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  • Here are two big things that were wrong with climate change coverage in 2018  

    Major outlets reported too little on climate change driving extreme weather and too much on Trump, two analyses find

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Mainstream media are continuing two troubling trends in their coverage of climate change, a pair of new reports finds. In 2018, media outlets too often failed to connect extreme weather to climate change, according to an analysis from Public Citizen, a progressive consumer advocacy organization. And researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder found that when major outlets did cover climate change, their reporting was too focused on President Donald Trump.

    Public Citizen reviewed coverage of extreme weather events in 50 top U.S. newspapers, 32 online news sources, and major broadcast and cable television networks, analyzing how often that coverage made mention of climate change. Climate scientists have found that global warming is tied to more intense heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, as well as aberrant weather events like polar vortexes. But Public Citizen found that many news stories neglected to explain this connection:

    On the whole, the proportion of [extreme weather] pieces that mentioned climate change was disappointingly low. There was no climate-related form of extreme weather that the media connected to climate change in more than 35 percent of pieces. That high-water mark comes from articles discussing record drought. Extreme heat fared similarly, with 34 percent of pieces mentioning climate change. For hurricanes, the rate was just 7 percent.

    Public Citizen’s report notes that coverage of climate change's role in extreme weather was better in 2018 than in 2017, but many outlets continued to miss the mark. 

    When it came to reporting on heat waves, newspapers and TV networks both showed improvement -- they mentioned climate change more often in their heat-wave stories in 2018 than in 2017 -- but not nearly enough. Thirty-three percent of newspaper articles about record or extreme heat connected it to climate change, up from 28 percent in 2017. Television news programs made the connection in 22 percent of their segments, compared to 10 percent in 2017. (A Media Matters analysis of broadcast coverage of a record-breaking heat wave in North America last summer found even worse performance.)

    Coverage of wildfires also improved slightly in 2018, according to Public Citizen’s report. Top newspapers mentioned climate change in 29 percent of wildfire stories last year, compared to 19 percent in 2017. The online news outlets mentioned climate change in 28 percent of wildfire stories in 2018, up from 22 in 2017. And television networks connected wildfires to climate change in 21 percent of their segments last year, compared to 8 percent in 2017. Again, Media Matters documented even worse performance from broadcast TV news in connecting climate change to wildfires that happened last summer and in early November.

    Similar patterns emerged in reporting on other extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, flooding, and hurricanes: There was slight improvement, but as Public Citizen sums it up, "major news outlets fell short." 

    Researchers at CU-Boulder's International Collective on Environment, Culture & Politics documented a different problem with climate coverage in the U.S.: an obsessive focus on Trump. The collective's Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO), which tracks media coverage in dozens of countries, produced a report summarizing its findings from 2018. In the U.S., MeCCO monitored five major newspapers and six major TV networks.

    According to the research group, “Throughout the year (as in 2017) there has been continued prominence of news from US outlets on climate change or global warming associated with Donald J. Trump.” It found that the word “Trump” was used an average of nearly 4.5 times in each story about climate change, just slightly less than 2017’s average of 4.7 times. In fact, Trump was mentioned more than twice as often as the words "science," "scientific," or "scientist(s)." The result of this Trump-centric reporting was that “media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold,” according to MeCCO’s analysis. (Media Matters reached similar conclusions about climate journalism’s overemphasis on Trump in 2017 and 2018.)

    There were some bright spots in climate coverage in 2018. Public Citizen highlighted an editorial collaboration in Florida called The Invading Sea -- involving the Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, the Sun-Sentinel, and public radio station WLRN -- that aims to increase awareness of sea-level rise and galvanize action to address it. The Public Citizen report also recognized great reporting by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press.

    Despite these positive developments, the two reports show that news outlets need to improve their climate journalism in 2019. They should stop chasing Trump's every tweet and instead provide sustained, substantive reporting that explains the nature of the climate challenge, connects extreme weather events to climate research, and amplifies solutions to climate-related problems.

  • Fox News dominated prime-time cable coverage of the Green New Deal

    Fox covered the plan far more than CNN and MSNBC, and often failed to even mention climate change

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD

    From February 7 to February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments on the Green New Deal on its prime-time shows, according to a Media Matters analysis. This was more than triple the combined number of segments aired by its cable news counterparts: MSNBC and CNN aired eight and three segments, respectively. Just 14 of Fox's segments on the Green New Deal mentioned climate change, less than half. By contrast, MSNBC and CNN did a better job of explaining that the Green New Deal is designed to address climate change; MSNBC discussed climate change in five of its eight segments, and CNN discussed it in two of its three segments.

    Fox aired far more prime-time Green New Deal segments than MSNBC or CNN

    From February 7, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) released the Green New Deal resolution, through February 11, Fox News aired 34 segments discussing the Green New Deal on its weekday and weekend prime-time shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight. February 7 and February 8 saw the most Fox coverage -- the network aired 19 prime-time segments on those two days. Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity led the Fox prime-time shows in the number of Green New Deal segments, airing seven and five segments, respectively.

    Across this same time period, MSNBC aired eight prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Five of these aired on February 7, the day the resolution was introduced, including an interview with Ocasio-Cortez on MTP Daily and an interview with Markey on All In with Chris Hayes.  

    CNN, meanwhile, aired only three Green New Deal segments on its prime-time shows from February 7 to February 11. One segment came on the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, which included an interview with Markey. Another segment aired on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, and a third on CNN Newsroom on February 10.

    Most of Fox’s segments on the Green New Deal either ignored climate change or mocked it

    The text of the Green New Deal resolution makes clear that it is intended to fight climate change. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey both emphasized the urgent need to combat the climate crisis at their February 7 press conference unveiling the resolution. And Ocasio-Cortez explained in an interview with NPR earlier that day that the Green New Deal is so ambitious because the climate crisis is such an enormous threat: "Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us.”

    But the majority of Fox News segments on the Green New Deal didn't even mention climate change, often ignoring the entire reason that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey had proposed such a sweeping plan in the first place. In contrast, MSNBC and CNN discussed climate change in most of their segments on the Green New Deal.

    Fox News mentioned climate change in just 41 percent of its prime-time segments on the Green New Deal. Out of the 34 segments that Fox aired about the Green New Deal, only 14 included the words "climate" or "global warming." Most segments omitted the reasoning behind the resolution and merely discussed it out of context as an onerous, oppressive policy proposal. Two of the Fox segments that failed to mention climate change instead claimed that the Green New Deal was just a pretext for implementing a radical left-wing agenda -- a theme that was popular in right-wing media even before the resolution was released.

    Even in cases when Fox figures did bring up climate change during a segment on the Green New Deal, they often downplayed the issue. In six of Fox's 13 segments that mentioned climate change, a host or guest made a dismissive or skeptical remark about the problem. For example, the February 7 episode of The Ingraham Angle featured a well-informed guest who discussed the climate challenge, but host Laura Ingraham followed up her comments by saying, "Well, it's pretty cold right now in Minnesota, but that's just a snapshot. I mean it's been a brutal winter.”

    And on the February 7 episode of Hannity, host Sean Hannity simultaneously misstated activists’ claims about climate change and downplayed the climate threat, then made ludicrous claims about how the Green New Deal would bring about the downfall of America: “They claim that the world was going to end in 12 years because of climate change, which is, of course, is not true. Now, green energy, this new deal, will destroy America, our economy as we know it.”

    MSNBC mentioned climate change in more than half of its prime-time Green New Deal segments. Five out of MSNBC’s eight segments on the Green New Deal discussed the plan in the context of climate change, and two of these were the segments that featured interviews with the resolution's co-sponsors, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey. During his appearance on All In with Chris Hayes on February 7, Markey was particularly clear about the need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change:

    SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): By the year 2100, we're going to have lost tens of trillions of dollars to the damage which is going to be created by climate change to our country. And a stitch in time will save nine. If we invest now, we'll be able to avoid the worst, most catastrophic consequences. Otherwise the price that’s going to be paid is going to be in the tens of trillions in our country, and that will just be a footnote compared to the rest of the world.

    Another segment on All In with Chris Hayes deserves mention. Hayes described the need for a dramatic response to the climate crisis and explained why right-wing criticism of the Green New Deal is so off-base:

    CHRIS HAYES (HOST): As you watch the continued right-wing caterwauling about the Green New Deal, here's what to keep in mind, particularly as all kinds of denialists and cranks talk about what is and is not serious. The bar for entry into the conversation for seriousness in said conversation is some framework, some proposal to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from human sources by almost half -- 45 percent -- from 2010 levels by 2030. That's 11 years from now. Half of emissions. That's what the international panel on climate change says has to happen globally to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And those effects of climate change, they are happening, and they are getting more visible and more present every day.

    CNN discussed climate change in two of its three prime-time segments about the Green New Deal. While CNN ran fewer segments on the Green New Deal than the other cable news channels, it did a better job of foregrounding climate change in the segments that it did air.

    On the February 7 episode of Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez explained the reasoning of the Green New Deal's backers: "Viewing climate change as an existential threat to the entire world, fire, drought, rising sea levels, increasingly violent storms, famine, and mass migrations is what we face, they warn, if radical change isn't embraced now."

    And on the February 9 episode of The Van Jones Show, host Van Jones explained how Green New Deal supporters see climate change affecting the economy and inequality:

    VAN JONES (HOST): They point out the cost of inaction could mean we don't have a planet to live on. They also point out the program could be paid for by tax hikes on the super wealthy and cutting spending elsewhere. Their goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to stimulate the job market, reduce inequality, and boost the economy in low-income areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    Fox continues to lie, fearmonger, and relentlessly mock the Green New Deal

    Fox News spread misinformation about the Green New Deal before the resolution was introduced, and it has continued to do so since it was released. Fox has aired a number of segments that lied about what’s in the Green New Deal resolution, tried to paint the resolution as an instance of alleged Democratic extremism, and downplayed the serious need to tackle climate change. One example of this comes from Sean Hannity on the February 11 episode of Hannity.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We'll start with New Jersey Sen. Spartacus, Cory Booker, comparing the Green New Deal to going to the moon and defeating the Nazis. And Booker is talking about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's bizarre, horrific new piece of legislation. Let's see. That would plan the end of consumption of fossil fuels in 10 years. By the way, the planet is going to die in 12 years. What is the point? And, by the way, and seriously, don't write off Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and her grandiose and disastrous plans. She is merely just saying and acting on what Democrats really believe but try and hide from you. Look at all of those Democrats now coming out in support of this, this Green New Deal which calls for no more oil, no more gas, no more fossil fuels of any kind. Not even any nuclear energy. And it doesn't stop there. This bill that would eliminate airplanes, gas-powered automobiles and trucks, gas-powered ovens and stoves. By the way, if you like steak -- no more cows, too much flatulence. They emit CO2 emissions. No more cows. You better load up on the steak and put in a freezer.

    The resolution, of course, does not call for the elimination of airplanes, cows, or nuclear energy -- it doesn't mention these things at all. Hannity misrepresented lines from an informal FAQ document that has since been retracted. But Hannity continued to push these bombastic, false talking points even after it was reported that the FAQ did not represent the actual Green New Deal resolution.

    Another example comes from President Donald Trump himself on this same episode of Hannity. The show aired live footage of Trump speaking at a rally in El Paso, TX, where he said:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Last week, they introduced a massive government takeover that would destroy our incredible economic gains. They introduced the so-called Green New Deal. It sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark. It would shut down American energy, which I don't think the people in Texas are going to be happy with that. It would shut down a little thing called air travel. How do you take a train to Europe? You know, this crazy senator from Hawaii. They said, do you like it? Yes, I like it very much. Oh, really, how are we getting to Hawaii on a train? She didn't think about that one, but she's thinking about it. She will figure it out. They want to take away your car, reduce the value of your home, and put millions of Americans out of work, spend $100 trillion -- which, by the way, there's no such thing as a $100 trillion.

    Trump constantly lies, so it is no surprise that he would make false statements about trains to Europe, a $100 trillion price tag, and a Hawaii senator -- and no surprise that Fox would air his comments without correction.

    Another ridiculous example came from frequent Fox talking head Dan Bongino on the February 9 episode of Justice with Judge Jeanine:

    DAN BONGINO: Are there going to be cow assassination squads now? I mean, you are going to have to give your cow Beano to cure up their gastrointestinal issues? To prevent an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez death squad or something?

    More cow jokes came from right-wing commentator Mark Steyn on the February 7 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    MARK STEYN: Well, the AOC plan strikingly pledges to get rid of most forms of transportation and, indeed, cows. So you can give up your Chevy Suburban and take your cow to work. The cow actually is more devastating to the environment than the Chevy Suburban. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's document actually says that she is committed to ridding America of flatulent cows and airplanes. I always take a flatulent cow on an airplane as my emotional support animal. It means that 20 minutes out of LAX, you've got the whole first class compartment all to yourself and nobody is in there. But the Europeans actually tried this and they basically -- the Irish were going to impose a tax of 13 euros per cow and the Danes were going to impose a tax of 80 euros per cow because apparently a Danish Holstein is six times as flatulent as an Irish Hereford. So in theory, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on to something that you could, as the Europeans considered, actually have a flatulence offset regime. Obviously, you would need a secretary of flatulence in the Cabinet that you would actually -- Vermont, for example, has a lot of Holsteins there, the black and white cows that look like the governor of Virginia with only half his makeup on -- and you can take, you could take those, Vermont would be able to trade its flatulence to Washington, D.C., where it could hang like a giant cloud over Congress.

    These examples show that Fox News will go to great lengths to avoid having good-faith discussions about tackling climate change and instead paint any ambitious climate proposal as absurd and a sign of supposed Democratic extremism. That makes it especially unfortunate that Fox is the cable network that's covering the Green New Deal the most on its prime-time shows.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and IQ Media search for mentions of "green new deal" in programs that aired on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 5 p.m. and midnight from February 7 to February 11. We then searched within those transcripts for mentions of “climate” or "global warming." We counted any segments that were devoted to the Green New Deal or made substantial mention of it. We did not count teasers, passing mentions, or rebroadcasts.

    Image and chart by Melissa Joskow of Media Matters.

  • Conservatives invoke murderous dictators to attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Just weeks after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was sworn into office, some in the conservative media world are already likening her to some of history’s worst mass-murdering dictators to criticize her signature policy proposal, the Green New Deal.

    Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) unveiled a Green New Deal resolution on February 7 that lays out an ambitious goal of addressing the climate crisis and economic inequality. Right-wing media figures immediately misled their audiences on the aims of the resolution and began to issue ominous warnings about the effort. But some took their warnings to a greater extreme by likening Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats who back the Green New Deal to murderous tyrants such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong.

    Economist Ben Stein and Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens were among the first prominent conservatives to compare Ocasio-Cortez to dictators. Before the Green New Deal resolution was even released, Stein said in January: “We have a society in which there are an awful lot of people who have no idea that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong all came to power promising the same kinds of things that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is promising. And it led to mass murder; it led to dictatorship; it led to genocide. These promises are old promises and they invariably lead to bad things.”

    Owens compared Ocasio-Cortez to Hitler in a February 4 tweet. (Owens has been widely criticized for recently saying, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. The problem is that … he had dreams outside of Germany.”)

    Bill Bennett, a Fox News contributor and former Reagan administration secretary of education, criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s policy resolution on February 6, saying, “Look at the fine print. Look at what socialism has done. Socialism is as socialism has done. … Look at the real masters of socialism: Mao, Stalin -- 30, 40 million dead.” He further warned that “there should be no truck at all with this idea of socialism” and declared that young Americans who are sympathetic to socialism are ignorant.

    Two prominent conservative talk radio hosts piled on two days later. Hugh Hewitt, who is also an MSNBC contributor, likened Ocasio-Cortez to dictators who “end up murdering millions” of people to get their way. He also said of the Green New Deal: “It is not socialism; it is communism, it is fascism, it is despotism. It drains all freedom out of America.”

    While PragerU founder Dennis Prager didn’t name Ocasio-Cortez in his own dire warning about her Green New Deal, he did say that the resolution and other policies to address economic inequality “will lead to bloodshed, loss of liberty, loss of human rights”:

    DENNIS PRAGER (HOST): The vast majority of torture and mayhem of the 20th century was done in the name of equality. It started in the French Revolution, which immediately descended into slaughtering human beings. It is a very, very scary vision. OK, just know that.

    It sounds great. That's why it's so dangerous. Racism doesn't sound great, for good reason. It's disgusting.

    The pursuit of equality will lead to bloodshed, loss of liberty, loss of human rights, and the Green New Deal is an example. The death that will ensue in the United States of America, the mayhem, the suffering, if the government takes over all health -- the problem is these people need a cause. That's what it is. There is a soullessness to the Elizabeth Warrens of the world. They need meaning. They need a crusade. They can't leave well enough alone. That's a big part of leftism. This country is too free, too kind, too affluent. They need to screw it up. If they screw it up, they have purpose.

    Liberals are not leftists, but liberals are naive and weak, because they don't confront the evil that leftism will bring about. That they mean well is of such little consequence -- do you know how much evil has been done by people who think they're good? Nearly all of it. OK? Just want you to know.

    Later that afternoon on Fox Business’ The Evening Edit, former Republican gubernatorial candidate for California John Cox warned about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on the Green New Deal: “You got to worry about it. You know, if we don't study history, Liz, we're doomed to repeat it. And if you look at what has gone on in -- you report very well what's going on in Venezuela. Chavez and Maduro promised the socialist paradise, and you go back to the Soviet Union and Stalin and Lenin; it was always promised that government would be able to provide these things, and it's never been able to be successful.”

    On Monday, radio host Michael Savage discussed the Green New Deal and labelled Ocasio-Cortez a “psycho,” saying, “This is a Stalinist in a skirt; this is a Hitler in high heels.”

    San Diego radio host Carl DeMaio said, “The Democrat Party is more and more like the Nazi Party of Germany every single day,” citing in part Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged plan for the “takeover of private sector industries by the government” -- an apparent right-wing description of the Green New Deal.

    On February 12, Hewitt again referred to totalitarianism while discussing the Green New Deal and declared that Ocasio-Cortez is going “full 1984” and rewriting history by removing an inaccurate FAQ document from her website, saying: “That’s what happens in totalitarian states.”

    The absurd comparisons of Ocasio-Cortez to dictators are nothing new for the right; for example, conservatives also compared former President Barack Obama to Hitler and his policies to those of Nazi Germany countless times. And given the conservative media obsession with Ocasio-Cortez, the attacks are likely to continue throughout her career in elected office -- which has barely begun.

  • Major Sunday shows discuss climate change and Green New Deal, but through narrow lens of political horse race

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    All five major Sunday morning political shows touched on the Green New Deal on February 10 -- the first time in 2019 that any of the programs have addressed climate change with more than a passing mention. But most of the discussion was superficial and narrowly focused on whether the Green New Deal will cause intra-party fighting among Democrats or end up benefiting Republicans, not on whether its policy ideas are good approaches for fighting climate change.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution on Thursday, outlining an aggressive plan for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. within a decade.

    NBC's Meet the Press featured a conversation about the Green New Deal with a panel of guests. Host Chuck Todd kicked it off by briefly outlining the plan's big goals and then asking Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, “Is this a healthy debate [for the Democratic Party] that's happening right now?" In a follow-up comment to David Brody, chief political analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network, Todd said, “Obviously the president's team sees a reelection opening." The panel discussion on the show largely focused on which party could benefit from consideration of the Green New Deal. Only MSNBC host Katy Tur talked about the dire climate impacts the Green New Deal is designed to mitigate:

    The U.N. said we have 12 years before complete disaster. You talk to the representative of the Marshall Islands, and he's calling it what could amount to genocide if we allow things to go as they are. The reports aren't just, "Hey, it's going to get bad." The reports are, "People will die. Millions and million, and millions of people will die." And I think that there is an appetite among voters out there, especially Democratic voters and potentially swing voters, to say, "Hey, let's do something about this now because it's, it’s going to affect our future." And there's real economic damage that can happen as well. Billions of dollars in economic damage from crops to deaths, to losing oceanfront homes and businesses in, over the next century.

    On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper brought up the Green New Deal twice. His interview with Peter Buttigieg, Democratic presidential hopeful and mayor of South Bend, IN, included a substantive exchange on the plan and on climate impacts. Tapper briefly mentioned the Green New Deal’s broad aims, questioned Buttigieg about how it could affect his constituents and industry in the Midwest, and asked if he endorsed it. Buttigieg affirmed his support for the general framework of the Green New Deal, specifically “the idea that we need to race toward that goal and that we should do it in a way that enhances the economic justice and the level of economic opportunity in our country.” Buttigieg also noted that action is needed because extreme weather is already hurting Americans. Later in the show, during an interview with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tapper noted that Murphy was a Green New Deal co-sponsor before saying, “Independent senator Angus King of Maine as well as Obama's former energy secretary Ernest Moniz say they don't think that this plan is realistic.” Murphy responded, “It's absolutely realistic and I frankly think we need to set our sights high.” Murphy emphasized the reason why bold steps are required: "Global warming is an existential threat to the planet."

    Fox News Sunday included two segments that discussed the Green New Deal, but host Chris Wallace seemed less interested in how it would address climate change and more interested in whether it could be labeled “socialist.” During a discussion with a panel of guests, Wallace listed some of the plan’s policy goals before asking former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), “Couldn't you call it socialist?” In a follow-up question to Edwards, Wallace lumped the Green New Deal in with other progressive policy proposals such as free college tuition and a guaranteed jobs plan, asking her again, “Couldn't you argue that's pretty radical and possibly socialist?” During a separate interview with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Wallace asked if President Donald Trump views the Green New Deal as “the view of a wing of the [Democratic] party or does he think that's the prevailing opinion of Democratic leaders?”

    Both ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos and CBS' Face the Nation just made passing mentions of the Green New Deal. This Week host Stephanopoulos directed a comment about Trump’s sarcastic tweet about the Green New Deal to ABC News contributor Chris Christie, but Christie didn't address the topic. Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan didn’t bring up the Green New Deal herself, but one of her guests, National Review Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg, referenced it in passing to claim that it could harm the Democrats politically.

    Sunday’s Green New Deal coverage did not include any guests who voiced climate denial, which is an improvement over the last time all of the major shows covered climate change, on November 25, after release of the National Climate Assessment. But this time around, none of the shows hosted guests with particular expertise in climate change to discuss the plan, like climate scientists or environmental journalists. This is an unfortunate, long-running trend: The Sunday shows rarely feature climate experts.

    The Green New Deal is sparking Sunday show discussion of climate policy, which we've seen very little of in recent years. (And it’s freaking out conservatives and right-wing media figures.) But the coverage needs to get better. Media outlets have a responsibility to move discussions of climate-related issues like the Green New Deal beyond superficial horse-race coverage and into real substance. That means acknowledging that the Green New Deal is not merely a political ploy; it is an effort backed by a broad array of environmental groups, environmental justice organizations, and unions, as well as high-profile Democratic politicians, to comprehensively address the climate crisis. Sunday shows should be fostering discussion of whether the Green New Deal is the right approach to deal with climate change, not whether it will help one side or another score quick political points.

  • Polluter-backed misinformers are trying to kill carbon-pricing plans in the states

    After tanking a carbon fee initiative in Washington state in 2018, fossil fuel interests are focused on other states in 2019

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER



    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A carbon fee ballot initiative failed in Washington state last year, but that won't deter activists and lawmakers from pushing carbon pricing measures in other states in 2019. Unfortunately, polluter interests, which waged a $31 million misinformation campaign to defeat the Washington state initiative, are already ramping up efforts to kill like-minded measures around the country, even though carbon pricing enjoys broad and bipartisan support.

    To curb the heat-trapping pollution that causes climate change, policymakers in at least seven states are seriously considering ways to price carbon. Oregon and Vermont are two states where carbon-pricing proposals are on the table in 2019 and have a better chance of passing than in previous years because of favorable outcomes in the 2018 midterm elections.

    But a constellation of hostile companies and groups are preparing to thwart any efforts to put a price on carbon pollution using a well-worn playbook of fearmongering and pushing misinformation that has proved successful in the past. From major oil companies to conservative trade associations to Koch-backed think tanks, the polluter syndicate uses its money and influence to try to keep Americans hooked on fossil fuels. 

    In Oregon, Koch-linked groups fight "cap and invest"

    Climate advocates in Oregon are optimistic about passing cap-and-trade legislation this year -- specifically a Clean Energy Jobs bill that they describe as "cap and invest." A version of the bill failed to pass the legislature in early 2018, but Democratic leaders reintroduced it in late January and are making it a priority for 2019. It would cap total carbon emissions, require the state’s largest polluters to purchase emissions permits, and invest the money that's raised in transitioning the state away from fossil fuels.

    Voters in the 2018 midterms gave Oregon Democrats supermajorities in the state House and Senate, and delivered incumbent Gov. Kate Brown (D) a six-point re-election victory. Brown's campaign platform called for a Clean Energy Jobs bill, and she has expressed support for the new version.

    Anti-climate-action groups opposed the Clean Energy Jobs bill last year and are ramping up for an intense lobbying campaign against it this year. If the measure passes the legislature, they could try to put it on the ballot and give voters a chance to overturn it. 

    In the last year, one high-profile group opposing cap and trade has been Priority Oregon, a 501(c)(4) dark money group. Although Priority Oregon refuses to disclose its donors, it has acknowledged that its members include the Taxpayers Association of Oregon. In 2017, the Taxpayers Association of Oregon worked with the Koch-funded Institute for Free Speech (formerly the Center for Competitive Politics) to fight a campaign finance reform measure passed by voters in Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland.

    The money Priority Oregon has received from both known and unknown sources allowed it to pay for a series of misleading ads during the 2018 legislative session that alleged cap-and-trade legislation would increase Oregonians' energy bills. These ads ignored the assistance the Clean Energy Jobs bill would provide to individuals and industries affected by potential price increases for electricity or natural gas. Priority Oregon also weighed in on the 2018 governor’s race, running multiple attack ads against Brown. 

    Various other Koch-financed or -affiliated groups are also trying to stymie cap-and-trade legislation in Oregon.

    Oregon Business & Industry, which bills itself as “Oregon's largest and most influential comprehensive business association,” is affiliated with two organizations that are deeply intertwined with the Koch network: the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, Oregon Business & Industry released an anti-cap-and-trade study it commissioned, which was heavily criticized for a number of methodological flaws by clean energy advocacy group Renew Oregon.

    The Oregon Farm Bureau, a trade association whose advocacy arm has taken Koch money, also publicly opposes cap-and-trade legislation. It has fought other environmental protections in the past, including the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule, a federal regulation intended to conserve waterways.

    Another opponent is the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute, a Koch-connected, libertarian think tank that has promoted climate change denial and argued that the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are unnecessary. The institute came out against the idea of cap and trade as far back as 2008. In February 2018, the group's president and CEO argued against the Clean Energy Jobs bill in testimony before the state legislature. 

    These groups have been able to push their messaging out through mainstream media and the business press.

    In Vermont, the heating oil lobby and right-wing think tanks fight carbon fee

    Environmental advocates in Vermont are hopeful about the state legislature enacting a carbon price on gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil in 2019, according to Tom Hughes, campaign director for Energy Independent Vermont, a coalition of pro-carbon-fee environmental organizations, business groups, low-income advocates, and others. Last year, the legislature dedicated money for a study of carbon pricing options and other ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont. The study, conducted by nonprofit research group Resources for the Future and released in January of this year, found that a carbon price combined with other climate policies could lower emissions without hurting the economy or low-income people.

    Thanks to the 2018 elections, the state legislature is now more likely to act. “There are more climate champions in the Vermont State House in 2019 than ever before,” Hughes told Media Matters. According to Vermont Conservation Voters, “pro-environment candidates won 28 out of 33 hotly contested seats in the 2018 elections,” helping Democrats and Progressives gain a veto-proof majority in the legislature. They'll need it, as Republican Gov. Phil Scott is opposed to carbon fee legislation, even though he supports incentives for electric vehicles and a multistate initiative to curb transportation emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

    Any carbon fee bill will also face stiff opposition from Koch-backed groups allied with the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

    The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, a heating industry trade group, has broad reach in the state, where it claims that its members service three out of four homes. Many of those homes use heating oil -- about 51 percent of Vermont households, according to the state government. The association, which is aggressively opposed to a carbon fee, has been using its influence to scare its members and customers about what it says would be the adverse economic impacts of pricing carbon, like higher heating oil costs -- despite the fact that the Resources for the Future study found that low-income people could be shielded from overall higher costs.

    The association operates a website called Stop the Taxes that fearmongers about the effects a carbon fee would have on Vermonters. The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association also included several anti-carbon-fee messages in its weekly email newsletters in 2018. For example, the April 20 issue took swipes at Ben & Jerry's, which has supported carbon pricing:

    The Vermont Carbon Tax will NOT pass in 2018, despite a media blitz by several famous Burlington businesses. There was very little debate about the tax proposal, which is designed to raise the cost of oil and gas in order to subsidize electricity. Most outside the statehouse recognize that taking money from poor Vermonters to lower the light bill at the ice cream factory isn’t a path to economic prosperity. It certainly isn’t a “solution” to climate change either.

    The Ethan Allen Institute is another Vermont-based organization opposed to carbon pricing. The institute, which has a history of climate denial, has been funded for years by groups in the Koch network such as the State Policy Network, Donors Capital Fund, and the Cato Institute. In February 2018, the Ethan Allen Institute published a study attacking a carbon fee proposal being considered by the legislature at the time. The institute has also teamed up with the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, publishing an anti-carbon-tax blog post written by the association's executive director.

    The anti-carbon-fee forces are getting a publicity boost from True North Reports, a Vermont-based right-wing policy organization that publicly presents itself as a news site. Backed by a Vermont megadonor who has funded conservative and right-wing causes, True North Reports has also been affiliated with the Koch network since it launched in 2010 with then-news director Rob Roper, former FreedomWorks state director and current Ethan Allen Institute president. True North Reports' current managing editor, Bruce Parker, has Koch ties too. He was previously a reporter and editor for Watchdog.org, a product of the Koch-backed Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Parker has also written for right-wing and conservative media outlets such as FoxNews.com, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, and Human Events. True North Reports has also been directly involved in partisan politics, donating $7,500 to Republican candidates in 2016 and $10,000 to the Vermont Republican Party in 2018.

    True North Reports has repeatedly criticized carbon fees on its website and on its television show, which airs on a local public access channel. In another demonstration of collaboration between Vermont’s anti-environmental groups, True North Reports hosted a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute in September 2018 to discuss the findings of the institute’s latest anti-carbon-fee report published earlier that month.

    Carbon pricing momentum elsewhere will draw attacks too

    The polluter interests attacking carbon pricing proposals differ from state to state. Oregon and Vermont have unique coalitions of groups trying to stop their respective cap-and-trade and carbon fee plans. In Washington state last year, it was big oil companies that spent millions to kill a carbon fee initiative.

    But what's consistent is that there will be significant pushback against any efforts to price carbon from companies and groups that have financial interests in the continued burning of fossil fuels. We can expect to see this vocal opposition in other states that are considering carbon pricing plans this year, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

    There's also a well-coordinated coalition of right-wing groups opposing carbon pricing on the national level, as Media Matters reported last year. Expect it to be particularly active in 2019 because there's modest momentum behind the idea of carbon taxes. A bipartisan group of U.S. House members has reintroduced a carbon pricing bill that it first floated late last year. Dozens of renowned economists, including a number of Republican heavy hitters, recently endorsed carbon taxation in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, as did a recently retired GOP representative. Carbon pricing could also become part of Green New Deal legislation, though it was not explicitly included in the Green New Deal resolution recently introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).

    It's worth pointing out that many fossil fuel defenders and right-wing ideologues, who are now freaking out over the prospect of a broad Green New Deal, remain as opposed as ever to moderate, incrementalist carbon tax proposals. This polluter lobby draws little distinction between so-called “radical” plans like the Green New Deal and corporate-friendly carbon tax plans like that of the Climate Leadership Council, which has backing from establishment Republicans and Fortune 500 companies. They will fight bitterly against them all.

  • Here are some of the dumbest right-wing media takes on the Green New Deal

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a Green New Deal resolution on Thursday -- a framework for what they intend to include in detailed legislation down the line. Ocasio-Cortez's office also released a less formal summary and answers to frequently asked questions about the plan.

    Right-wing media figures and outlets -- who've been freaking out over the Green New Deal and Ocasio-Cortez in general over the last couple of months -- swiftly went on the attack, insulting Ocasio-Cortez's intelligence and employing misinformation, mockery, and straight-up climate denial to argue against the plan.

    Many of the attackers appear not to have actually read the 14-page resolution. Instead, they focused on the FAQ document and mischaracterized it, so Ocasio-Cortez's office removed it from her website and said they'll post a better version later, but it's still available in other places online. [Update, 2/11/19: In a February 9 Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff explained that “an early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn’t represent the GND resolution got published to the website by mistake.”]

    Here's a sampling of comments and arguments from right-wing media.

    Right-wing media made unhinged claims that the Green New Deal would destroy civilization

    MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt waxed melodramatic while discussing the Green New Deal on his radio program on February 8: "It is not socialism; it is communism, it is fascism, it is despotism."

    Sean Hannity went on an extended rant on his Fox show Hannity on February 7:

    History is riddled with the roadkill and the misery and of many versions of socialism, almost always ending the same way: false promises, broken promises, failure, poverty, misery among the people. This is a real, serious threat to our way of life.

    Ocasio-Cortez and others put forth one of the most dangerous, impractical, misguided, economically guaranteed-to-be-devastating plans ever championed by any American politician.

    All aboard, the poverty express is coming.

    Fox's Laura Ingraham said the Green New Deal would result in a "hellscape." Fox's Tucker Carlson said, "It's literally insane and anti-American." Watch these and other lowlights:

    Right-wing media attacked Ocasio-Cortez's intelligence

    Ocasio-Cortez introduced the legislation jointly with longtime lawmaker Markey, who has served in Congress since 1976 and co-authored major climate legislation that passed the House in 2009. But in attacking the measure, conservative commentators focused almost exclusively on Ocasio-Cortez, calling her "immature" and an "idiot."

    Ben Stein, an actor, political commentator, and climate denier who frequently appears on Fox programs, offered sexist insults about Ocasio-Cortez during Fox Business Network's Cavuto Coast to Coast on February 7:

    The fact that we listen to her is just amazing. The fact that we pay attention to anything she says is just amazing. I mean, she doesn't know her ass from her elbow about investments and the return on investments. Why do we even listen to her? I mean, she’s charming and she’s very good-looking, but why do we even listen to her?

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade and climate-denying blogger Marc Morano took turns ratcheting up the insults during a segment on Fox & Friends on February 8:

    BRIAN KILMEADE: Why would you stand behind a deal like this when it is -- looks like something that was put out by a 10th-grader?

    MARC MORANO: Actually, 10th is being very, very generous.

    KILMEADE: Let's go seventh.

    MORANO: I would go as low as third grade.

    Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the right-wing Daily Wire, attacked Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet:

    Shapiro elaborated on this theme in a blog post at The Daily Wire titled "AOC's Green New Deal Proposal Is One Of The Stupidest Documents Ever Written":

    Whoever wrote the proposal is, to put it kindly, dense. Idiotic. Moronic.

    How bad is the Green New Deal paper? Putting aside the fact that, as written, it would receive a C+ in any high school English class, it essentially articulates a magical world in which the skies rain chocolate, the world is powered by unicorn farts, and AOC dances through the gumdrop meadows to Lisztomania.

    My two-year-old son could come up with a better, more realistic proposal than this one.

    David Harsanyi, a climate denier and senior editor at the conservative online magazine The Federalist, played on similar themes during an appearance on Fox's The Ingraham Angle:

    Right-wing media spread misinformation about the Green New Deal

    Conservative media figures propagated a number of falsehoods about the Green New Deal. Here are a few:

    They say the plan would ban cars. It wouldn't: Madison Gesiotto, a columnist for The Hill and a member of the Trump campaign's advisory board, suggested in a tweet that the Green New Deal would require Americans to give up their cars. In fact, the resolution calls for "investment in … zero-emissions vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing," not the banning of vehicles.

    They say the plan would ban airplanes. It wouldn't: Longtime climate denier Rush Limbaugh claimed on his radio show on February 7, "They want to phase out air travel in 10 years." Fox & Friends hosts made the same claim on February 8, including Ainsley Earhardt, who said, "No more airplanes. Airplanes are -- exactly, you have to take a train now." In fact, the resolution makes no mention of airplanes or air travel. The FAQ acknowledges that it's likely not feasible to phase out traditional airplanes within a decade, so it calls for "build[ing] out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary." The Green New Deal aims to give people a cleaner option than flying, but it doesn't call for the elimination of flying.

    They say the plan would ban meat. It wouldn't: Morano said during his February 8 appearance on Fox & Friends that the plan calls for "banning meat." In fact, the resolution makes no mention whatsoever of meat. In contrast, it calls for "working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including ... by supporting family farming [and] by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health." The FAQ mentions just one potential meat source, "farting cows," but says it doesn't appear feasible to get rid of them within 10 years.

    Right-wing media mocked the Green New Deal

    Many of the conservative critiques were short on substance, long on silliness and scorn.

    Fox personality Laura Ingraham suggested the Green New Deal would send the country back to the time of the Flintstones and the Stone Age:

    Climate-denying blogger Steve Milloy called the plan "bedwetting":

    Breitbart's Joel Pollak disingenuously accuses the plan of being "homophobic and transphobic."

    Note: the legislation fails to mention — even once — the historic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. This is a homophobic and transphobic document.

    Right-wing media displayed their climate denial while criticizing the Green New Deal

    In many cases, right-wing media figures failed to acknowledge that the Green New Deal is so ambitious because it's trying to address an incredibly serious and deadly threat: climate change. The hosts of Fox & Friends, for example, neglected to mention climate change at all during an extended rant on February 8.

    But in some cases, the conservative commentators put their climate denial on full display, making clear that part of the reason they disdain the Green New Deal is because they don't believe climate change is even happening.

    Limbaugh launched into a climate-denying diatribe during his Green New Deal segment on February 7:

    It is a crime what has been done to these kids. It is literally a crime the way they have been propagandized from the moment they started watching television, from early childhood. They literally believe this planet is under destruction as we sit here today and that human beings in the United States of America are responsible for it, primarily Republicans, and they’re calling for drastic action.

    Breitbart's Pollak explicitly contradicted climate science in his Green New Deal blog post:

    The “Green New Deal” begins by asserting “human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century” — far beyond the “consensus” that humans have some significant impact on global temperature.

    It goes on to declare that “a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life” — all speculative claims that even scientists who endorse anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are hesitant to endorse.

    In fact, climate scientists have been very clear that climate change is human-caused, it is exacerbating extreme weather, and we have a small window in which to dramatically overhaul our energy, transportation, and agriculture systems if we want to avoid the worst impacts. But if you deny that climate change is a problem, then of course an ambitious plan to address it is going to be anathema.

  • Right-wing trolls are sharing a hoax version of the Green New Deal

    The hoax has spread enough to reach Google's search suggestions, and people are falling for it

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right trolls are attacking the Green New Deal by sharing a fake version of the proposal that includes a suggestion to use recycled urine.

    The Green New Deal is a comprehensive plan to fight climate change that has been championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a nonbinding resolution on February 7 that outlines policies for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years, including transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy and revamping transportation, agriculture, buildings, and other infrastructure.

    As the Twitter account Unfakery pointed out, right-wing trolls are parodying the contents of the Green New Deal in an attempt to fool people into believing it actually includes a proposal to recycle urine.

    Google’s search engine also picked up the disinformation: The hoax currently comes up as a suggestion when one types in “recycling urine.” (Media Matters searched for the term via an incognito browser.)

    Here’s how far-right trolls spread the hoax:

    YouTube conspiracy theorist Mark Dice posted the hoax on both Twitter and Facebook and admitted that he made up the language, urging his followers to “spread it around,” make it “go viral,” and “don’t give away the joke.”

    A YouTube user posted a video about the Green New Deal that mentioned Dice’s hoax as if it were a real point in the proposal. Dice wrote a comment under the video saying that he created the hoax as “satire,” again urging people to spread it:

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald”:

    4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/” (an earlier 4chan thread also pushed the hoax, but it has since been deleted):

    Reddit’s “r/The_Donald”:

    Far-right troll and One America News Network host Jack Posobiec (who later wrote that it was “obvious satire”):

    Even though Posobiec noted that it wasn’t real, other far-right trolls continued to spread the hoax, including on /pol/: