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  • Media Should Not Forget About Climate Change In Coverage Of Hurricane Matthew

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Hurricane Matthew was reportedly the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti since 1964, and the National Hurricane Center is now warning that there is “a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida east coast and Georgia coast.” Alerting the public to the threat and urging people to take all precautions necessary to stay safe are the top priorities for reporters covering this historic storm. But media outlets should also keep the broader climate change context in mind as they report on Hurricane Matthew in the coming days.

    When record-breaking rainfall and flooding struck Louisiana in August, major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post addressed how the devastation was in line with the predicted impacts of a warming planet, but the major TV networks’ nightly newscasts did not. As CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter noted at the time, it’s essential for media to explain that extreme weather events “are happening more often due to climate change and are more extreme due to climate change,” particularly in the “early stages” of covering a weather disaster.

    Time will tell if the major television networks cover the relationship between climate change and Hurricane Matthew, but the scientific evidence is clear.

    As Climate Nexus’ Climate Signals has explained, Matthew has been “fueled by seas warmer than the historical average” and the threat of catastrophic flooding from heavy rainfall is “significantly amplified by climate change”:

    As the global temperature has increased, so too has the capacity of the atmosphere to hold and dump more water. At the same time warming of the ocean increases evaporation making more moisture available to the atmosphere. In parallel, coastal flooding has been amplified by sea level rise which extends the reach of storm surge driven by hurricanes such as Matthew.

    Similarly, The Guardian reported on October 5 that scientists say major storms like Matthew “will grow in menace as the world warms and sea levels rise.” The article quoted Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel, who said, “We expect to see more high-intensity events, category 4 and 5 events” due to global warming, and “there are hints that we are already beginning to see it in nature.” The Guardian also cited James Done of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who said, “The message is that hurricanes that do occur in the future, the major ones, will be stronger. Category four and five hurricanes could double or triple in the coming decades.”

    Emanuel added that scientists expect the damage from hurricanes like Matthew to “steadily increase” as sea levels continue to rise over the rest of the century.

  • Ahead Of SCOTUS Hearing, TX Media Highlight Negative Impacts Of "Dangerous" Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a "landmark case" that is challenging strict anti-choice Texas provisions, commonly known under its bill name HB 2, that medical groups say only serve to "reduce women's access to abortion." Many Texas media outlets are highlighting the negative impacts of restrictive abortion access, noting that Texas' anti-choice law is making abortions more "dangerous," "confusing," and "unattainable," specifically for rape victims, low-income women, Latina and immigrant women, and service women.

  • Following Exxon Revelations, The Guardian Highlights Need To Investigate Corporate Climate Deception

    Guardian's Nuccitelli Points To Crackdown Against Similar Duplicity From Tobacco Industry

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    ExxonMobil has long known that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, yet has continued to fund groups that deny its existence. According to The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli, Exxon's actions parallel how the tobacco industry deliberately deceived the public about the health risks of smoking.  

    In a September 29 Guardian article, Dana Nuccitelli reported on a recently concluded eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News that found that Exxon's own scientific research confirmed human-caused global warming as far back as the late 1970s. According to InsideClimate, the obtained documents show that Exxon scientists confirmed that carbon dioxide emissions impact the climate and that these findings were in accordance with expert consensus. The investigation further found that after "a decade of frank internal discussions on global warming and conducting unbiased studies on it, Exxon changed direction in 1989 and spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed."

    In the Guardian article, headlined, "Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?" Nuccitelli reported that a group of climate scientists is calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change" under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He noted that a similar lawsuit was brought against the tobacco industry in 2006, and resulted in a district court judge ruling that tobacco companies worked to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public."

    The connection between the tobacco industry and climate denial has been made before by those who have noted that many of the people and organizations working against climate action previously worked on behalf of the tobacco industry, and that both industries have used similar deceptive tactics to cast doubt on settled science. The Heartland Institute, for one, has received over $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil and has previously denied the health dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.  

    From The Guardian:

    Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?

    ExxonMobil has become infamous for its secretive anti-climate science campaign, having spent $30 million funding groups denying the scientific evidence and consensus on human-caused global warming.

    Last week, after an eight-month investigation, InsideClimate News revealed that from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s, scientists at Exxon were in fact at the cutting edge of climate science research.

    [...]

    It's ironic that 33 years ago, the world's largest oil company accepted and concurred with the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming that many people continue to deny to this day.

    In another internal company document in November 1982, Exxon scientists illustrated the rapid global warming they expected to occur over the following century due to rising carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. A year earlier, Exxon scientists were discussing the distinct possibility that the consequences of climate change could become catastrophic in the near future.

    [...]

    Coinciding with the InsideClimate News revelations, a group of climate scientists sent a letter to President Obama, his science advisor John Holdren, and Attorney General Lynch, calling for an investigation "of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America's response to climate change."

    In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups. In 2006, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the tobacco industry's campaign to "maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public" about the health hazards of smoking amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has noted that the fossil fuel industry's efforts to cast doubt on climate science closely mirror those by the tobacco industry. As Senator Whitehouse said in May 2015, "Imagine what a little discovery into the beast would reveal about the schemes and mischief of the climate denial apparatus--about what they're telling each other in private while they scheme to deceive the public. The truth will eventually come to light. It always does."

    Indeed, as the InsideClimate News investigation subsequently revealed, Exxon's own scientists were warning of the dangers of human-caused climate change nearly 40 years ago. The parallels to the tobacco industry's public deception are striking. It appears that many climate scientists have become fed up, and are encouraging the government to embark on a similar RICO investigation into fossil fuel industry efforts to mislead the public.

  • One Big Fact Media Are Missing On Jeb Bush, The Pope, And Climate Change

    Coverage Of Bush's Criticism Of Pope's Encyclical Should Include Candidate's Secret Coal Industry Meeting

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Jeb Bush

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made news on his first official day as a GOP presidential candidate by suggesting that Pope Francis' forthcoming encyclical on climate change could inappropriately push religion "into the political realm" and declaring: "I don't get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope." But the media should be covering Bush's remarks in the context of a closed-door meeting he held with coal industry CEOs earlier this month -- an important piece of information that could shed some light on who Bush is actually getting his "economic policy" from when it comes to climate change.

    Bush's June 1 appearance at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum was first revealed in a May 29 report by The Guardian, based on materials the newspaper received from the Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit watchdog group. As The Guardian reported at the time:

    The former Florida governor is appearing at the invitation of six coalmining company owners and executives: Joe Craft III of Alliance Resource Partners, Kevin Crutchfield of Alpha Natural Resources, Nick DeIuliis of Consol Energy, Garry Drummond of Drummond Company, John Eaves of Arch Coal, and Jim McGlothlin of United Coal Company.

    Between them, the six companies have spent more than $17.4m on campaigns and lobbying since the last presidential elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets website.

    The Guardian further noted that the meeting occurred "at a critical time for the energy industry and for Bush's political ambitions," with the Environmental Protection Agency "expected to finalize new rules for carbon pollution from power plants this summer" and Bush "relatively free of fundraising disclosure requirements until the official launch of his presidential campaign." 

  • Al Gore Blasts News Corp. For "Abuse Of Power" In Kicking Current Off Italian TV

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

    As the Guardian reported, former Vice President Al Gore is fighting back against News Corp. for forcing his television network off the air in Italy. According to Gore, Current TV was told it would be dropped from News Corp.'s Sky Italia because of the network's decision to hire Keith Olbermann.

    Gore pushed back against the News Corp. decision, noting that the incident demonstrates how the company lets ideology get in the way of its business decisions:

    In an interview with the Guardian, Gore said the Current TV news and documentary channel was told unexpectedly three weeks ago that it could no longer be carried by Sky Italia because of its decision to hire a US left-leaning commentator often critical of Murdoch's company.

    He added that the decision reflected how News Corporation operated worldwide. "News Corporation is an international conglomerate with an ideological agenda. It seeks political power in every nation they operate. They wield that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch," Gore said.