire ecosystems.

    From Nugent's Daily Caller column:

    There in the small clearing was indeed a wonderful trophy, but not the kind you can eat or hang on the wall. However, this particular trophy is appreciated by all human beings as the commodity by which Jimmy and I were able to get to Colorado for our dream elk hunt.

    The squealing sounds that lured my friends up and over the mountain wasn't elk speak, but rather energy speak, as the pumpjack creaked and groaned away pumping natural gas from far beneath the pristine wilderness mountain top terrain.

    Here on the vast Hill Ranch outside of Trinidad, Colorado, like thousands and thousands of privately owned properties across America, wildlife and flora and fauna rich wilderness thrives side by side with gas, oil, shale, coal, wind, solar and hydro driven energy production.

    Our energy requirements and love of wild things are not only not mutually exclusive, they are mutually beneficial.

    From the lichen enhancing heat from Alaska pipelines benefitting caribou, to the game rich biodiversity of reclaimed coal mines in the east, the great fishing around oil platforms in the oceans, wildlife populations actually increase and expand as a result of energy development.

    Sorry Al Gore, but the polar bears floating away on the ice floe is what polar bears do, Mr. Bozo scam artist.

  • Daily Caller Wants You To Know Polar Bears Threatened By Climate Change Are Doing Just Fine

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Polar bears

    To deny the fact that polar bears are in danger of extinction from unmitigated climate change, the Daily Caller turned to a Heartland Institute-affiliated biologist who dismissed scientific computer climate models as an "opinion."

    "The single most important step for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrote this week in their draft recovery plan for polar bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The plan was issued after newly released data from the U.S. Geological Services (USGS) showed that greenhouse gas emissions are the species' "primary threat," due to the predicted Arctic sea ice loss that will diminish polar bears' habitat and food supplies.

    But don't worry, polar bears are "doing just fine," according to the Daily Caller. 

    To refute the federal agencies' warnings, the conservative news publication turned to scientists affiliated with the fossil fuel-backed Heartland Institute. Daily Caller first quoted Canadian biologist Mitchell Taylor, who dismissed the USGS' report because he said it is "based on climate models, not empirical data." The agency's climate models are "an expression of their opinion," said Taylor, adding that "it's simply their idea of what will happen if the carbon models are correct."

    Taylor prefers "empirical data" to modeled forecasts of climate change. However, the empirical data also show that Arctic sea ice has been declining at record rates. The sea ice levels recently were at their lowest for the month of May since record-keeping began in the 1980s, and have been on a steady decline since then.

    Arctic sea ice decline

    Taylor was a contributing author for the Heartland Institute's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC) report that attempts to mirror and debunk UN climate science reports. He has also signed the Manhattan Declaration, which posits that carbon dioxide -- the primary factor in human-caused climate change -- is "not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life."

    Daily Caller also quoted zoologist Susan Crockford, who dismissed the USFWS report as alarmist and "flawed," and who also co-authored Heartland's report. The online outlet frequently turns to Crockford to deny global warming's impact on wildlife.

  • 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.

  • Conservative Pundit Jonah Goldberg Calls For More Attention To Ocean Acidification

    Goldberg Tells Media To Cover Environmental Issues That He Ignores

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Jonah Goldberg

    Jonah Goldberg criticized environmental reporters for focusing on climate change, saying that they were missing "serious problems, such as ocean acidification." However, ocean acidification is caused by the same carbon pollution driving climate change.

    In his syndicated column on April 23, National Review Online editor-at-large Goldberg wrote that Republican politicians "still care about the environment," suggesting that they pay attention to environmental problems "such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat" rather than climate change:

    Contrary to what you may have heard, GOP politicians still care about the environment, but they take their cues from public opinion, not from the green lobby.


    Important work is being done on serious problems, such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat. None of these issues get a fraction of the coverage they deserve. That's because many environmental reporters think their beat begins and ends with climate change.

    Ocean acidification is sometimes known as the "evil twin" of climate change as it is also driven by carbon dioxide emissions, making the ocean more acidic -- surface ocean waters are now about 30 percent more acidic than they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere and is increasingly absorbed by the ocean. Goldberg is correct that ocean acidification does not get the attention it deserves, as it threatens coral reefs that provide coastal protection from storms and tourism, and shellfish that make up a large part of the fishing industry.

    Climate change also exacerbates species loss further threatened by overfishing, poaching and habitat destruction -- the other issues Goldberg names as truly "serious." In addition, climate change is itself emerging as one of the main drivers of habitat loss. This is why environmental groups and reporters have focused on climate change, while continuing to address environmental problems from overfishing to poaching, as it is a threat multiplier with global consequences.

    While Goldberg is now calling for attention to these particular environmental topics, he has not given much attention to them himself in the past. The only time Goldberg has previously mentioned ocean acidification in his column* was to claim that we could address it by giving the ocean "some antacid" in 2009:

    Is the atmosphere getting too hot? Cool it down by reflecting away more sunlight. The ocean's getting too acidic? Give it some antacid. The technology's not ready. But pursuing it for a couple of decades will cost pennies compared with carbon rationing. 

    Oyster hatcheries have indeed been resorting to putting the equivalent of Tums into hatcheries to make up for the declining numbers of oysters in the ocean, but dumping huge amounts of antacid into the ocean at large is considered impractical by scientific groups such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    The only time that Goldberg mentioned overfishing** was in 2005. In that same column was the last time that Goldberg mentioned animal habitats, claiming that the United States had "added vast new habitats for animals" without ever mentioning continuing habitat loss.*** Goldberg has never before covered poaching in his column.****

  • STUDY: Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage Than Ocean Acidification

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they're also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming's "evil twin" or the "osteoporosis of the sea." Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American
    Media Matters
    news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.

    Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and if we do not lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ocean surface could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100. At that level, the shells of some plankton would dissolve, large parts of the ocean would become inhospitable to coral reef growth, and the rapidity of the change could threaten much of the marine food web. According to the National Research Council, the chemical changes are taking place "at an unprecedented rate and magnitude" and are "practically irreversible on a time scale of centuries."

    Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.

    Media Matters

  • Fox Serves As Mouthpiece For Mountaintop Mining Industry


    In strikingly one-sided reports, Fox News assailed an anticipated regulation protecting streams from mountaintop coal mining waste. Among other misleading claims, Fox accused the Obama administration of punishing a contractor who said the rule would kill jobs, when in fact, extensive evidence indicates the contract was halted simply because the firm did shoddy work.

  • Will The Media Let Congress Forget About The Gulf Oil Disaster?

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Source: NOAAFollowing a lengthy investigation, the national Oil Spill Commission concluded in January 2011 that "the root causes" of the BP disaster were "systematic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur." This week the same panel of experts found that Congress "has yet to enact any legislation responding to the explosion and spill." Rather than implement the panel's recommendations, the House has actually "passed several bills" with provisions that "run contrary to what the Commission concluded was essential for safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil resources," said the commissioners.

    So far ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News have ignored the panel's assessment report, issued just days before the second anniversary of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan was the exception, running a segment on the panel's findings and the ongoing impacts of the spill.

  • Scientist Responds To Misleading Polar Bear Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    september sea ice NSIDCCiting a recent study by the government of Nunavut in Canada, conservative media are claiming that the number of polar bears is "increasing." The takeaway, according to these media outlets, is that concerns about the fate of polar bears in a warming world are overblown. But polar bear scientist Steven Amstrup says these commentators are mistaken.

    The polar bears located west of the Hudson Bay are one of 19 polar bear subpopulations, and one of 8 subpopulations that are thought to be shrinking, according to a comprehensive review conducted in 2009. (One population was found to be increasing, three are stable, and there isn't enough data to assess the other seven). Amstrup and others previously analyzed bears captured from 1984-2004 and found that the West Hudson Bay population declined from 1,194 in 1987 to 935 in 2004.

    But a new survey by the government of Nunavut, a largely Inuit territory in Northern Canada, puts the population size as of last August at 1,013, according to a widely circulated article in Canada's Globe and Mail. This new estimate is derived from a plausible range of 717 to 1,430 bears and, importantly, comes from an aerial survey, unlike the previous studies which involved capturing and recapturing bears.

    Amstrup said media outlets claiming the aerial survey shows an increasing population are mistaking a single point estimate for a trend. "The population size is just a number. It is a valuable number to have, but from the standpoint of population welfare, it is the trend in numbers that is critical," he wrote in an email. Because previous estimates used a different methodology, and covered a different geographic area, they cannot be easily compared to the latest figures, contrary to the media narrative. When the aerial survey is repeated in later years, it will then be able to tell us more about how the population size is changing. In the meantime, the Canadian government is expected to release its latest capture-recapture data next month.

    Population estimates are used to determine how many polar bears can be killed each year. Hunting polar bears is a significant source of income among the Inuit, who have been skeptical of dire predictions of popopulation decline.

    Amstrup emphasizes that "in the bigger picture, whether any one population is currently declining, stable or increasing is beside the point," adding, "it is criticial to remember that our concern about polar bears is focused on the future." The scientists who spend their lives studying polar bears have been unable to envision how the population numbers can withstand the long-term decline of the sea ice.

    More detailed responses from Amstrup below:

  • "The (Polar) Bear Facts," Checked

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    In response to the suspension of federal scientist Charles Monnett, author of a 2006 article documenting polar bear deaths, conservative media have tried to dismiss the threat posed to polar bears by global warming. On Sunday, a New York Post editorial claimed Monnett's paper "led directly to the 2008 classification of the bears as a 'threatened' species, whose survival is allegedly at risk due to global warming." The editorial, titled "The (polar) bear facts," concluded that there is "no need to weep for 'threatened' polar bears just yet - nor, especially, for the planet."

    Fish and Wildlife Services

    In fact, the Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that "the polar bear is threatened throughout its entire range by ongoing and projected changes in sea ice habitat" was based on a comprehensive evaluation of "the best available scientific and commercial information on polar bear habitat and projected effects of various factors (including climate change) on the quantity and distribution of polar bear habitat."

    Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity stated in response to Sen. James Inhofe's claim that Monnett's paper provided "the foundation" for the FWS determination: "That paper was one of literally hundreds of scientific articles cited in the listing."

    Indeed, the determination cites many studies documenting how the "observed declines in the extent of Arctic sea ice" has and will affect polar bears, for instance:

  • Environment Matters Podcast: Polar Bear Edition

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative media have used the suspension of federal scientist Charles Monnett to declare that polar bears are not threatened and that global warming is a "hoax." Media Matters researchers Jocelyn Fong and Shauna Theel discuss these claims on this week's edition of Environment Matters.

    iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/environment-matters-podcast/id453834604

    RSS: http://feeds.feedburner.com/EnvironmentMattersPodcast