“Endangered Species”: Media Observe The Decline Of Industry-Funded Deniers At Paris Climate Summit

Industry-funded climate denial organizations hosted events during the United Nations' climate change negotiations in Paris in an attempt to inject false balance and misinformation into media coverage of the event. But unlike coverage of the Vatican climate summit earlier this year, mainstream media outlets did not take the bait this time around, instead noting these groups' diminished influence and accurately portraying them as outliers that are out of step with mainstream climate science.

Industry-Funded Groups Held Paris Media Events Denying Human-Caused Global Warming

Heartland Institute, CFACT Hosted Events To Disrupt Paris Climate Summit And Promote Climate Denial. On December 7, in the middle of the United Nations summit in Paris, where countries convened to reach an international climate change agreement, the Heartland Institute held its own “counter-conference” called the “Day of Examining the Data.” Heartland wrote that its “experts” intended to explain “the compelling evidence that humans are not causing a global warming crisis” and  “expose the agendas and true costs of the agreement being negotiated there.” That same night, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) premiered its film Climate Hustle, which according to CFACT features Climate Depot's Marc Morano leading viewers “through the propaganda-laced world of 'climate change' claims.” [Media Matters, 12/3/15; Heartland.org, accessed 12/15/15; CFACT, 12/1/15]

The Heartland Institute Is A Climate Denial Organization That Has Received Oil Industry Funding. As Media Matters previously documented, the Heartland Institute received over $700,000 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006. Heartland has also received significant funding from organizations with ties to the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and Donors Trust. The Heartland Institute is infamous for its annual climate denial conferences and is perhaps best known for running a billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with “murderers, tyrants, and madmen” like the Unabomber and Charles Manson. [Media Matters, 7/31/15; Media Matters, 3/8/15]

CFACT, “Merchant Of Doubt” Marc Morano Have Fossil Fuel Ties. Morano runs the climate science denial blog Climate Depot, which is financed CFACT. CFACT has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from ExxonMobil, Chevron and Donors Trust, a dark money group backed by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. [Media Matters, 7/31/15]

Mainstream Media Portrayed Groups As Outliers Without Advancing Their Science Denial

Reuters: To Diplomats At Paris Summit, Deniers Are “Yesterday's Men.Reuters reported that, to the diplomats and officials at the climate summit, Morano, CFACT,  the Heartland Institute and other climate deniers are “yesterday's men.” Reuters juxtaposed the deniers with the “thousands of environmentalists, scientists and even big business leaders, who have come to U.N.-sponsored climate talks to pledge their commitment to cutting the manmade emissions that an overwhelming majority of scientists say are warming the planet.” The article noted that the “one place” where the deniers remain influential is in “conservative circles in the United States, where they retain a powerful voice in a Republican party,” but stated that they are “swimming against the tide in Paris.” The article concluded by quoting Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman as saying: “The only endangered species now ... is the climate change denier.” [Reuters, 12/8/15]

Politico: “Little Interest” At Summit In “Outliers” Like Heartland And Morano That Deny Climate Science. Politico reported that even countries that once had deniers in “upper echelons of government” have now moved “beyond questioning global warming to debating what, and how much, to do about it.” Politico added that "[n]egotiators in Paris say they're not paying any attention" to the deniers and there was “little interest in the remaining outliers” who question the science, pointing to the fact that Heartland's counter conference “drew a crowd of no more than a few dozen.” The article quoted St. Lucia's sustainable development minister James Fletcher saying that there are fewer climate deniers “in the face of overwhelming scientific and physical evidence,” which makes it “difficult” for the deniers “to claim any legitimacy.” Politico also quoted Morano as saying: “People are very annoyed that we're even here ... They see us as the turd in the punch bowl. That's the bottom line.” [Politico, 12/8/15]

New York Times Reference To Heartland's Counter Conference Made Clear That Heartland Denies Scientific Consensus. In an article about Republican opposition to the climate talks, The New York Times reported that the Heartland Institute “held its own conference,” describing the organization as “a Chicago-based think tank that does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change and has ties to Republican lawmakers.” [The New York Times, 12/11/15]

Bloomberg Contrasted Heartland's Arguments With “The Vast Majority Of Scientists” Who “Agree Humans Are Altering The Climate.” Bloomberg reported that the U.N. summit gave Heartland “a fresh platform to promote their counter arguments,” but added that "[s]tudies have found the vast majority of scientists agree humans are altering the climate, with potentially disastrous consequences." The article, headlined “Twilight of the Skeptic,” also pointed to the “dwindling ranks” of climate science deniers. [Bloomberg, 12/11/15]

The Washington Post: Heartland's Denial Claims “Wildly Out Of Sync” With Discourse At UN Summit. The Washington Post reported that Heartland's claims were “wildly out of sync with the discussions” at the U.N. negotiations, and noted that “doubts about the science of climate change” have “vanished from the public discourse” at the conference. The Post also reported that there is now a “broad international consensus” on climate change, and that Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) climate denial claims “are seen as strikingly out of step, if not anachronistic.” [The Washington Post, 12/10/15]

Mainstream Media Previously Advanced Denial In Coverage Of Vatican Climate Summit

The Heartland Institute And Morano Previously Organized Publicity Stunt To Disrupt Vatican Climate Summit. On April 24, Climate Depot publisher Marc Morano announced that he would “be part of a high level skeptical delegation with the Heartland Institute, traveling to Rome to offer alternative voices to the Vatican and Pope Francis on global warming.” The Vatican climate summit in Rome, which was held on April 28, was “seen as a key part of the lead-up to release of the new papal encyclical” on climate change, according to Vatican Insider. [ClimateDepot.com, 4/24/15; Vatican Insider, 4/28/15]

Media Reports At That Time Helped Advance The Deniers' Misinformation Campaign Against The Pope. Reports by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters and NPR uncritically relayed the deniers' criticism of the Vatican climate change summit and Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change. These outlets failed to note that the organization behind the efforts had received fossil fuel funding or that their claims humans are not responsible for global warming have been firmly rejected by the vast majority of climate scientists. [Media Matters, 4/29/15]

Despite Improved News Coverage Of Deniers In Paris, Denial Still Appeared On Several Major Newspapers' Opinion Pages

Four Major U.S. Newspapers Published Opinion Pieces About Summit That Promoted Climate Denial. A Media Matters analysis found that four of the ten most widely circulated U.S. newspapers published opinion pieces during the Paris conference that promoted climate science denial: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Post, and The Orange County Register. Among those was a USA Today op-ed by Morano, who claimed that “many scientists [are] skeptical of the scientific claims and goals behind the U.N. climate agenda” and that "[t]he notion that a U.N. agreement to limit emissions will somehow alter the Earth's temperature or storminess is bordering on belief in witchcraft."


[Media Matters, 12/16/15]