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  • Fox News has gone from saying climate change wasn’t real to arguing it’s too hard to try to stop it

    And that's when the network covers it at all; Fox covered the recent landmark climate report for roughly three minutes this week

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Even optimistic scenarios for climate change would lead to environmental calamity as early as 2040, far sooner than previously thought, according to a stark report from a United Nations-backed assemblage of leading scientists from 40 countries. The report, issued Sunday night by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concludes that preventing disaster requires nations to drastically reduce carbon emissions through a global economic transformation that has “no documented historic precedent.”

    Fox News would rather those nations not try.

    The conservative network has basically ignored the IPCC’s report altogether and passed on bringing it up during two interviews with President Donald Trump this week. Special Report, Fox’s flagship broadcast, provided a 30-second news brief on Monday. The network’s only other substantive coverage has come from Shepard Smith, a rare real journalist at Fox and one who has acknowledged the reality of global warming. Smith hosted the network's only full segment devoted to the report, introducing the two-and-a-half-minute Monday segment by saying, “Climate change is real, the situation is urgent, and time is running out: That's the new warning from a landmark United Nations report.” But soon after, Fox correspondent Trace Gallagher put his thumb on the scale in favor of inaction.

    “Even outside scientists who acknowledge that something has to be done to prevent the planet from warming say the goal laid out by the United Nations is really unreasonable,” Gallagher said, “because it would mean draconian cuts in emissions and dramatic changes in the way that we use energy, meaning extremely high gas prices, a lot more regulations, and putting governments right in the middle of decisions on how people utilize their private property.”

    Fox has spent years telling its audience that global warming is a lie. The network made an institutional decision to use its powerful megaphone to undermine the climate change consensus, making legislation to reduce carbon emissions less politically feasible. And now, the situation has apparently become so dire that a network correspondent is arguing it is just too costly to do anything to solve the problem.

    These things are connected. Every year of delay means more carbon emissions. If the goal is to keep the temperature increase below a specific target, then the longer world leaders wait to take action, the more drastic -- and expensive -- the cuts to carbon emissions need to be. The resulting “net mitigation costs increase, on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay,” according to a 2014 report by President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.

    Fox has played a key role in engineering that delay. In the middle of the last decade, many prominent Republicans acknowledged global warming was a real threat that required government action, and Fox itself produced reporting that did not dispute the science. But for the last dozen years, as the GOP became the "world's only major climate-denialist party," Fox has done everything it could to defeat all possible actions to mitigate climate change.

    The network is, of course, far from the only reason a global problem has not been systematically addressed.

    But Fox’s influence on U.S. politics is great enough that when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was working on a bipartisan climate bill in 2010, he warned his Democratic colleagues that they needed to move the legislation quickly, before the network had time to train its guns on it.

    Graham was right to worry. Fox’s intense, network-wide effort to undermine the notion that climate change is a real problem helped stymie Democratic efforts to pass a cap-and-trade climate bill during Obama’s first term, and it has made the issue toxic with Republicans ever since.

    That effort included specific instructions from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon to network reporters to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

    Fox relentlessly promoted the fabricated "Climategate" scandal, which revolved around smearing a group of climate scientists by misrepresenting their emails, which were stolen by hackers.

    Its hosts brought on climate deniers to malign actual scientists and attacked people who referred to them as climate deniers.

    The network’s shows brought up global warming when it was cold outside (suggesting the cold temperatures disproved the science) and ignored it during heat waves.

    They propagated an ocean of lies and distortions of climate science research aimed at distracting from the scientific consensus supporting man-made climate change -- at one point, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that 93 percent of Fox News' representations of climate science were misleading.

    When Fox’s commentators weren’t lying about the story, they were treating it as a punchline, responding to cold weather with “snow-trolling,” denouncing celebrities who talked about it, and making a joke about former Vice President Al Gore while showing a person dressed as a Hawaiian lei-wearing polar bear.

    In one particularly baffling attempt at a gotcha, Fox’s Jon Scott asked whether the former existence of volcanoes on the moon disproved global warming. Then there was the time the network went to war over cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants’ climate change advocacy.

    And, in a shifting of the goal posts that presaged Gallagher’s recent comment, the landmark Paris Climate Agreement brought about a change in the network’s emphasis, with hosts saying the agreement would have little impact while costing too much. After long denying that there was a problem,  the network now -- when it bothers to mentions climate change at all -- is suggesting it can’t be solved.

  • Pointed debate question on climate change draws out starkly different views from Oregon governor candidates

    Democrat Brown: Climate change is "the biggest challenge that we face." Republican Buehler: "I’m against Gov. Brown’s cap-and-trade plan"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During the final Oregon gubernatorial debate on October 9, the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Kate Brown, and her opponent, Republican state Rep. Knute Buehler, had two opportunities to address climate change. Panelist Steve Duin, a columnist at The Oregonian, asked a pointed question about climate change, and a voter asked a question by video about clean energy, which also prompted discussion of the climate threat.

    Media Matters is tracking debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races and encouraging moderators to ask candidates questions about climate change. See our scorecard.

    From the October 9 Oregon governor debate:

    STEVE DUIN (PANELIST): Rep. Buehler, you’ve made leadership an issue in the campaign, and I’m searching for some on climate change. You’re anti-coal, but pro-fracking. You’ve dismissed a carbon tax as an attempt to generate a $1.4 billion slush fund for green energy profiteers. When the threat of climate change has never been more urgent, why the milquetoast argument that Oregon has done or paid enough to address the problem?

    KNUTE BUEHLER (R): Well, Steve, I reject a lot of the premises of your question, as you can imagine. I certainly believe in climate change. It’s why I was one of the few Republicans to vote to transition Oregon away from coal-based electricity to renewable energy sources. It’s why I’ve spoken out frequently against the Trump’s administration policies, specifically with regards to withdrawing the United States from the climate accords. I’m against Gov. Brown’s cap-and-trade plan, or, probably a better description of it is a $1.4 billion sales tax on energy. And I’m against that because it’s going to hit hard-working Oregonians -- Oregonians who are struggling to pay the bills right now -- with a sales tax that they can’t afford. And importantly, those dollars won’t go to schools, they won’t go to providing health care; they’re going to go to a complex tax-credit scheme for green energy companies. And we’ve already had problems with that in the past, something called the “business energy tax credit scheme,” where hundreds of millions of dollars were misallocated to the extent that people have gone to jail for corruption. I don’t want to repeat that again.

    DUIN: Gov. Brown?

    KATE BROWN (D): The League of Oregon Conservation Voters agrees with you. My opponent has a lifetime ranking of an F based on his three years’ voting record in the Oregon legislature. I’ve continued to make steady, incremental progress on tackling global climate change, from reducing the carbon intensity of our fuels; from transitioning off of coal; from investing in EV rebates and public transit, which my opponent voted against; and we worked hard last session to reduce carbon emissions. We weren’t able to successfully complete the legislation, but we are working collaboratively with utilities, with the business community, and with the ag sector to make sure that we reduce carbon emissions in such a way that it doesn’t exacerbate already existing economic disparities in our low-income communities and our rural communities.

    TRACY BARRY (MODERATOR): Our first video question comes from Ron Pernick of Portland. He works in the clean energy field. I just want to remind you guys that you’re both going to have a full minute to respond to this question, and Rep. Buehler, you’ll take the lead on this one right after we hear it. So here’s the question.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    PERNICK: Gov. Brown, Rep. Buehler, solar and wind are now the most cost-competitive sources of new energy, and energy storage is rapidly declining in costs. Our neighbors to the south, California, and Hawaii to the west, have both enacted 100 percent renewable energy targets by 2045. As governor, what will you do to ensure Oregon’s leadership in a clean energy future?

    [END VIDEO]

    BARRY: OK, I’m going to jump back in because I know you couldn’t hear that at the beginning. Ron’s question was, “Solar and wind are now the most cost-competitive sources of new energy, and energy storage is rapidly declining in cost.” And then he went on to mention “our neighbors to the south, California, to the west, Hawaii, have both enacted renewable energy targets by 2045. As governor, what will you do to ensure Oregon’s leadership in a clean energy future?” Representative, we’ll let you start.

    BUEHLER: It’s a very important question, an issue of vital concern. I certainly believe in global climate change. I’m trained as a scientist, and the data is overwhelming. It’s why I was one of the few Republicans to vote for transitioning Oregon’s electrical generation capacity from coal-based to renewables, breaking with my party and even business interests. It’s why I have spoken out against the Trump administration policies with regards to environmental issues -- specifically United States withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. That’s the kind of leadership that Oregonians want to see on these important issues, and I think it’s important that we keep that balance though, the balance of improving the environment, but also taking into consideration there are hardworking Oregonians that are just struggling to get by everyday, to pay the bills at the end of the month. And, unfortunately, under Gov. Brown, we’ve driven up the cost of living in this state, the high cost of health care, of housing, and now, with energy costs, we have to be very, very careful that we don’t challenge people too much with regards to these issues.  

    BARRY: Gov. Brown?

    BROWN: As Oregonians, we’re all feeling the impacts of global climate change. In the Rogue Valley alone, this summer, they had roughly eight weeks of smog, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had to cancel 26 outdoor productions. So we’re feeling it. We need to continue to tackle this with every single tool in our toolbox because it is the biggest challenge that we face. And future generations will judge us, not on the fact of global climate change, but what we do to tackle it. So I’ve led to reduce the carbon intensity of our carbon fuels. Number two: We brought “Coal to Clean,” the first in the nation to transition away from coal-generated electricity and double our renewable energy portfolio by 2040. Lastly, invested in a transportation package, investing in EV vehicles and public transit. But, most importantly, this isn’t enough. And we need to move forward, and I believe that we can move forward and reduce carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs by 5,000 if we move forward on the clean energy job bill. 

  • Fox News largely ignored a major new climate change report

    Fox's one substantial segment on the U.N. report featured right-wing arguments against taking dramatic action

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A new landmark report from a United Nations scientific panel warns that humanity is rapidly running out of time to take the unprecedented action needed to prevent horrific impacts from climate change. The report, released on Sunday night at 9 p.m. EDT by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was covered by a number of major media outlets the following day. CNN reported, "A sobering major report on climate change warns that we could be careening toward catastrophe." The New York Times noted that the report "paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought." The BBC reported, "It's the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures."

    But Fox News aired very little coverage of the report on Monday.

    In morning coverage, Fox skipped the climate report but found time to criticize Taylor Swift

    Fox did not air a single segment that mentioned the U.N. report in its coverage from 4 a.m to noon EST on Monday. In contrast, CNN spent more than seven and a half minutes on the report over that period, and MSNBC spent more than four and a half minutes.

    While Fox couldn't spare a moment from its morning lineup for climate catastrophe, the network dedicated more than nine minutes to pop star Taylor Swift's Instagram post endorsing two Democratic candidates in Tennessee and encouraging people to register to vote. Fox hosts and guests criticized Swift's post and argued that she didn't know enough to weigh in on politics.

    In prime-time coverage, Fox skipped the climate report but found time to criticize Indigenous People's Day

    Fox's nightly prime-time shows on Monday also completely neglected to mention the report.

    Host Tucker Carlson did make a mention of pollution, but he meant the pollution of the public sphere by liberal ideas. Guest Cesar Vargas, an immigration attorney, greeted Carlson with, "Happy Indigenous Peoples Day." Carlson responded, "Don't pollute the show with that nonsense. It's Columbus Day, pal, come on."

    Carlson also made time to read lyrics from John Mayer's song "Your Body Is a Wonderland" and call toxic masculinity "some made-up, dumb feminist term."

    Fox covered the climate report just twice on Monday

    During Fox's "Special Report With Bret Baier" on Monday evening, host Baier spent about 30 seconds during a news rundown giving a straightforward overview of the report.

    "Shepard Smith Reporting" on Monday afternoon spent about two and a half minutes on the report, kicking off with Smith saying, "Climate change is real, the situation is urgent, and time is running out. That's the new warning from a landmark United Nations report." But Smith's summary of the report was followed by Fox correspondent Trace Gallagher using right-wing talking points to argue against taking the dramatic action that scientists say is needed:

    Gallagher: Even outside scientists who acknowledge that something has to be done to prevent the planet from warming say the goal laid out by the United Nations is really unreasonable because it would mean draconian cuts in emissions and dramatic changes in the way that we use energy, meaning extremely high gas prices, a lot more regulations, and putting governments right in the middle of decisions on how people utilize their private property. As you noted, the authors say that these goals really are a long shot. The conservative Cato Institute called some of the conclusions absurd. But former Vice President Al Gore praises the report, says he believes technology is the answer but we need to rely on solutions available today.

    Fox has spent years downplaying and mocking climate change

  • Majority of top U.S. newspapers fail to mention landmark climate change report on their homepages

    After new U.N. IPCC climate report comes out, only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers' homepages made note of it

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A United Nations scientific panel released a major new climate change report on the night of October 7, warning of dire consequences if world governments don’t take unprecedented and dramatic steps in the next decade to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The next morning, the majority of top U.S. newspapers failed to mention the report on their homepages.

    IPCC report warns that fast, sweeping action is necessary to fight climate change

    At 9 p.m. EDT on October 7, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited special report about what will happen if the average global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and what would be required to prevent such a rise. The average temperature has already risen 1 degree C worldwide, and we will see dramatic and deadly impacts if it rises 2 degrees or more, which is now considered extremely likely. The IPCC report was requested by world leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The report emphasizes the need for unprecedented action in the coming years to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and warns of the dire impacts if humanity fails to take that action.

    The majority of top U.S. newspapers neglected to cover the IPCC report on their homepages

    Between 9 a.m. and noon EDT on October 8, Media Matters analyzed the homepages of the top 50 U.S. newspapers as ranked by average Sunday circulation. Twenty-eight of the papers did not mention the report on their homepages at all:

    Of the above newspapers, 10 serve cities that are listed among the "25 U.S. Cities Most Affected by Climate Change" in a 2015 weather.com report: Baltimore, Buffalo, Columbus, Denver, Louisville, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, and St. Paul.

    Other major newspapers in cities heavily affected by climate change also failed to highlight the IPCC report. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, did not note the report on its homepage. Las Vegas is ranked third in the weather.com list. The Miami Herald also did not mention the IPCC report on its homepage, though it did link to an article about how the risk of sea-level rise threatens real estate prices. Miami will be particularly affected by sea-level rise; a study published last year in the journal Nature concluded that rising seas as a result of climate change could cause more than 2.5 million Miami residents to flee the city.

    Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers mentioned the IPCC report on their homepages

    These are the papers that linked from their homepages to articles about the IPCC report:

    A few of the newspapers featured the IPCC report prominently on their homepages, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but most of homepage mentions of the report were just headlines. Here's how the Star Tribune featured the report: 

    Methodology: Media Matters searched for the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” “IPCC,” “report,” and “scientist” on the homepages of the top 50 highest-circulation U.S. newspapers between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST on October 8. The list of newspapers was taken from the recent Pew Research Center report State of the News Media.

  • ABC, CBS, and NBC largely failed to connect climate change to extreme wildfires this summer

    Major broadcast networks mentioned climate change in just 2 percent of wildfire reports, ignoring science that links climate change to more intense fires

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As wildfires raged in the Western U.S. this summer, the major broadcast TV networks largely failed to explain how climate change influences such fires, mentioning climate change in less than 2 percent of their reports on the fires. Media Matters analysis of coverage on the networks’ morning and evening news shows found that ABC made no mention at all of climate change during its 172 segments reporting on wildfires, while CBS brought up climate change in only six of its 183 segments that mentioned wildfires, and NBC discussed climate change in only three of its 116 wildfire segments.

    Major wildfires burn in Western U.S., part of a pattern that scientists attribute to climate change

    Wildfires have ravaged huge swaths of the Western U.S. this year. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fires had burned over 7.7 million acres of land as of September 28 -- nearly 1.8 million acres more than the 10-year year-to-date average from 2008-2017. The most destructive wildfires blazed in California, and they were some of the worst on record. The Ranch Fire, part of the massive Mendocino Complex, in August became the largest single fire in California history, while the Carr Fire was one of the deadliest, killing seven people. Five of the 10 most destructive fires in the state’s history happened in just the last three years. The 2018 wildfire season is still ongoing, with blazes active in 12 states.

    Destructive wildfires have not been limited to the U.S. -- they also burned through parts of Europe this summer. In Greece, nearly 100 people were killed by wildfires outside of Athens. In Sweden, scorching temperatures contributed to over 50 fires, including some inside the Arctic Circle, and forced evacuations. As of late July, the number of European fires in 2018 was up 40 percent on average.

    Numerous scientific studies have found that human-caused climate change has exacerbated both the frequency and duration of wildfires. Other variables affected by climate change, such as extreme heat and drought, are also increasing the risk for longer and more intense wildfires. “To dismiss the role of climate change on these fires is simply incorrect,” Michael F. Wehner, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told The New York Times. And Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, told The Independent in July that the longer fire season in California is related to climate change:

    What we’re seeing over the last few years in terms of the wildfire season in California … [is] very consistent with the historical trends in terms of increasing temperatures, increasing dryness, and increasing wildfire risk. They’re also very consistent with what we can expect in the future as global warming continues.

    California’s recent Climate Change Assessment estimated that the average acreage burned across the state annually will rise by 77 percent by the end of the century. Some firefighters, including the director of California's firefighting department, have also pointed to climate change as a factor making the blazes worse.

    Major broadcast TV networks neglect to connect the dots between wildfires and climate change

    The broadcast networks devoted a lot of coverage to wildfires this summer, but very little of it discussed climate change. A Media Matters analysis of the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening news shows over the summer, from June 21 to September 21, showed that out of 471 segments discussing the wildfires, only nine of them, or 1.9 percent, mentioned climate change.
     


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    ABC completely ignored climate change during its wildfire coverage. ABC aired a total of 172 segments that discussed wildfires on its morning and evening news shows this summer, including 89 news reports or in-depth segments, 57 weather reports, and 26 news headline rundowns -- and not one of them mentioned climate change. That makes ABC the worst-performing network at incorporating climate change into its reporting on the fires, which is in line with the network's recent history. In June, ABC was the only major broadcast network to make no mention of climate change in relation to the deadly heat wave that affected much of the U.S. And in August, ABC was the only major network that did not mention climate change during its coverage of Hurricane Florence, just as it failed to mention climate change during coverage of Hurricane Harvey last year.

    CBS and NBC mentioned climate change in roughly 3 percent of their segments on wildfires. CBS' morning and evening news shows aired a total of 183 segments reporting on wildfires, including 84 news reports or in-depth segments, 14 weather reports, and 85 news headline rundowns. Only six of the 183, or 3.3 percent, mentioned climate change. NBC ran a total of 116 wildfire segments, of which 73 were news reports or in-depth segments, 22 were weather reports, and 21 were news headline rundowns. Only three of the 116, or 2.6 percent, included discussion of climate change.

    Sunday shows on the major broadcast networks made no mention of the wildfires. Thirty-eight combined episodes of ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press aired from June 21 to September 21, and not one of them mentioned the wildfires, let alone the ways that climate change influences such fires. This is sadly consistent with the Sunday shows' lack of coverage of past disasters exacerbated by climate change. Last year, the weekend after Hurricane Maria made landfall and knocked out power to 3.5 million Americans, the five major Sunday political talk shows dedicated less than one minute to coverage of the storm and its effects.

    Networks' climate change mentions in wildfire coverage almost all occurred in August, more than a month after their summer coverage of wildfires began in earnest. CBS aired its first wildfire segment of the summer on June 24, but it didn't mention climate change in such a segment until August 1 -- over one month later. NBC ran its first summer wildfire segment on June 25, but didn't incorporate climate change into any such segments until July 28. By that point, the Carr Fire had already killed five people, and by August 1, 16 of the largest wildfires in California were burning an area larger than Los Angeles.

    CBS' first mentions of climate change in the context of wildfires were brief and not particularly informative. The August 1 episodes of CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News featured Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman saying, “I don't care where you stand on your opinion of global warming. There's something changing, and we're seeing fires that have never happened in this area before.” Mendocino County was the site of the massive Mendocino Complex fire, which was not fully contained until September 18.

    CBS’ next mentions of climate change as it relates to wildfires occured on the August 4 episodes of CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News. Both shows aired segments on a European heat wave that featured Time magazine climate reporter Justin Worland, who said, “Human fingerprints are all over this particular heat wave.” The segments reported that wildfires in Europe were being fueled by hot and dry conditions, blaming the region's “unusually hot air on warming Arctic temperatures due to greenhouse gases.”

    CBS' other mentions of climate change in wildfire segments came during the August 7 episode of CBS This Morning. Reporter John Blackstone noted President Donald Trump’s inaccurate claim that wildfires were worsened by California’s water policy, and contrasted it with the view from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that “the true problem is climate change.” Later on in the episode, anchor Gayle King pointed out that 15 of the 20 largest fires in California have happened since 2000, and noted, "State fire officials say that is a direct result of climate change."

    Two of NBC’s wildfire reports that incorporated climate change featured climate scientist Michael Mann, who was interviewed for segments that aired on August 7 and August 8. On the August 7 episode of NBC Nightly News, Mann said, “You take epic drought, you combine it with high temperatures, you've got all the ingredients for unprecedented wildfires”:

    PBS NewsHour incorporated climate change into 16 percent of its wildfire coverage. Public broadcaster PBS has typically produced more quality coverage of climate change than its corporate counterparts, and its reporting this summer continued that trend. Out of 25 segments about the wildfires that aired on PBS NewsHour on weekdays from June 21 through September 21, four discussed climate change. On the July 27 episode of NewsHour, Columbia University bioclimatologist Park Williams noted that forests are “where we really see a strong link between climate change and increased fire.” On August 7, correspondent Nick Schifrin said, “Hotter weather attributed to climate change drives more severe conditions that authorities say residents cannot ignore.”

    And on August 6, NewsHour devoted almost six and a half minutes to discussing how climate change makes wildfires more extreme, including more than four minutes interviewing Mann on the topic. This was the most in-depth segment on climate change and wildfires on any broadcast network:

    Newspapers did better than corporate broadcasters at connecting wildfires to climate change, but they still fell short, Public Citizen found. A recent report by the nonprofit group Public Citizen analyzed both newspaper and TV coverage of the wildfires during 15 days this summer, from July 23 to August 7. It found that less than 13 percent of wildfire articles in the 50 highest-circulation U.S. newspapers mentioned climate change. The New York Times, The Sacramento Bee, and the Los Angeles Times published the most articles connecting climate change and the wildfires.

    A local TV network showed the right way to weave climate change into wildfire coverage. Sometimes local TV stations -- whose viewers are more likely to be immediately affected by fires -- do a better job of reporting on the climate/wildfire connection than national networks. For example, Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate KTVX aired a segment on its August 9 Good Morning Utah show about how climate change affects the length of wildfire season:

    A recent poll points to the need for more and better media coverage of climate change. A survey conducted by Quinnipiac University in mid-August found that a slim majority of American voters believed climate change was worsening the California wildfires. But that means almost half of voters didn't understand the connection -- including 71 percent of Republicans. The media can help fill that knowledge gap.

    Much has already been said this year about the need for journalists to report on how climate change influences extreme weather events like wildfires. But we also need outlets to discuss responses and solutions to the climate crisis, so that Americans understand the need to mobilize as a society to fight climate change and shift quickly to clean energy.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ Media for broadcast network TV news segments that covered wildfires using the search terms wildfire(s) or fire(s), and then we searched within those segments for mentions of climate change or global warming or greenhouse gas(es). Our analysis covered morning news shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today), nightly news shows (ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News, plus weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour), and Sunday morning shows (ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press) from June 21 through September 21.

    News headline rundowns included mentions of the wildfires within announcements of top stories of the day. Weather reports included mentions of the wildfires within a meteorologist’s report or a general discussion of weather. We did not count teasers or rebroadcasts.

  • The Cruz-O'Rourke debate featured no questions on climate change. Will other debates be better?

    Moderators need to be asking questions about climate change

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke faced off on September 21 in the most high-profile Senate debate yet of the 2018 election season -- and it did not include a single mention of climate change.

    Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, and O'Rourke, the Democratic congressman who's challenging him, have starkly different views on the issue, but voters are not hearing enough about those views. Climate change poses huge threats in Texas, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and coastal flooding. The Houston area is still recovering from last year's record-breaking Hurricane Harvey, which multiple scientific studies found was made worse by climate change. Long known as an oil and gas powerhouse, Texas now has a big stake in the clean energy economy, leading the nation in wind power and coming in fifth in solar power.

    But the debate’s moderators -- NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers -- didn't ask any questions about climate change or related energy issues. That was a squandered opportunity.

    "I’m disappointed,” Texas resident Sarah Beasley told ThinkProgress, explaining that she had wanted to hear from the candidates on global warming. Nearly 4 in 10 registered voters surveyed earlier this year said a candidate's position on global warming would be very important when they decide who to vote for in 2018 congressional elections.

    Unfortunately, the Cruz-O'Rourke debate was not an outlier. Of 12 debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races that Media Matters has analyzed so far this election season, only one included a question about climate change. That's actually worse than what we saw in the 2016 election season, when Media Matters found that less than a quarter of the debates we analyzed in competitive Senate and governor races featured a climate question.

    The Minnesota governor's race provided the sole debate we've analyzed thus far this year that did address climate change. The moderator, Minnesota Public Radio political editor Mike Mulcahy, asked both candidates -- Republican Jeff Johnson and Democrat Tim Walz -- for their views on climate change, asked a follow-up question, and let the candidates respond to each other's answers.

    The resulting exchange, which went on for more than five minutes, was both substantive and informative. Johnson said that "there is quite a disparate opinion on how much" humans contribute to climate change. (If he was talking about the opinion of climate scientists, that's not true.) He also argued that policies to fight climate change could "cost people a lot of money and hurt people" and might not "make any difference."

    In contrast, Walz said, "We can make a difference. We have to make a difference." He pointed out that shifting to clean energy can lead to a stronger economy and job growth. The debate made the candidates' differing views on climate change crystal clear.

    Attention, debate moderators: We need more exchanges like that. Ask candidates to make clear whether they consider climate change to be a serious problem, and what they propose to do about it. Better yet: Ask how they will respond to climate change's local, state, and regional impacts, which differ around the country.

    Dozens more debates will happen over the next six weeks in the lead-up to Election Day, giving the journalists and others who will act as moderators plenty of opportunities to ask candidates about climate change -- arguably the most pressing issue of our time. Media Matters will be updating a scorecard with details about upcoming debates and contact info for moderators, and after debates happen, we'll report on whether moderators brought up climate change.

    Voters deserve to hear candidates publicly state their views, and the rest of the electorate does too. If there's a debate coming up in your state, let the moderators know that you expect climate change to be on the agenda. In Texas, there are two more chances to get it right: Cruz and O'Rourke will meet again at debates on September 30 and October 16. Houston's ABC13 is asking citizens to submit questions for the next debate. Have any suggestions?

  • Scorecard: Only 23 of 78 key Senate and gubernatorial debates featured a question about climate change

    Moderators and panelists asked candidates about the climate crisis in only 29 percent of debates Media Matters analyzed

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This page was updated on November 6, 2018, after the completion of all debates.

    Out of 78 key Senate and gubernatorial debates this year, only 23 featured a question about climate change, or 29 percent. Media Matters analyzed debates in close Senate and gubernatorial races to determine whether a moderator or panelist asked the candidates a climate question.

    This year's percentage was a modest improvement over 2016, when only 22 percent of key debates we analyzed included a moderator's or panelist's question about climate change.

    The percentage of debates this year that included a climate question went up dramatically after October 7, when the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire report explaining the extreme urgency of fighting climate change. In debates before the report came out, only 7 percent included a climate question. In debates after the report was released, 43 percent included at least one question about climate change from a moderator or panelist. For more analysis, see this post.

    For debates that featured a climate question, we have included video clips of the questions and answers below (and in some cases, links to transcripts). For all debates, we have listed the moderators, panelists, and sponsoring organizations, and posted links to full debate video or audio.

    We focused on competitive races -- those ranked by the Cook Political Report as being a "toss-up" or "lean R" or "lean D" as of September 19. Here are the races in which we tracked debates:

    Alaska governor Kansas governor North Dakota senator
    Arizona senator Maine governor Ohio governor
    Colorado governor Michigan governor Ohio senator
    Connecticut governor Minnesota governor Oregon governor
    Florida governor Minnesota senator Rhode Island governor
    Florida senator Missouri senator Tennessee senator
    Georgia governor Nevada governor Texas senator
    Illinois governor Nevada senator West Virginia senator
    Indiana senator New Mexico governor Wisconsin governor
    Iowa governor

     

    Alaska

    Climate threats: Alaska is at risk from extreme heat, coastal flooding, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Bill Walker (independent) -- incumbent -- (withdrew from race on October 19)
    Mike Dunleavy (R)
    Mark Begich (D)
    Billy Toien (Libertarian)

    debates:

    Date: September 5
    Hosted by: Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce, KINY-AM
    Moderator: Pete Carran (KINY-AM host)
    Audio: KINY-AMY
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: September 10
    Hosted by: Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
    Moderator: Tim Thompson (Alaska Airlines spokesman)
    Video and partial transcript: Anchorage Daily News
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 2
    Hosted by: Alaska Airmen Association
    Moderators: Corey Hester (Alaska Airmen Association executive director), Adam White (Alaska Airmen Association government and legislative affairs director)
    Video: Anchorage Daily News
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 15
    Hosted by: Union of Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage Daily News, University of Alaska Anchorage Economics Club, Atwood Foundation, Seawolf Debate Program
    Moderator: Steve Johnson (Seawolf Debate Program director)
    VideoAnchorage Daily News' Facebook page
    Climate questions: There were no climate-related questions asked during the debate.

    Date: October 25
    Hosted: Alaska Public Media, KTUU
    Moderated by: Lori Townsend (Alaska Public Radio Network news director), Mike Ross (KTUU anchor)
    Panelists: Andrew Kitchenman (KTOO reporter), Richard Mauer (KTUU reporter)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Ross noted that climate change is driving Arctic warming before asking the candidates how they would balance Alaska's reliance on fossil fuels with the need to reduce carbon emissions. Panelist Mauer followed up by pressing the candidates further on how they would address climate change. Watch the video:

    Arizona

    Climate threats: Arizona is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Martha McSally (R)
    Kyrsten Sinema (D)

    debate:

    Date: October 15
    Hosted byThe Arizona Republic and Arizona PBS
    Moderators: Maria Polletta (Arizona Republic reporter), Ted Simons (Arizona PBS host)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Polletta asked McSally and Sinema whether they believe climate change is a human-caused problem and how they plan to combat it. See the transcript and video:

    Colorado

    Climate threats: Colorado is at risk from drought and wildfires, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Walker Stapleton (R)
    Jared Polis (D)

    debates:

    Date: October 5
    Hosted by: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Business Journal
    Moderator : Ed Sealover (Denver Business Journal reporter)
    Video9NEWS.com
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 5
    Hosted by: Colorado Public Television, CBS Denver, KOA Newsradio, The Colorado Sun
    Moderator: Shaun Boyd (CBS Denver political specialist)
    Panelists: Dominic Dezzutti (Colorado Public Television vice president of content), Marty Lenz (KOA Newsradio host), John Frank (The Colorado Sun reporter)
    VideoCBS Denver’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 6
    Hosted by: Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Mesa University, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
    Moderator: John Ferrugia (Rocky Mountain PBS managing editor)
    Panelists: Charles Ashby (Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reporter), Dennis Herzog (Colorado Mesa University adjunct lecturer)
    VideoRocky Mountain PBS’ YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 8
    Hosted byThe Pueblo Chieftain, 2020 Commission's Governance Task Force, Pueblo Community College's Center for New Media, Colorado State University-Pueblo
    Moderator: Steve Henson (The Pueblo Chieftain editor)
    VideoFOX21News.com
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 13
    Hosted by: KOAA-TV, The Gazette
    Moderator: Rob Quirk (KOAA-TV anchor)
    Panelists: Joey Bunch (Gazette political reporter), Elizabeth Watts (KOAA-TV anchor)
    VideoKOAA’S YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 17
    Hosted by: The Coloradoan, KUSA-TV, Colorado State University
    Moderators: Kyle Clark (KUSA anchor), Marshall Zelinger (KUSA political investigative reporter)
    Video: KUSA’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: Moderator Clark noted the recent United Nations report on climate change, then asked Stapleton about Colorado’s decision to adopt California’s auto emissions standards and asked Polis about his support for a carbon tax. Watch the video:

    Date: October 23
    Hosted by: The Denver Post, ABC 7, University of Denver’s Center on American Politics
    Moderators: Anne Trujillo (ABC 7 anchor), Nic Garcia (The Denver Post political reporter)
    VideoTheDenverChannel.com
    Climate questions: Moderator Garcia asked the candidates about their plans to address climate change during their first year as governor, noting that climate was "the No. 1 topic" the public wanted to hear about. Moderator Trujillo followed up with a second question about climate change for Stapleton. See the transcript and video:

    Connecticut

    Climate threats: Connecticut is at risk from inland flooding and coastal flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Bob Stefanowski (R)
    Ned Lamont (D)
    Oz Griebel (independent)

    debates:

    Date: September 12
    Hosted by: Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, The Day
    Moderator: Ann Nyberg (WTNH-TV anchor/reporter)
    Panelists: Paul Choiniere (The Day editorial page editor), Izaskun E. Larrañeta (The Day deputy managing editor), Mark Davis (WTNH-TV chief political correspondent)
    VideoYouTube
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: September 17
    Hosted by: Connecticut Association of Realtors, WTNH-TV
    Moderator: Michael Barbaro (Connecticut Association of Realtors president)
    Panelists: Mark Davis (WTNH-TV chief political correspondent), Kristi Olds (CTR.tv spokesperson), Russell Blair (The Hartford Courant content editor)
    VideoWTNH-TV YouTube page
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: September 26
    Hosted by: WFSB-TV
    Moderator: Dennis House (WFSB anchor)
    Panelists: Emilie Munson (Hearst Media capital reporter), Chris Hanna (Daily Campus editor-in-chief)     
    Video: WFSB.com    
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 18
    Hosted by: Connecticut Broadcasters Association
    Moderator: John Dankosky (WNPR news director)
    Panelists: Jennifer Bernstein (WTIC anchor), Keisha Grant (NBC Connecticut anchor), Dennis House (WFSB anchor), Keith Kountz (WTNH anchor)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Dankosky referenced the United Nations’ recent report on climate change and noted that 60 percent of Connecticut residents want the governor to act on climate change, then asked the candidates what they would do about the problem. Watch the video:

    Date: October 30
    Hosted by: Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, WTNH-TV, The Hartford Courant
    Moderator: Ann Nyberg (WTNH-TV anchor)
    Panelists: Keith Kountz (WTNH-TV anchor), Daniela Altimari (The Hartford Courant correspondent), Joe DeLong (Connecticut Conference of Municipalities executive director)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: November 5
    Hosted by: WPLR
    Moderators: Chaz & AJ (WPLR hosts)
    VideoWSFB.com
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Florida

    Climate threats: Florida is at risk from extreme heat, inland flooding, and coastal flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Ron DeSantis (R)
    Andrew Gillum (D)

    debates:

    Date: October 21
    Hosted by: CNN
    Moderator: Jake Tapper (CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent)
    Video: CNN
    Climate questions: Moderator Tapper asked about climate change in his first question of the debate. See the transcript and video:

    Date: October 24
    Hosted by: Leadership Florida, Florida Press Association, Broward College
    Moderator: Todd McDermott (WPBF 25 News anchor)
    Panelists: Isadora Rangel (public affairs and engagement editor at Florida Today), Anthony Man (political writer at the Sun-Sentinel)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Senate candidates:

    Rick Scott (R)
    Bill Nelson (D) -- incumbent

    debate:

    Date: October 2
    Hosted by: Telemundo
    Moderators: Marilys Llanos (WSCV-TV reporter and presenter), Jackie Nespral (WTVJ-TV anchor)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions

    Georgia

    Climate threats: Georgia is at risk from extreme heat, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Brian Kemp (R)
    Stacey Abrams (D)
    Ted Metz (Libertarian)

    debate:

    Date: October 23
    Hosted by: Atlanta Press Club
    Moderator: Lisa Rayam (Georgia Public Broadcasting capital correspondent)
    Panelists: Greg Bluestein (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter), Elwyn Lopez (WXIA reporter), Frank Malloy (WMAZ anchor)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Illinois

    Climate threats: Illinois is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Bruce Rauner (R) -- incumbent
    J.B. Pritzker (D)
    Kash Jackson (Libertarian)
    Sam McCann (Conservative)

    debates:

    Date: September 20
    Hosted by: NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV), Telemundo Chicago, Union League Club of Chicago, Chicago Urban League
    Moderator: Carol Marin (WMAQ-TV political editor)
    Video: YouTube
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 3
    Hosted by: WLS-TV, Univision, League of Women Voters of Illinois Education
    Moderator: Alan Krashesky (WLS-TV anchor/reporter)
    Panelists: Craig Wall (WLS-TV political reporter), Erika Maldonado (Univision Chicago anchor)
    Video: ABC 7’s YouTube channel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 11
    Hosted by: WGEM, Illinois Broadcasters Association
    Moderator: Gene Kennedy (WGEM evening anchor/producer)
    Panelists: Natalie Will (WGEM anchor), Bobby Oler (HOI News), Caitlin Knute (WEEK-TV anchor), James Stratton (WREX anchor), Doug Wilson (Herald-Whig senior writer)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderators and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Indiana

    Climate threats: Indiana is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Mike Braun (R)
    Joe Donnelly (D) -- incumbent
    Lucy Brenton (Libertarian)

    debates:

    Date: October 8
    Hosted by: Indiana Debate Commission
    Moderator: Anne Ryder (Indiana University Media School senior lecturer)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Ryder asked Braun, Donnelly, and Brenton what the U.S. government should do to address climate change. See the transcript and video:

    Date: October 30
    Hosted by: Indiana Debate Commission
    Moderator: Amna Nawaz (PBS NewsHour anchor)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Nawaz told the candidates that several voters were not satisfied with answers they gave about climate change during a previous debate. She then read a viewer question asking the candidates to detail what they would do specifically to combat climate change. Watch the video:

    Iowa

    Climate threats: Iowa is at risk from drought, inland flooding, and extreme heat, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Kim Reynolds (R) -- incumbent
    Fred Hubbell (D)

    Debates:

    Date: October 10
    Hosted by: The Des Moines Register, KCCI-TV
    Moderators: Steve Karlin (KCCI anchor), Kathie Obradovich (The Des Moines Register)
    VideoKCCI’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 17
    Hosted by: KTIV-TV, KTTC-TV, KWWL-TV
    Moderator: Matt Breen (KTIV anchor)
    Panelists: Tom Overlie (KTTC anchor), Ron Steele (KWWL anchor)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderators and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 21
    Hosted by: KCRG-TV, KWQC-TV, The Quad-City Times
    Moderator: David Nelson (KWQC anchor)
    Panelists: Jenna Jackson (KWQC anchor/reporter), Forrest Saunders (KCRG anchor/reporter), Erin Murphy (Lee Enterprise Des Moines bureau chief)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Jackson referenced the recent United Nations report on climate change before asking the candidates if they accepted the science of climate change and the impact it will have globally. Watch the video:

    Kansas

    Climate threats: Kansas is at risk from extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Kris Kobach (R)
    Laura Kelly (D)
    Greg Orman (independent)

    debates:

    Date: September 5
    Hosted by: Johnson County Bar Association
    Moderator: Nick Haines (KCPT-TV news host/executive producer)
    Video: KCPT-TV YouTube page
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: September 8
    Hosted by: Kansas State Fair, WIBW
    Moderator: Greg Akagi (WIBW farm and sports broadcaster)
    VideoWIBW’S Facebook page
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 16
    Hosted by: KOFO        
    AudioKOFO’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 25
    Hosted by: Southwest Kansas Chamber of Commerce
    Moderator: Marieta Hauser (Grant County Chamber of Commerce director)
    AudioKSCB News.net
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 30
    Hosted by: Nexstar Broadcasting Group
    Moderator: Jeff Herndon (KSN anchor) 
    Panelists: Jessica Schaer (KSN anchor), Bob Beatty (KSNT political analyst)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.
     

    Maine

    Climate threats: Maine is at risk from extreme heat, drought, coastal flooding, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Shawn Moody (R)
    Janet Mills (D)
    Terry Hayes (independent)
    Alan Caron (independent) (withdrew from race on October 29)

    debates:

    Date: September 10
    Hosted by: Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
    Moderator: Beckie Conrad (Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president)
    VideoLewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Facebook page
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: September 13
    Hosted by: Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech)
    Moderator: Carol Coultas (Portland Press Herald business editor)
    VideoGoogle Drive
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions, despite the fact that the debate was focused on the topics of energy and the environment. But the candidates did address climate change in their answers to some questions.  

    Date: October 3
    Hosted by: Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
    Moderator: Quincy Hentzel (Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, CEO)
    VideoPortland Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 10
    Hosted by: Portland Press Herald, University of New England
    Moderator: Carol Coultas (Portland Press Herald business editor)
    Panelists: Bill Nemitz (Portland Press Herald columnist), Greg Kesich (Portland Press Herald editorial page editor)
    Video: Portland Press Herald’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: Panelist Nemitz and moderator Coultas asked questions that spurred a discussion about climate change and renewable energy. See the transcript and video:

    Date: October 25
    Hosted by: WMTW Channel 8
    Moderator: Meghan Torjussen (WMTW anchor)
    Panelists: Paul Merrill (WMTW political reporter), John Small (WABI assistant news director), Katie Zarrilli (WAGM reporter)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Panelist Small asked the candidates to discuss their plans to address the impacts of climate change and transition Maine to renewable energy. Watch the video:

    Date: October 28
    Hosted by: Maine Public
    Moderator: Jennifer Rooks (Maine Public public affairs host/producer)
    Panelists: Steve Mistler (Main Public chief political correspondent), Mal Leary (Maine Public political correspondent) 
    VideoMaine Public.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: November 1
    Hosted by: WGME
    Moderator: Gregg Lagerquist (WGME anchor)
    Panelist: Mike Shepherd (The Bangor Daily News reporter)
    VideoThe Bangor Daily News’ Facebook page
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelist did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Michigan

    Climate threats: Michigan is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Bill Schuette (R)
    Gretchen Whitmer (D)

    debates:

    Date: October 12
    Hosted by: WOOD-TV
    Moderator: Rick Albin (WOOD-TV political reporter)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 24
    Hosted by: WDIV-TV
    Moderators: Kimberly Gill (WDIV-TV anchor), Devin Scillian (WDIV-TV anchor) 
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Scillian referenced the United Nations report on climate change, then asked the candidates if they agreed with the 14 governors who pledged to abide by the terms of the Paris agreement and what their approaches would be to combating climate change. Watch the video:

    Minnesota

    Climate threats: Minnesota is at risk from drought and extreme heat, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Jeff Johnson (R)
    Tim Walz (D)

    debates:

    Date: August 17
    Hosted by: Twin Cities PBS
    Moderators: Cathy Wurzer (Almanac host), Eric Eskola (Almanac host)
    VideoTwin Cities PBS.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Wurzer asked Johnson and Walz how they would enable cities to respond and adapt to climate change. See the transcript and video:

    Date: August 31
    Hosted by: Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)
    Moderator: Mike Mulcahy (MPR political editor)
    VideoMPR News Facebook page
    Climate questions: Moderator Mulcahy asked both Johnson and Walz about their positions on climate change. See the transcript and video:

    Date: September 19
    Hosted by: TwinWest Chamber of Commerce
    Moderator: Nick Halter (Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal senior reporter/broadcaster)
    VideoYouTube
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 9
    Hosted by: Minnesota Corn Growers Association, WCCO Minnesota AgriGrowth
    Moderators: Chad Hartman (WCCO host), Blois Olson (WCCO political analyst)
    AudioWBRN Radio’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 21
    Hosted by: Metropolitan State University
    Moderators: Paul Folger (KSTP anchor), Leah McLean (KSTP anchor/reporter)
    VideoWDIO’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: November 2
    Hosted by: Twin Cities PBS
    Moderators: Cathy Wurzer (Almanac host), Eric Eskola (Almanac host)
    VideoTwin Cities PBS.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Wurzer asked the candidates if they would increase renewable energy standards and encourage new technologies or let the free market decide the best way to meet state goals for greenhouse gas reduction. Watch the video:    

    Missouri

    Climate threats: Missouri is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Josh Hawley (R)
    Claire McCaskill (D) -- incumbent
    Jo Crain (Green)
    Craig O’Dear (independent)

    debateS:

    Date: September 14
    Hosted by: Missouri Press Association
    Moderator: David Lieb (Associated Press correspondent)
    VideoHawley’s Facebook page
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 18
    Hosted by: St. Louis Public Radio, KSDK-TV's 5 On Your Side, Nine Network of Public Media
    Moderator: Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour managing editor) 
    Panelists: Jo Mannies (St. Louis Public Radio reporter), Mike Bush (5 On Your Side anchor)
    VideoPBS NewsHour’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions, although an audience member did.

    Date: October 25
    Hosted by: KMBC  
    Moderators: Kris Ketz (KMBC anchor), Micheal Mahoney (KMBC correspondent)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask a climate-related question.

    Nevada

    Climate threats: Nevada is at risk from drought, extreme heat, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Adam Laxalt (R)
    Steve Sisolak (D)

    No debates were held.

    Senate candidates:

    Dean Heller (R)
    Jacky Rosen (D)

    debate:

    Date: October 19
    Hosted by: Telemundo, News 4 (KRNV-DT), News 3 (KSNV-TV)
    Moderator: Denise Valez (KLAS anchor)
    Panelists: Steve Sebelius (KLAS anchor), Tsi-Tsi-Ki Félix (KINC anchor)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Panelist Sebelius noted the United Nations’ recent report on climate change and listed some of the dangers of climate change like droughts, extreme heat, and poverty, then asked the candidates what policies they would support to address climate change. Watch the video:

    New Mexico

    Climate threats: New Mexico is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Steve Pearce (R)
    Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)

    debates:

    Date: September 19
    Hosted by: KRQE-TV
    Moderator: Dean Staley (KRQE-TV anchor)
    VideoNews 13 (KRQE-TV) YouTube page
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 16
    Hosted by: KOB Channel 4
    Moderators: Tessa Mentus (KOB anchor), Steve Soliz (KOB anchor)
    Video: KOB.com
    Climate questions: There were no climate-related questions asked during the debate.

    Date: October 24
    Hosted by: KOAT-TV, Albuquerque Journal
    Moderator: Doug Fernandez (KOAT anchor)
    Panelists: Shelly Ribando (KOAT anchor), Kent Walz (Albuquerque Journal senior editor)
    VideoKOAT.com
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    North Dakota

    Climate threats: North Dakota is at risk from extreme heat and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Kevin Cramer (R)
    Heidi Heitkamp (D) -- incumbent

    debates:

    Date: October 18
    Hosted by: North Dakota Newspaper Association
    Moderator: Korrie Wenzel (Grand Forks Herald publisher)
    Panelists: Steve Wagner (Grand Forks Herald editor), Cecile Wehrman (Journal Publishing president), Owen Piehl (The MHS Courier editor)
    VideoGrand Forks Herald.com
    Climate questions: Panelist Wagner asked the candidates what the United States should do to address global climate change given that North Dakota’s economy relies on oil and coal development. Watch the video:

    Ohio

    Climate threats: Ohio is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Mike DeWine (R)
    Richard Cordray (D)

    debates:

    Date: September 19
    Hosted by: University of Dayton, Cox Media Group Ohio
    Moderator: James Brown (WHIO-TV news anchor)
    Panelists: Jim Otte (WHIO-TV investigative reporter), Laura Bischoff (Dayton Daily News reporter), Christopher Devine (University of Dayton assistant professor of political science)
    VideoCBS News YouTube page 
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 1
    Hosted by: Marietta College
    Moderator: Colleen Marshall (NBC 4 anchor)
    Video: NBC 4’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: There were no climate-related questions asked during the townhall.

    Date: October 8
    Hosted by: Cleveland State University, Ohio Debate Commission
    Moderator: Karen Kasler (Ohio Public Radio and Television statehouse bureau chief)
    Panelists: Jackie Borchardt (Cincinnati Enquirer Columbus bureau chief), Jerry Revish (WBNS-TV anchor)
    VideoWLWT’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Senate candidates:

    Jim Renacci (R)
    Sherrod Brown (D) -- incumbent

    debates:

    Date: October 14
    Hosted by: Ohio Debate Commission
    Moderators: Ann Fisher (WOSU Public Media host), Russ Mitchell (WKYC-TV anchor)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Fisher asked Renacci and Brown for their reactions to the recent United Nations report on climate change. See the video and transcript here:

    Date: October 20
    Hosted by: WCMH, WOSU
    Moderator: Colleen Marshall (WCMH anchor)
    Panelists: Mark Allan (WDTN anchor), Mike Jackson (WCMH anchor), Mike Thompson (WOSU director)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Panelist Jackson referenced the United Nations' recent climate report before asking Renacci if he agreed with President Trump's climate denial. Watch the video:

    Date: October 26
    Hosted by: WLWT
    Moderator: Sheree Paolello (WLWT anchor)
    Panelists: Ashley Kirkien (WLWT anchor/reporter), Curtis Fuller (WLWT anchor/reporter), Dr. John Forren (Miami University (Ohio) associate professor)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.
     

    Oregon

    Climate threats: Oregon is at risk from drought, wildfires, extreme heat, coastal flooding, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Knute Buehler (R)
    Kate Brown (D) -- incumbent
    Patrick Starnes (Independent Party of Oregon)

    debates:

    Date: October 2
    Hosted by: Children First for Oregon, KOIN-TV, Pamplin Media Group
    Moderators: Jeff Gianola (KOIN-TV anchor), Shasta Kearns Moore (Portland Tribune education reporter) 
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: There were no climate-related questions asked during the debate.

    Date: October 4
    Hosted by: KOBI-TV
    Moderator: Craig Smullin (KOBI/KOTI news director)
    Panelists: Kristin Hosfelt (KOBI/KOTI executive producer and anchor), Patricia Smullin (KOBI/KOTI president)
    Video: KOBI-TV’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 9
    Hosted by: KGW-TV, The Oregonian
    Moderator: Tracy Barry (KGW anchor)
    Panelists: Steve Duin (Oregonian columnist), Hillary Borrud (Oregonian reporter), Laural Porter (KGW anchor)
    Video: KGW’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: Panelist Duin asked both Buehler and Brown about leadership in addressing climate change, and a voter asked a question about clean energy. See the transcript and video:

    Rhode Island

    Climate threats: Rhode Island is at risk from extreme heat, coastal flooding, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Allan Fung (R)
    Gina Raimondo (D) -- incumbent
    Joe Trillo (independent)

    debates:

    Date: September 27
    Hosted by: Roger Williams University
    Moderator: Danielle North (WPRI-TV anchor) 
    Panelists: Tim White (WPRI-TV investigative reporter), Ted Nesi (WPRI-TV political/economic reporter) 
    VideoWPRI-12’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 15
    Hosted byThe Providence Journal, The Public's Radio, University of Rhode Island
    Moderator: Ian Donnis (The Public’s Radio political reporter)
    Panelists: Patrick Anderson (The Providence Journal reporter), Lianna Blakeman (The Good Five editor-in-chief)
    VideoThe Providence Journal’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: Moderator Blakeman, a student journalist, mentioned the recent United Nations' report on climate change and asked the candidates how they would protect the state's coastline. Watch the video:

    Date: November 1
    Hosted by: WJAR, American Democracy Project
    Moderator: Gene Valicenti (WJAR anchor)
    VideoWPRI.com
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.
     

    Tennessee

    Climate threats: Tennessee is at risk from extreme heat, drought, inland flooding, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Marsha Blackburn (R)
    Phil Bredesen (D)

    Debates:

    Date: September 25
    Hosted by: The Tennessean, League of Women Voters of Tennessee, WTVF-TV, WNPT-TV
    Moderators: Rhori Johnston (WTVF-TV anchor), David Plazas (The Tennessean opinion engagement editor)
    Video: The Tennessean’s YouTube page
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 10
    Hosted by: Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, Nextar Media Group
    Moderator: Katina Rankin (WATN anchor)
    Panelists: Richard Ransom (WATN anchor), Kristin Farley (WATE anchor), Bob Mueller (WKRN anchor)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Texas

    Climate threats: Texas is at risk from extreme heat, drought, coastal flooding, and wildfires, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Ted Cruz (R) -- incumbent
    Beto O’Rourke (D)

    debates:

    Date: September 21
    Hosted by: Southern Methodist University, The Dallas Morning News, KXAS-TV
    Moderators: Julie Fine (KXAS-TV political reporter), Gromer Jeffers (The Dallas Morning News political writer)
    Video: NBC News YouTube page
    Climate questions: The moderators did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 16
    Hosted by: KENS Channel 5
    Moderators: Sarah Forgany (KENS 5 news anchor), Jason Whitely (WFAA senior reporter)
    Video: C-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: Moderator Whitely asked Cruz about his history of climate change denial. See the transcript and video:

    West Virginia

    Climate threats: West Virginia is at risk from extreme heat and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Senate candidates:

    Patrick Morrisey (R)   
    Joe Manchin (D) -- incumbent

    Debate:

    Date: November 1
    Hosted by: West Virginia Broadcasters Association
    Moderator: Hoppy Kercheval (MetroNews host)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Wisconsin

    Climate threats: Wisconsin is at risk from extreme heat, drought, and inland flooding, among other threats.

    Governor candidates:

    Scott Walker (R) -- incumbent
    Tony Evers (D)

    debates:

    Date: October 19
    Hosted by: Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
    Moderator: Jill Geisler (journalist)
    Panelists: Leigh Mills (WMTV anchor), Jessica Arp (WISC reporter), Emilee Fannon (WKOW reporter), Lupita Montoto (La Movida Radio host)
    VideoC-SPAN.org
    Climate questions: The moderator and panelists did not ask any climate-related questions.

    Date: October 26
    Hosted by: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    Moderators: Charles Benson (WTMJ-TV anchor), Shannon Sims (WTMJ-TV anchor), Mitch Teich (WUWM-FM host)
    VideoWisconsinEye’s YouTube channel
    Climate questions: Moderator Sims asked a reader question submitted via Twitter that noted extreme weather in Wisconsin and inquired how the candidates would mitigate the effects of climate change. Watch the video:

  • National TV news is still failing to properly incorporate climate change into hurricane coverage

    ABC did not mention climate at all during Florence, while CBS, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC did worse than last year during Harvey

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A Media Matters analysis of Hurricane Florence broadcast news coverage from September 7-19 found that ABC failed to air a single segment that mentioned the links between climate change and hurricanes like Florence, while NBC aired one segment and CBS aired two. PBS NewsHour also aired two. A review of weekday, prime-time coverage of Florence on the three major cable news networks found that MSNBC ran four segments that mentioned climate change in the context of hurricanes, and CNN ran two. Fox aired six segments, but these either downplayed or outright dismissed the link between climate change and hurricanes. Overall, coverage was down from a year ago: The majority of the networks mentioned the connections between hurricanes and climate change in fewer segments than they did while covering Hurricane Harvey last year.

    Florence brought historic levels of rainfall and destruction to the Carolinas. Scientists say that climate change worsened these effects.

    After making landfall over North Carolina on September 14, Hurricane Florence dumped record amounts of rainfall over the region. Swansboro, N.C., had over 30 inches of rain, which broke the previous record of 24 inches set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. South Carolina’s record for most rain in a single spot was also broken, as over 18 inches of rain fell in Marion. Additionally, Florence brought tides to record levels. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the tide gauge at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., surged to more than four feet above normal, breaking the previous record by over a foot.

    At least 44 deaths have been attributed to Florence. The storm unleashed significant flooding that has affected thousands of people, with several river gauges either near or above record levels. Florence has created a massive environmental crisis as well -- hog waste and coal ash have leaked into flood waters, and Duke Energy now fears that coal ash may be leaking into the Cape Fear River, which is the source of drinking water for more than 60,000 people. And as with most hurricanes, lower-income and minority communities are suffering the brunt of its destruction.

    Scientists say that climate change is exacerbating some of the worst effects of hurricanes like Florence. Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Rutgers Climate Institute told Bloomberg:

    Warming oceans, a more rapidly warming arctic, melting ice sheets are all contributing in various way to conditions like what we’re observing now. ... It’s favoring slow moving weather patterns, more intense tropical storms and heavier downpours. And they’re all more likely as we continue to warm the Earth.

    Regarding heavier downpours, there is a growing body of work linking wetter storms to climate change. NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory notes, “Tropical cyclone rainfall rates will likely increase in the future due to anthropogenic warming and accompanying increase in atmospheric moisture content.” In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall, two studies concluded that climate change increased the amount of rainfall that Harvey dumped by estimates of 15 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Before Florence made landfall, a first of its kind pre-attribution study estimated that the storm's “rainfall will be significantly increased by over 50% in the heaviest precipitating parts of the storm.”

    Florence’s record storm surge was also likely worsened by climate change. According to atmospheric scientist Marshall Shepard:

    We do have higher sea level because of climate change. So whenever we have these types of storms, you’re probably dealing with a more significant storm surge because of that than you would perhaps 100 years ago.

    Broadcast networks: ABC completely dropped the ball in explaining how climate change affects hurricanes, while CBS and NBC did a little better

    Media Matters analyzed the morning, nightly, and Sunday news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from September 7-19.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CBS and PBS each aired fewer segments on the links between climate change and hurricanes than they did last year during coverage of Harvey. In 2017, as Hurricane Harvey menaced parts of Texas, Media Matters tracked the number of TV news segments about the hurricane that mentioned climate change. Harvey, like Florence, was the first major hurricane of the year to make landfall in the continental U.S. In comparing last year's Harvey coverage to this year's Florence coverage, we found that networks overall did a worse job of drawing links between climate change and hurricanes this year.

    During its Harvey coverage, CBS aired three segments discussing the ways that climate change influences hurricanes, but it aired just two such segments during Hurricane Florence coverage. NBC was the only network that improved its coverage: Last year, it aired zero segments mentioning the climate-hurricane connection in the context of Harvey while this year it aired one during its Florence coverage. ABC failed to air any segments mentioning climate change during coverage of either Harvey or Florence. We also analyzed weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour and found that its coverage had declined: Last year, the show aired three segments about Harvey that discussed climate change. This year, it aired only two such segments about Florence. 

    ABC was the only network that did not mention climate change in its coverage of Florence at all. ABC's failure on this score was not surprising, as the network has a history of neglecting climate change. Earlier this year, it was the only major broadcast network to make no mention of climate change in relation to the deadly heat wave that affected much of the U.S., and it spent less time last year reporting on climate change on its nightly and Sunday shows than did CBS and NBC.

    CBS aired just two segments that addressed the effects of climate change on hurricanes. Both of the segments, which ran during the September 15 episode of CBS This Morning, included strong analysis. The first mentioned Hurricane Florence in the broader context of the Global Climate Action Summit, which took place in San Francisco from September 12-14. CBS correspondent John Blackstone noted, “For activists here, Hurricane Florence provided an example of the kind of extreme weather scientists have predicted would come more often in a warming world.” The second segment immediately followed the first, and featured meteorologist Jeff Berardelli discussing how climate change can influence hurricanes:

    NBC aired just one segment that reported on the links between climate change and hurricanes. In a good segment on the September 15 episode of Today, NBC correspondent Harry Smith spoke with Adam Sobel, an atmospheric science professor at Columbia University, and Rob Freudenberg, an environmental planning expert, about how climate change affects hurricanes. Sobel said, “What we know certainly about climate change and hurricanes is that because of higher sea-level rise, the risk from storm-surge flooding is going up. And we know with a high degree of confidence that rainfall from these storms is also increasing.”

    PBS NewsHour aired only two segments that connected climate change to hurricanes. Both segments featured strong analysis from climate scientists. On the September 14 episode of PBS NewsHour, Columbia University climate scientist Radley Horton discussed how there is a “very clear link” between climate change and hurricanes. On the September 19 episode of PBS NewsHour, science correspondent Miles O’Brien looked at the science behind hurricanes, and featured several climate scientists. One of them was the University of Wisconsin’s James Kossin, who recently published a study about how tropical cyclones are slowing down due to anthropogenic warming.

    Prime-time cable: CNN and MSNBC mentioned climate change less often during Florence coverage than they did last year during Harvey

    We also analyzed prime-time, weekday shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News from September 7-19. CNN and MSNBC both aired fewer segments that discussed climate change in the context of hurricanes than they did during Hurricane Harvey. Fox aired the same number as last year, but its coverage was even more dismissive of climate science now than it was in 2017.

    CNN aired two segments that discussed the links between climate change and hurricanes, down from five such segments that ran during Harvey coverage. Both of the climate mentions occured on September 11, when CNN commentators only briefly raised the topic during broader discussions. CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein mentioned on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer that hurricanes are influenced by the changing climate, while CNN Political Commentator Van Jones made a similar point on Cuomo Prime Time.

    MSNBC aired four segments that discussed the links between climate change and hurricanes, down from five that ran during Harvey coverage. The September 13 episode of All In With Chris Hayes featured a substantive and informative segment with meteorologist Eric Holthaus -- the best of the prime-time cable segments we analyzed. Holthaus began the discussion by stating, “Florence is a huge hurricane. I mean, this is one of the largest hurricanes that we've ever seen in the Atlantic. And you can't really talk about this without talking about climate change.” He explained that intense rain and storm surge fueled by climate change were major components of the storm. The other MSNBC mentions of climate change occurred in the context of broader discussions: one more on the September 13 All In episode; one on the September 13 episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews; and one on the September 11 episode of The Beat with Ari Melber.

    Fox News aired six segments that mentioned climate change in its Florence coverage, but all of them were dismissive of the issue. That's slightly worse than last year during Harvey, when Fox also aired six such segments, only five of which were dismissive of the links between climate change and hurricanes.

    Of Fox’s six segments that mentioned climate change this year, two featured well-known climate deniers who disputed any connections between climate change and hurricanes: The September 13 episode of Hannity included commentary from meteorologist Joe Bastardi, and the September 14 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight featured meteorologist Roy Spencer. In the other four Fox segments, hosts took aim at a Washington Post editorial that called President Trump complicit in extreme weather because his administration has been rolling back climate protections. Three of these attacks came from Sean Hannity -- on September 12, 13, and 14 -- and the fourth from Greg Gutfeld on September 12.

    Methodology

    Media Matters ran the search terms "(Hurricane! OR Florence) AND (climate OR warming OR emission! OR carbon OR CO2 OR greenhouse gas!)" in Nexis to identify segments between September 7 and September 19 that mentioned both the hurricane and climate change. On the broadcast networks, we examined the morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as weekday episodes of PBS NewsHour. For CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, we examined the networks’ prime-time shows that air on weekdays from 5-11 p.m.

  • USA Today publishes still more climate misinformation, denying a link between climate change and hurricanes

    The paper ran two pieces by climate deniers in two days, despite a previous pledge not to publish climate denial

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    On September 13, USA Today's editorial page published a piece that denied the settled science of climate change, despite the page's editor pledging earlier this year, "We won’t run pieces that deny the reality of human-induced climate change."

    On September 14, the paper doubled down, running a longer op-ed by another climate denier, Roy Spencer, who argued, "If humans have any influence on hurricanes at all, it probably won’t be evident for many decades to come."

    Spencer's piece was chock-full of misinformation. As numerous climate scientists have explained this week, climate change is increasing the destructive power of hurricanes.

    Climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, told Media Matters, "There is not a single sentence in that piece, near as I can tell, that is factually defensible. Roy Spencer is an equal opportunity science denier. He denies evolution and he denies climate change."

    Indeed, Spencer has disputed the theory of evolution in his writings and in public testimony, including telling a congressional committee in 2013, "Evolutionary theory is mostly religion.”

    Spencer also has a long history of climate denial. His website claims, "The extra carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere is not enough to cause the observed warming over the last 100 years." Spencer has gone on The Rush Limbaugh Show and Fox News to spread misinformation about climate change.

    In addition to being employed as a scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, Spencer is a senior fellow at the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and a member of the group's advisory board. The Cornwall Alliance is committed to climate denial, claiming, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming."

    Climate scientists dispute Spencer's arguments

    Three climate scientists contacted by Media Matters disputed the central claim in Spencer's USA Today piece.

    Mann just published an op-ed in the Guardian that lays out the clear links between human-caused climate change and more devastating hurricanes, including Florence. Last year, he co-authored a piece in Scientific American on the same topic. Mann has also been doing media appearances this week to explain the science connecting climate change and stronger hurricanes.

    Scott Mandia, professor of Earth and space sciences at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, pointed out that Spencer neglected to mention sea level rise in his piece, one of the most clear ways that climate change leads to more damaging hurricanes. Mandia explained in an email:

    ALL coastal storms are now worse due to sea level rise caused by human activities that are warming the climate. A warmer climate means more ice melt, which adds water to our oceans. Warmer water expands and thus rises upward. A double-whammy for sea level rise.

    Imagine a basketball hoop ten feet above the floor and consider a dunk to be a storm over-topping a sea wall or other barrier. Now imagine humans have caused that floor to rise by a foot. It is much easier to dunk a basketball now. More flooding just like we saw in Sandy, Harvey, Maria, Florence and EVERY hurricane from now onward.

    Do not be fooled by Roy Spencer's misdirection. He cannot deny human-caused sea level rise and that is why he chose not to mention it to USA Today's readers.

    Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also explained how climate change affects hurricanes. Trenberth was lead author on a study published in May that determined, “[Hurricane] Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change.”

    "Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them!" Trenberth wrote in an email to Media Matters. His comments:

    Human-caused increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produced an energy imbalance and its partitioning between atmospheric, ocean, cryosphere and land heat reservoirs govern how the global climate evolves. Most of the imbalance, over 90%, goes into the ocean and accordingly ocean heat content (OHC) provides a primary indicator of climate change, along with sea level rise. 2017 was the warmest year on record for the global OHC down to 2000 m depth and the latest quarter (April to June) is the hottest on record. The heat fuels storms of all sorts and contributes to very heavy rain events and flooding.

    Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them! The observed increases of upper OHC support higher sea surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and fuels tropical storms to become more intense, bigger and longer lasting, thereby increasing their potential for damage. Sea level is also steadily rising, increasing risks from coastal storm surges.

    While USA Today chose to elevate the perspective of a notorious climate denier, other papers made the more responsible choice to invite well-informed scientists and experts to explain the ways climate change exacerbates hurricanes -- like The Washington Post, which ran a strong op-ed by meteorologist Eric Holthaus.

    Holthaus ended his piece by saying, "It is a time for courageous action." Trenberth echoed that sentiment in his comments to Media Matters, emphasizing that we can and should be reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the future impacts of climate change:

    The damage and loss of life from such storms does not have to be disastrous, however, if there is adequate preparation. We have the options of stopping or slowing climate change from humans, and/or adapting to and planning for the consequences, but we are not doing enough of either!

    If outlets like USA Today educated people about the real dangers of climate change, instead of propagating climate denial, more Americans might be inspired to demand and implement real climate solutions.