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  • Trump EPA claims new power plant rule would improve health of minority and low-income communities. Don't believe it.

    Media are missing the environmental justice story behind Trump's Affordable Clean Energy rule

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On June 19, the Trump administration announced that it was officially replacing the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's 2015 policy for curbing carbon pollution from power plants, with a much weaker Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The text of the new rule claims that it will “improve environmental justice communities’ health,” but recently published research found that in many states it could actually lead to increases in air pollution, which would have especially negative health effects on communities of color and low-income populations.

    The ACE rollout is a major environmental justice story, but that's being missed by most media outlets.

    Trump's power plant rule could increase air pollution in many states, hurting vulnerable communities

    The text of the ACE rule says it is not expected to have notable negative effects on minority and low-income communities, and in fact, it will have positive ones:

    The EPA believes that this action is unlikely to have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations, low-income populations and/or indigenous peoples ... The EPA believes that this action will achieve CO2 emission reductions resulting from implementation of these final guidelines, as well as ozone and PM2.5 emission reductions as a cobenefit, and will further improve environmental justice communities’ health as discussed in the [regulatory impact analysis].

    But recent scientific research calls this claim into question. A study published earlier this year by scientists from Harvard, Boston University, and other institutions found that the ACE rule could lead to increased emissions of the air pollutants sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in about 20 states. As E&E News explained when the study was released, “The proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule’s focus on cutting emissions through efficiency improvements could cause emissions to increase at 28 percent of regulated power plants, as more efficient plants run more frequently and states delay retirement of older, dirtier plants, according to the study.”

    At least one Trump official has acknowledged this. “A senior administration official … confirmed Wednesday that some plants may end up emitting more pollutants under the rule,” The Washington Post reported last week.

    The health effects could be notable, as study co-author Jonathan Buonocore told E&E: “These pollutants contribute to PM 2.5 [fine particles] and ozone, with health effects including increased risk of premature death, respiratory disease, heart attack and some neuro-cognitive diseases as well.” Fine particulate pollution is linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths in the U.S. each year, according to a separate study released this spring.

    When the ACE rule was proposed in August 2018, the EPA's own analysis estimated that it would result in 470 to 1,400 additional premature deaths a year by 2030 because of increased fine particulate pollution compared to expected pollution levels under Obama's Clean Power Plan.

    The negative ramifications of the ACE rule are likely to fall especially hard on vulnerable populations, as a disproportionate amount of harmful health effects from air pollution occur in low-income communities and communities of color. Last year, EPA scientists published a study that found that people of color in the U.S. are exposed to more air pollution than white people, with African Americans exposed to the most. A number of other studies have documented the outsized and negative health effects of air pollution on minority and low-income communities.

    The Trump administration argued that Obama's Clean Power Plan would have hurt people of color

    When the Trump EPA first proposed replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the ACE rule last August, it tried to paint the policy shift as good for communities of color by arguing that the Clean Power Plan would have hurt them.

    Draft administration talking points from the release of the ACE proposal cited a thoroughly debunked and discredited 2015 study from an industry-funded front group, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), to claim that the Clean Power Plan “would increase Black poverty by 23 percent and Hispanic poverty by 26 percent” and would result in “cumulative job losses of 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics in 2035.” 

    The NBCC study's numerous flaws were exposed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, while flaws in other reports that the NBCC study had relied on were explained by PolitiFact, The Washington Post (twice), and the Union of Concerned Scientists again.

    Environmental justice advocates rejected the NBCC's claims. As Jalonne L. White-Newsome, then of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, wrote in 2015 after Obama's Clean Power Plan was finalized, “Despite continuous rhetoric from the Koch brothers’ network, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and others claiming that the CPP would hurt minority communities, we knew that if the final plan were crafted with equity in mind, it could be a huge win for low-income communities and communities of color.” She and other activists worked with Obama's EPA to create a plan that took environmental justice seriously.

    Environmental justice advocates blasted the Trump EPA's ACE power plant rule

    Proponents of environmental justice have consistently rejected the Trump administration's moves to repeal the Clean Power Plan and replace it with the ACE rule.

    Alice Kaswan, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and an expert on environmental justice, critiqued the draft ACE rule after it was released last year:

    Ultimately, EPA's proposal fails to grapple with what matters to disadvantaged communities. Energy justice implicates not only the monthly bill, but access to new technologies, relief from pollution and its health consequences, and participation in a cleaner energy economy. The narrowly focused ACE fails to facilitate a clean energy transition that could benefit all Americans.

    And last week, GreenLatinos President & CEO Mark Magaña denounced the Trump administration's finalization of ACE:

    There is a good chance that those lives lost will come from Latinx or African American communities. The risks are too high when our communities are more exposed to air pollutants than white communities. We already know that Latinx children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-Latinx white children.

    By rolling back the Clean Power Plan, the EPA continues to abdicate its mission to protect human and environmental health. Instead, it works on behalf of the fossil fuel barons who have made deep inroads into the upper echelons of the Trump administration. In the end, the Affordable Clean Energy rule will increase the risks from climate change for everyone and particularly harm vulnerable communities around the country. That's a story media outlets ought to be telling.

  • Sunday morning political shows dropped the ball on climate change coverage in May -- again

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change stayed low in May, just as it had been in April. The five major shows aired a combined total of just two segments in May that included anything approaching substantive discussion of climate change. This continued a troubling trend of climate silence on the Sunday shows; three out of five of them did not air a substantive climate segment in either April or May.

    The most notable climate discussion in May occurred on the May 5 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Guest host Jonathan Karl challenged the Trump administration’s positions on climate change during an interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Karl noted that Pompeo had previously said climate change was not a top five national security threat and then asked him how he would rank it. Pompeo gave a vague answer, so Karl pressed him further, noting a recent news report about the State Department’s efforts to remove language about climate change from an international statement on the Arctic. Karl concluded by asking Pompeo, “What are you doing specifically to address this threat, or do you not take it particularly seriously?”

    This was one of the most substantive Sunday show climate segments of 2019. Even though Pompeo dodged and changed the subject, the host attempted to hold the Trump administration accountable by asking informed, pointed questions about how climate change factors into policy decisions on national security and international agreements.

    The other relatively substantive climate segment aired on the May 19 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press, but the discussion of climate change was driven more by the guest than the host. NBC's Chuck Todd mentioned climate change during a question to Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, but it was narrowly framed through the lens of horse-race politics and not really about climate change at all.

    CHUCK TODD: Well, let me start with something the vice president, former vice president, said yesterday. And it was a fascinating way -- he was talking about his climate change proposal. And he said, “If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is,” it was, quote, “beat Trump.” You have said, if all the Democrats do is focus on Trump, you lose. Essentially, Biden is saying, no, no, no, no, no, it is all about Trump. Your reaction.

    Sanders noted the importance of beating Trump, but he focused most of his answer on fighting climate change, saying that pushing Trump out of the White House is "not enough." Sanders said we need to “beat the fossil fuel industry,” “transform our energy system,” and make “massive investments in wind, solar, and so forth” because we have a “moral responsibility to make sure that our kids live, and our grandchildren live, in a healthy and habitable planet.” Todd did not then ask Sanders what specific steps he would take to make that happen, but instead pivoted to a question about Democratic Party inside baseball and whether Sanders could win in Pennsylvania.

    Sunday morning political shows on CBS, CNN, and Fox did not have a substantive climate discussion in April or May

    The recent climate silence from more than half of the Sunday morning political shows has been deafening in a year when there have been many pressing reasons to discuss climate change. Large swaths of the country have been devastated by extreme weather. Democratic voters have elevated climate change to a top-tier issue. Multiple presidential candidates have released plans to combat the climate crisis.

    And yet CNN’s State of the Union has not aired a substantive climate segment since March 31. Fox News Sunday’s last one was on March 17. And CBS’ Face the Nation went more than three months without a substantive climate discussion; the only two it has aired in 2019 came on February 24 and June 2.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke out about the dearth of major media reporting on climate change and the shallowness of the segments that have aired during a recent speech on the Senate floor. The speech was part of a concerted effort by the senator to push corporate media, especially the Sunday morning political shows, to offer more and better coverage of climate change. He released a scorecard on the shows’ May performance.

    June will also offer compelling reasons for the Sunday show hosts to discuss climate change. The Democratic Party is holding its first presidential primary debate June 26-27 in Miami, one of the areas in the country most at risk from climate change, and candidates and activists have been calling for a debate focused specifically on climate change. Disastrous flooding has been hitting the Great Plains and the Midwest. The corporate media should be reporting all the time on how we can address the existential crisis of climate change, but this month is as good a time as any for Sunday shows to start giving this issue the sustained and urgent coverage it deserves.

  • The New Orleans Times-Picayune did vital environmental reporting for decades

    Strong environmental journalism is key to informing citizens and holding polluters accountable

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (5/31/19): After publication of this article, Media Matters spoke with The New Orleans Advocate and learned that it has made job offers to The Times-Picayune's full three-person team of environmental journalists and those offers have been accepted. The Advocate also plans to bring over a grant-funded journalism fellow as part of a year-long environmental reporting project that was started at The Times-Picayune. These journalists, who are expected to begin their new jobs on July 2, will join the Advocate reporters who have been covering environmental issues as they intersect with other beats.

    "We are extremely excited to be expanding our environmental coverage," said New Orleans Advocate Managing Editor Martha Carr. "The Advocate has a strong record of environmental reporting in New Orleans and Louisiana. These reporters will add to what we can do to keep citizens informed."  


    The Times-Picayune, a 182-year-old newspaper published in New Orleans, has produced some of the most important environmental journalism in the country. But after a surprise purchase by the owners of The New Orleans Advocate and the Baton Rouge Advocate in early May, the entire staff of the Picayune was laid off. The buyers reportedly plan to merge The Times-Picayune with The New Orleans Advocate, but it's unclear how many of the 161 Picayune employees will be rehired to work on the new joint paper, which is expected to relaunch in July. Local environmental advocates are concerned that a degraded and depleted Picayune will have a much harder time informing the public about important environmental issues.

    The Times-Picayune has been a longtime publisher of award-winning environmental journalism

    For decades, The Times-Picayune has produced groundbreaking stories about how humans affect the environment in southern Louisiana and around the world. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for its “Oceans of Trouble” series, which examined threats to fish populations around the world.

    In 2006, the Picayune was awarded another Pulitzer, this time “for its heroic, multi-faceted coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, making exceptional use of the newspaper's resources to serve an inundated city even after evacuation of the newspaper plant.” The paper's Katrina reporting was also built on critical work its journalists had done in previous years. In 2002, it published a prescient five-part series that revealed how woefully unprepared the region was for the full brunt of a major storm. The series included an ominous warning: “It's only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day.”

    The Times-Picayune has twice earned the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, presented by the Columbia Journalism School. In 2001, it won for “Unwelcome Neighbors: Race, class and the environment,” a four-part series that examined environmental justice and the legacy of environmental racism in Louisiana. And in 2008, it was honored with an Oakes Award for a special report titled “Last Chance: The fight to save a disappearing coast.”

    The newspaper also received many other accolades over the years. For example, the Picayune's reporting on the BP oil spill earned first place for outstanding beat reporting in a small market from the Society of Environmental Journalists in 2011. In 2018, the paper partnered with The New York Times to produce a three-part series that investigated the ecological catastrophe occurring along Louisiana's disappearing coastline, and further reporting on the topic won the 2018 Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors award for continuing coverage.

    The Times-Picayune continued to produce innovative and informative environmental journalism even after suffering massive staff layoffs in 2012. But as in far too many other newsrooms across the country, good journalism would ultimately not be able to save the paper.

    Great journalism isn’t enough to stem the tide of newspaper dissolution and consolidation

    Notable achievements, high readership, and even profitability have so far proved unable to stem the growing tide of newsroom erosion and extinction all around the country.

    Picayune journalist Haley Correll, who found out that she lost her job while in New York to accept an award, illustrated this point in a tweet.

    The Wall Street Journal recently took a deep dive into the dire state of local newspapers. The article noted, “Nearly 1,800 newspapers closed between 2004 and 2018, leaving 200 counties with no newspaper and roughly half the counties in the country with only one,” according to a 2018 study by the University of North Carolina. The job losses have also been staggering: Between 1990 and 2016, newspaper positions in the U.S. declined by about 60%, falling from 465,000 jobs to 183,000.

    In a region highly vulnerable to climate threats, activists stress the need for strong environmental journalism

    Local environmental activists have expressed apprehension about what the Picayune’s sale portends for the future of journalism in a region that is highly vulnerable to climate change and plagued by environmental injustices like “Cancer Alley.” Dustin Renaud, a spokesperson for New Orleans-based conservation nonprofit Healthy Gulf, told Media Matters, "Environmental protection starts with informed citizens, and The Times-Picayune has been an invaluable source of information on issues like sea-level rise, land loss, increased severity of storms, and oil and gas development, which are all very real threats to Louisianians.”

    His unease is shared by Andy Kowalczyk of climate action group 350 New Orleans, who told Media Matters, “Unbiased reporting is increasingly important in Louisiana because there is an all-too-common and casual lack of transparency from regulators of polluting industries, and, of course, the industries themselves.” 

    They're right to be concerned. Research suggests that the loss of local newspapers can result in citizens who are less civically engaged and institutions that are less accountable, leading to more government and industry waste, fraud, and abuse. A recent study also found that newspaper coverage of polluting plants was correlated with lowered emissions from those plants.

    Without knowledgeable journalists who can tell compelling stories, a local paper will sometimes morph into a digital version plagued by junk advertisements and rife with stories that have little relevance to the community it serves.

    Renaud emphasized the importance of tenacious reporters: “We need dedicated environmental journalists to tell the stories that Healthy Gulf advocates for or else we risk important environmental news falling through the cracks.” Having experienced journalists on the job is particularly important for beats like environmental reporting that require a grasp of science, regulatory systems, politics, and local arcana.

    There is at least one bit of good news on this front: Poynter reported that the leaders of The New Orleans Advocate intend to hire some Picayune journalists on contract, and “the hires will draw on the strength of the Times-Picayune’s environmental reporting,” among other areas of expertise.

    Potential new models for local news

    The outlook for local news outlets around the country is bleak, but there are new models being pioneered that have the potential to help newspapers survive and even thrive in some cases.

    One example is Report for America, a project aimed at recruiting, training, and placing 1,000 reporters in local newsrooms by 2023. The organization splits the cost of a reporter’s salary with the local newsroom and an individual donor, university, family trust, or foundation. This year, Report for America placed 61 reporters in 50 local news organizations.

    Another project is focused specifically on the environmental beat. InsideClimate News’ National Environment Reporting Network is "hiring experienced reporters based in key regions of the nation to write stories, train local reporters, and collaborate with newsrooms to produce more in-depth environment reporting.” The network recently teamed up with 14 news outlets in the Midwest to produce a series of stories on local climate solutions.

    Public funding of news outlets is another model that is beginning to be tested in the U.S., as the Nieman Lab reports. In New Jersey last year, grassroots activists successfully pushed through the Civic Info Bill, which created a public fund to support journalism projects and other potential ways to inform state residents.

    In Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune recently announced that it is seeking to become a nonprofit. If successful, the paper would become the first “legacy U.S. daily to switch to nonprofit status,” according to a Tribune article. The effort will be a complicated process; to kick it off, the Tribune’s owner has petitioned the IRS to change the paper’s status “from a privately owned business to a community asset.”

    These are promising steps, but the ability of these models to support quality journalism is still in doubt -- as are the fates of many talented and experienced journalists who are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living. But no matter which models ascend to fill the role historically played by local newspapers, one thing is certain: They should be guided by the consistently rigorous, revealing, and relevant reporting produced by local papers like The Times-Picayune.

  • CNN story examines how climate change and environmental racism harm communities of color

    Segment is encouraging sign from cable news, which has ignored environmental justice for way too long

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    CNN’s New Day ran a segment on May 29 about how climate change and fossil fuel pollution disproportionately harm communities of color -- a critically important topic, but one that is usually neglected by cable news. The network’s chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, went to Port Arthur, Texas, home to the nation’s largest oil refinery and site of some of the most cataclysmic flooding in American history, to listen to the cares and concerns of the people who live there. He found a community that felt ignored by the government in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Harvey and alarmed by the toxic pollutants spilling forth from the oil refinery that also provides much-needed jobs for local residents.

    It is undeniable that minority and low-income communities suffer more from climate disasters and the processing and burning of fossil fuels than other Americans. African American and Latino communities in Texas and Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. Researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a study in the American Journal of Public Health last year that found people of color in the U.S. are exposed to more air pollution than white people, with African Americans exposed to the most. Numerous other studies have shown the negative health effects of air pollution on minority and low-income communities.

    People of color who are on the frontlines of climate change unfortunately receive far too little coverage in the corporate media. This New Day segment is a rare exception, and hopefully a signal that cable news networks will begin giving climate justice the sustained and substantive attention it deserves.

    From the May 29 episode of CNN’s New Day:

    JOHN BERMAN (HOST): Scientists do say climate change will eventually affect all of us. But here in the United States, minority communities are being disproportionately affected. CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir tells us why.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    BILL WEIR: It is the great paradox of the man-made climate crisis: The fuels that built the modern world are the same ones now destroying it. And while a dirty energy addiction will eventually affect everyone, the folks with the smallest carbon footprints are the ones who will feel the most pain.

    HILTON KELLEY (FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY IN-POWER AND DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION): On one hand, I'm fighting to push these refineries to lower their emission levels, and they're fighting and pushing back, saying, “We can't lower it any more than what we've already done without shutting down and losing our business.” And then I have some of the residents coming to me saying, “Well, you know, what you're doing, you're going to push these industries away and we need these industries for our jobs, Hilton. Our livelihood depends on them. You know, we'll die quicker from starvation than we will pollution, so back off.”

    WEIR: Hilton Kelley was born amid these sprawling refineries of Port Arthur, Texas, where the working poor live with a carbon-burning double whammy. The toxic air that comes with processing millions of barrels of oil a week, and the supercharged storms that increase in frequency and power with every barrel burned.

    KELLEY: So we're getting a storm like every other year, every -- every three years or so. Not just a little storm, but storms that cause you to have to rebuild your house over and over and over again.

    WEIR: For almost 20 years, he's been the kind of concerned citizen who grabs a camera when the toxic clouds get bad and has air quality officials on speed dial.

    KELLEY: And they were like, “Well, what do you need to see it for and who are you again?”

    WEIR: He has a stack of complaints and a few wins.

    KELLEY: And we're constantly fighting those kind of battles. So, I'm forever the guard at this gate. And as you can see from my place right here, there goes the dragon right there.

    WEIR: That's the dragon.

    KELLEY: You're constantly watching it.

    WEIR: What Hilton calls “the dragon” is actually the biggest oil refinery in America. And it is owned by a Saudi Arabian company that made $111 billion profit last year, almost twice as much as Apple. Meanwhile, their neighbor, who lives here, was driven out by the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey and, almost two years later, can't afford the repairs to move back in. This is why communities of color are worried that the gap between polluting haves and storm-surviving have-nots is only going to get wider. After Harvey flooded Motiva and other refineries, the Trump administration fast-tracked almost $4 billion to build storm barriers specifically to protect oil and gas facilities. But the predominantly Black Houston neighborhoods flooded by Harvey can't even get the government funding to upgrade their storm drains.

    BRIDGETTE MURRAY (PRESIDENT, PLEASANTVILLE AREA SUPER NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL 57): Because she was on the back of the dredge site, as well as the water not being able to drain off, her house got about 4 feet of water.

    WEIR: Is that right? Right here?

    MURRAY: Right.

    WEIR: Residents say they are invisible to disaster planners while insurance premiums skyrocket.

    DR. ROBERT BULLARD (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF URBAN PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY): Those communities that get hit first, worst, and hardest should receive the aid, the assistance first. It shouldn't be in the back of the line. But right now it's the back of the line, back of the bus.

    WEIR: And so a generation after the fight for civil rights, they now call for climate justice and they fight their dragons, one fire at a time. Bill Weir, CNN, Port Arthur, Texas.

    (END VIDEOTAPE)

  • Two of Fox's favorite climate deniers testified before Congress on U.N. extinction report

    Marc Morano and Patrick Moore took their Fox-style rants to a congressional committee hearing

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A May 22 House committee hearing on the extinction crisis devolved into a spectacle resembling a Fox News segment, thanks to two frequent Fox guests who were invited by Republicans to testify.

    The House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife held a hearing on the recent summary report from the United Nations that warned human activity is leading to the possible extinction of up to 1 million plant and animal species. The Democratic majority invited expert scientists as witnesses, including Robert Watson, who led the U.N. team that wrote the biodiversity report, and two of the other scientists who worked on it. The Republican minority invited two of Fox News’ favorite climate deniers, Marc Morano and Patrick Moore, who only downplayed the report's findings and cast doubt on climate science.

    Morano and Moore have appeared on Fox multiple times in 2019

    Morano, a notorious, polluter-backed climate denier, is a Fox News favorite, regularly invited on-air to discuss environmental topics despite the fact that he has no scientific credentials. So far in 2019, Morano has appeared on Fox News shows at least 10 times. His most recent appearances were on May 6 when he commented on the U.N. biodiversity report on two of Fox's “news”-side shows, Shepard Smith Reporting and Special Report with Bret Baier. Both shows aired footage of Morano trying to undermine the report:

    MARC MORANO: This is politics, not science. The U.N. is trying to expand its base to include climate and species. They are looking for more treaties, more regulation. They have identified a problem, they've juiced it up, and they put themselves in charge of solving the problem. That's called a self-interested lobbying organization.

    Morano has also appeared three times this year on President Donald Trump's favorite show, Fox & Friends: on April 30, when he claimed that carbon dioxide is not pollution; on February 12, when he called efforts to reduce climate change "medieval witchcraft"; and on February 8, when he lied about what's in the Green New Deal and called it "a big bowl of crazy."

    Morano has also repeatedly appeared on Infowars, the far-right outlet run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. And he recently attacked a young climate activist online, which led to trolls threatening her.

    Moore is another Fox News favorite who is frequently invited on the network to downplay environmental issues or to deny that climate change is happening, despite also having no background as a climate scientist and raking in money from polluting industries. So far in 2019, he has appeared on Fox News shows at least five times, all in mid-March. One notable appearance came on the March 12 episode of Fox & Friends, during which he claimed that "the whole climate crisis, as they call it, is not only fake news, it's fake science." This appearance caught the eye of another climate denier, Trump, who approvingly tweeted out a quote from Moore. Moore tries to appear credible by claiming that he was a co-founder of Greenpeace, but this is not true.

    Morano and Moore made a mockery of the House hearing, and that’s exactly what Republicans wanted

    The May 22 House hearing was supposed to be about the U.N.'s new extinction report, but Morano and Moore made a mockery of this occasion by accusing the scientists who wrote the report of having a political agenda and by downplaying the effects of climate change.

    In his written testimony, Morano claimed that his political science background is “an ideal background for examining the latest round of UN environmental claims” and argued that the U.N. “twists and hypes and distorts science in order to push a political agenda.” During the hearing, he also wrongly attacked the 97% scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Subcommittee Chair Jared Huffman (D-CA) called Morano out for "trolling" climate scientists, saying he came from the "shadowy corners of these junior varsity think tanks."

    In Moore’s written testimony, he called the U.N. report's findings “highly exaggerated” and made reference to the “manufactured ‘climate crisis.’” He also falsely stated that without rising CO2 levels, plants would be much worse off. Moore often sings the praises of pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere, despite the fact that it is definitely not good.

    Morano and Moore also got more time at the hearing than the four scientists invited by the Democrats, according to Public Citizen.

    Fox News has helped to put Morano and Moore in the public eye by giving them a platform to sow doubt about climate change and other serious environmental issues, and now the two men’s latest Fox-worthy rants are part of the congressional record. The vicious cycle continues.

  • ABC News spent more time on royal baby in one week than on climate crisis in one year

    Archie is seventh in line to the throne but first in headlines

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS & TED MACDONALD

    A version of this post was originally published by Grist.

    Here's media misconduct in a nutshell: ABC’s World News Tonight spent more than seven minutes reporting on the birth of royal baby Archie in the week after he was born -- more time than the program spent covering climate change during the entire year of 2018.

    Other major TV news outlets in the U.S. have also severely under-reported on climate change and yet found plenty of time to note the arrival of Archie, son of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Archie is now seventh in line to the British throne, which means he'll be a permanent tabloid fixture but is unlikely to ever be a king.

    On May 6, the day Archie was born, the United Nations released a summary of a major new report warning that human destruction of the natural world, including through climate change, now threatens up to a million species with extinction. That's dire news for our species too, as it also threatens our water supplies, food security, and health. The destruction of ecosystems and species “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely,” the report warned. Robert Watson, head of the group of scientists that produced the report, laid it on the line: “What’s at stake here is a liveable world.”

    Yes, this extinction crisis is grim news, and many people like a little light fare mixed in with their headlines -- a report on a royal baby, if you’re into that kind of thing, or a sports recap, or a segment on disgruntled Game of Thrones fans. But when the light fare takes over and the real news is shut out, that’s beyond lopsided. We’ve got a problem.

    Media Matters tracked broadcast news coverage on May 6 and found that ABC and NBC's nightly news programs failed to even mention the U.N. biodiversity report. They did, however, air two segments each on Archie. CBS was the only national broadcast network that ran a segment on the biodiversity report that night, and of course it ran one on the baby, too.

    The perverse priorities of TV newscasters became even more obvious in the following days. Archie stayed in the news. Biodiversity and climate change stayed out of it.

    By May 12, the three national broadcast networks' nightly news shows had spent a total of 17 minutes and 56 seconds on baby Archie. The extinction report and climate change garnered a total of one minute and 21 seconds -- all of it in that single CBS segment on May 6.

    ABC's World News Tonight devoted the most time to the royal baby: seven minutes and 14 seconds over the week. Compare that to the six minutes and three seconds the program spent on climate change during the entirety of 2018. ABC typically lags behind its competitors in time spent covering climate change, as Media Matters has previously documented. ABC has devoted less airtime to the climate crisis than CBS and NBC every year since 2013 -- even though CBS and NBC don't have great track records themselves. Lest you think the old broadcast dinosaurs don’t matter anymore, their flagship nightly news programs are still attracting an average of 25 million viewers a night, including more than 5 million between the ages of 25 and 52.

    Within hours of Archie's birth, Vice's Derek Mead published a post headlined "Who’s Going to Tell the Royal Baby That Our Planet Is Unequivocally Dying?" It concluded, "Royal baby aside, the most important news of the day, the decade, our lives, is this: We have pushed the planet far past its limits, and we ignore that at our existential peril."

    Mead joins a small but growing group of journalists and citizens demanding that our media step it up and cover climate change like the looming existential crisis it is. As Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote last month for the Columbia Journalism Review, “If American journalism doesn’t get the climate story right—and soon—no other story will matter.” The Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, and The Guardian are launching a Covering Climate Now project to spur the media into action. The disproportionate hullabaloo over the royal baby, juxtaposed with the near silence over the extinction crisis, shows exactly why we need it.

    Imagine if mainstream media covered climate change with anything near the fervor of a royal wedding or a royal birth. Weeks of high-pitched pieces anticipating the release of new climate action plans. Minute-by-minute coverage dissecting every aspect of new scientific reports. Splashy, in-depth profiles of the people leading new climate movements. Homepages and front pages dominated by the climate crisis and climate solutions, day after day. If we can imagine it, can we make it happen?

    Methodology

    Media Matters analyzed coverage from May 6 to May 12 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News. We identified segments mentioning the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching iQ media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study). We identified segments mentioning climate change by searching for the terms (climate change OR global warming). We identified segments mentioning the royal baby by searching for the terms (baby OR Archie).

    Image and charts by Melissa Joskow.

    Update (5/22/19): This piece has been updated with a new chart on ABC's coverage of the royal baby vs. coverage of climate change. 

  • Right-wing media lash out over Bill Nye’s Last Week Tonight call to action on climate change

    Fox News host: "If it was a real crisis, he wouldn't be joking like that."

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA MARTIN

    From the May 12 edition of HBO’s Last Week Tonight:

    Bill Nye appeared on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on May 12 for a segment about climate change. In the segment, Nye issued a blunt warning that action must be taken to curtail changing climate or otherwise there will be dire consequences. After the segment went viral, right-wing media lashed out at Nye.

    • While the onscreen chyron said "Climate Hysteria," Fox host Jesse Watters said of Nye: “If it was a real crisis, he wouldn't be joking like that.” From the May 13 edition of Fox News' The Five:

    • Frequent Fox News guest and climate-denier Joe Bastardi: “It’s just crazy, are you angry?” From a May 13 video Bastardi uploaded to his YouTube channel:

    • Dana Loesch: “If the planet is on blanking fire, and we’re all going to die in 10-12 years, then how is it that the only action you want to take is to take people’s money?” From the May 13 edition of Radio America's The Dana Show:

    • RedState: “WATCH: Fake Reporter John Oliver and Fake Scientist Bill Nye Try to Sell You a Fake Crisis”

    • Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “Guys, @BillNye is using the f-word. That's how you know he's super serious”

    • Glenn Beck’s The Blaze “Bill Nye loses it and melts down over climate change, goes on expletive-laden rant during late-night show”

      "Bill Nye used adult language to explain climate change to adults on Sunday night's "Last Week with John Oliver." During a segment on Oliver's HBO show, Nye — famous for "Bill Nye the Science Guy," as well as his staunch liberal schtick on climate change — appeared to demonstrate the effect of climate change on the planet. Oliver, who was fact-checking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) comprehensive Green New Deal, cued a segment Nye filmed for Oliver's show. The Senate voted the deal down in March. The late-night show host was also discussing a new report from the U.N. that warned that the planet could experience a lasting change as early as 2040 due to climate change." [The Blaze, 5/13/19]

    • The Daily Wire: Nye “threw a temper tantrum.”

      Bill Nye, The “Science Guy,” threw a temper tantrum in a video played Sunday night on HBO’s "Last Week with John Oliver,” hysterically proclaiming, “The planet's on f***ing fire!” and ranting, "Grow the f*** up! You're not children anymore!”

      The video of Nye showed him in his lab coat accompanied by a globe, a blanket, a fire extinguisher, and a pile of sand. Nye stated, “Here, I’ve got an experiment for you. Safety glasses on.” Donning glasses, he continued, “By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another 4 to 8 degrees.” Yanking out a blowtorch, he then announced, "What I'm saying is, the planet's on f***ing fire!" [Daily Wire, 5/13/19]

  • ABC, NBC, and MSNBC prime-time shows ignored landmark UN report on biodiversity

    Only three of 26 prime-time news programs on major networks covered the report

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The major broadcast and cable news networks largely neglected to cover a landmark United Nations report on a devastating decline in biodiversity. On the day the report was released, three of the networks -- ABC, NBC, and MSNBC -- aired no prime-time coverage of it, while the other three networks each aired one prime-time segment. Out of 26 total prime-time news programs on the networks, only three reported on the U.N. assessment.  

    Major U.N. report warns of extinction crisis that will have major impacts on humanity

    A summary report released by the U.N. on May 6 finds that about 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to expansive human development. The current extinction rate is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” The global assessment, compiled by hundreds of experts with data drawn from thousands of studies, is the most comprehensive look yet at the rapid decline in planetary biodiversity. The report points to a number of human activities that are affecting biodiversity, including overfishing, poaching, farming, mining, logging, and polluting. Climate change is also playing a large role in fueling the biodiversity crisis. And the loss of biodiversity in turn threatens humans by endangering water and food supplies and heightening the risks from floods and hurricanes.

    The full report is set to be published later in 2019. But even with this summary, the authors show that the biodiversity and climate crises are directly intertwined, ultimately painting a grim picture about the state of our natural world.

    Only one of three broadcast nightly news shows covered the U.N. biodiversity assessment

    Media Matters analyzed the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs on May 6, as well as cable news coverage from 4 p.m. to midnight.

    On the broadcast networks, neither ABC's World News Tonight nor NBC Nightly News mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Significant segments on these networks instead focused on a Russian airplane fire, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen reporting to prison, and the birth of a royal baby in Britain. CBS Evening News was the only broadcast nightly news program to air a segment on the biodiversity report.

    It should come as no surprise that ABC's flagship news program failed to cover the report; the network's news shows consistently lag behind their broadcast competitors in covering climate change. In 2018, ABC aired less than 11 minutes of climate coverage on its nightly and Sunday morning news programs, far less than its counterparts. In fact, ABC has spent less time on climate coverage than CBS and NBC every year since 2013.

    On cable, MSNBC failed to mention the biodiversity report in its prime-time coverage

    None of the prime-time news shows on MSNBC on May 6 mentioned the U.N. biodiversity assessment. Much of the news coverage on the network that night focused on the Mueller report.

    The only prime-time cable shows to mention the global assessment were CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. Coverage on The Lead was straightforward, while Special Report's coverage was riddled with skepticism. Baier, who is billed as one of Fox's “news”-side reporters, began the segment by saying, “Many environmentalists are in a panic tonight over a new report,” but “as in all such cases, some humans say the report and the response are exaggerations.” The segment included commentary from industry-funded climate denier Marc Morano, who has no background in science. Morano downplayed the report and accused the U.N. of being a “self-interested lobbying organization.” (The Morano footage had run previously on another of Fox's “news”-side programs, Shepard Smith Reporting.)

    Overall, out of a total of 26 prime-time news shows aired on the major broadcast and cable networks on May 6, only three included coverage of the global assessment.

    By neglecting a major report about threats to life on Earth, TV networks are failing their viewers

    The extinction of threatened species will have serious human consequences. One takeaway from the U.N. assessment is the need to promote a better understanding of the fact that nature is the foundation for human development and all life on Earth. The media have a responsibility to help build an informed citizenry that understands the world it inhabits. By giving this report far too little attention, top TV networks have failed their audiences.

    Methodology

    Media Matters analyzed coverage on May 6 on the major broadcast networks' nightly news programs (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) and on shows airing from 4 p.m. to midnight on the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC). We identified segments on the U.N. biodiversity assessment by searching IQ Media and Nexis for the terms (nature OR biodiversity OR extinction OR extinct OR climate OR species OR planet) AND (report OR study).

  • Sunday morning political shows barely discussed climate change in April

    With only two substantive climate segments, Sunday shows had their worst month since January

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Sunday morning political shows’ coverage of climate change dropped markedly in April, hitting a three-month low. The five major Sunday shows aired a combined total of just two segments in April that included any substantive discussion of climate change, down from seven in February and six in March.

    Both of the April segments that discussed climate change came during interviews with Democratic presidential candidates, following a trend first in evidence in March. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who announced his presidential candidacy on April 4, talked about climate action during his appearance on the April 14 episode of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose campaign is centered on fighting climate change, brought up the topic numerous times during his interview on the April 14 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is pushing the Sunday shows to offer more and better coverage of climate change, released a scorecard on the shows' April performance:

    Even when Sunday shows discussed climate change, hosts' questions were lacking

    The two climate discussions that did air were not particularly informative for viewers. The hosts narrowly framed or downplayed the issue of climate change and did not provide opportunities for the guests to discuss it in depth.

    During Ryan's interview on This Week, host Stephanopoulos brought up the Green New Deal only to ask whether it and other proposals might hurt Democrats politically.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: You support the Green New Deal. You support “Medicare for All.” We heard the Senate Republican leader this week, Mitch McConnell, say they're going to make the election a referendum on socialism. Are you worried that policies like that will make Democrats vulnerable?

    Ryan took the opportunity to note that climate action can create manufacturing jobs, but the exchange on the Green New Deal and climate policy was brief.

    Stephanopoulos’ question perfectly encapsulated corporate media’s tendency to ignore whether climate proposals, such as the Green New Deal, contain effective solutions and instead focus on the potential political ramifications for Democrats and Republicans. Media Matters has repeatedly documented the trend of Sunday show hosts presenting climate policy through this type of narrow political lens.

    On Meet the Press, before his interview with Inslee began, host Todd noted that the governor had made climate change the focus of his campaign, but Todd started the interview with four questions about immigration. At two points during the immigration discussion, Inslee pointed out that the climate crisis is a contributing factor, explaining that he would “attack climate change because a lot of these people who are coming north are climate refugees.” But Todd pivoted the immigration conversation away from climate change. Eventually, he engaged Inslee in conversation about carbon pricing and nuclear energy, but he then asked the governor whether he was merely "running for president to prove a point" and "force" Democrats to take climate change seriously.

    It's alarming that these were the only Sunday show climate discussions during a month when presidential candidates talked about climate and energy plans, voters made climate change a top-tier issue, and climate protests made the news. As climate change becomes a more pressing political issue than ever, we should be seeing coverage increase and improve, not decrease and deteriorate. 

  • Without a dedicated climate debate, moderators are likely to let Democratic candidates off the hook

    In the 2016 primary debates, only 1.5% of questions addressed climate change. In 2020, we need to do better.

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    Climate activists and some presidential candidates are calling on the Democratic National Committee to make climate change the sole focus of at least one of its 12 planned presidential primary debates. They argue that a climate-centric debate would help voters learn where the candidates stand on potential solutions, motivate candidates to articulate clear climate action plans, and ensure that debate moderators don't give climate short shrift as they have done in years past.

    Activists and voters are pushing to hear from candidates about climate change 

    Environmental and progressive groups including CREDO Action, 350 Action, Greenpeace USA, Sunrise, the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, and Daily Kos are circulating three petitions demanding a climate-focused debate. Together they have garnered more than 155,000 signatures so far.

    At least three Democratic presidential candidates have also called for a debate dedicated to climate change. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was the first, and he launched his own petition. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro have also come out in support of the idea.

    Recent polling data bolsters these entreaties for a climate-focused debate. A CNN poll in late April found that Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters ranked climate change as their top issue: 96% said it was very or somewhat important for a president to support "aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change." A March Des Moines Register/CNN poll found that 80% of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa would like candidates to spend a lot of time talking about climate change, ranking it alongside health care at the top of issues they want to hear about. And a February poll sponsored by CAP Action Fund, Environmental Defense Action Fund, and the League of Conservation Voters also found that climate change is a top-tier concern for Democratic primary voters and caucus-goers in early voting states, with 84% wanting Democratic presidential candidates to act on the climate crisis and move the country completely to clean energy.

    Activists contend that voters' concerns about climate change won't be adequately addressed in the traditional debate format. A debate dedicated to climate change would drive candidates to clarify their climate platforms as well as explain how they will approach specific issues like environmental justice and a Just Transition.

    The CREDO petition argues that without a climate-focused debate, "news networks and other debate host organizations won't ask more than one or two token debate questions on climate change." The U.S. Youth Climate Strike petition makes a similar point: "With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis it's no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite. We need an entire debate on environmental policies."

    Activists' concerns about debate moderators neglecting climate change are borne out by Media Matters’ research.

    In 2016 debates, moderators rarely asked questions about climate change, let alone explored the issue in depth

    Moderators and panelists at past presidential debates have largely ignored climate change. Media Matters analyzed 20 presidential primary debates held during the 2016 election cycle and found that only 1.5% of the questions were about climate change -- a mere 22 questions out of 1,477. And during the three general election debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, moderators didn't pose a single climate question.

    The few questions that moderators and panelists did ask about climate change during primary debates tended to be shallow ones with no follow-up, resulting in uninformative exchanges. An example of this dynamic came during the November 2015 Democratic primary debate. After extensive discussion of ISIS and terrorism, CBS' John Dickerson asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), "In the previous debate you said the greatest threat to national security was climate change. Do you still believe that?" Sanders responded, "Absolutely," and explained that climate change can exacerbate terrorism. But voters learned nothing new about Sanders' positions or proposals, and the whole setup of the question suggested a false choice between addressing terrorism or the climate crisis. Dickerson and his co-moderators didn't ask any other climate questions at that debate.

    In 2019, CNN candidate town halls have demonstrated the public’s interest in climate change

    The recent slate of CNN town halls with 2020 presidential contenders has shown the public’s desire for the candidates to discuss climate change and given a glimpse of what viewers could gain from a substantive debate focused on the topic. In 18 of the 20 candidate town halls CNN has held this year, an audience member asked a question about climate change. The moderators asked a follow-up question in only six of these instances.

    On the occasions when moderators did push for more specifics, it demonstrated the clarifying role that they can play in helping viewers better understand a candidate's position. For example, after fielding an audience question about the Green New Deal during her CNN town hall on February 18, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) responded, “We may not have agreements on exactly how it will work and when we can get it done,” before discussing climate policies she supports such as reentering the Paris accord and restoring Obama-era vehicle mileage standards. Moderator Don Lemon then asked Klobuchar a series of follow-up questions that pushed her to explain why she believes the goals of the Green New Deal are "aspirations" and why "compromises" will be needed.

    Former Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) March 10 CNN town hall offered another example of how moderators can help voters get a clearer sense of a candidate’s climate stances. An audience member asked Delaney what he and his family have done to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Delaney talked about his family’s use of renewables and energy-efficient systems and then discussed his support for a carbon tax and negative-emissions technologies. In a follow-up question, moderator Jake Tapper noted that Delaney had previously disparaged the Green New Deal and asked him to address people who support the resolution, which prompted Delaney to explain that he would instead pursue "realistic" and "bipartisan" solutions and not tie climate action to other policies like universal health care.

    Instances like this -- in which a moderator asks specific, substantive follow-up questions about climate change policy -- have been extremely rare in past years. This year, voters need to hear much more in-depth discussion of climate solutions.

    The science of climate change was clear during the 2016 election season, but now the threat is even more immediate and urgent, especially as the last year has brought us record extreme weather events, alarming climate reports from both the United Nations and the U.S. government, continued rollbacks of climate protections from the Trump administration, and a burgeoning youth movement demanding action. Moderators should ask about climate policy at every debate and follow up to make sure candidates don't skate by with superficial answers. On top of that, hosting a climate-focused debate would give voters the best opportunity to hear a substantive discussion of how candidates plan to lead on the existential crisis of our time.

  • WSJ and right-wing outlets hype dubious study criticizing electric vehicles

    Experts have documented numerous problems with the analysis, but conservative media and climate deniers are still promoting it

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on April 23 that derided electric vehicles in Germany as "dirty," based on a recent study that has been called into question by a number of experts and mainstream German news outlets. The Journal's editorial board, which has a history of climate denial, has attacked both German energy policy and electric vehicles (EVs) before.

    The dubious study has also been hyped by climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S., including Infowars and The Daily Caller.

    Experts point out major flaws in German study on electric vs. diesel cars

    The study was conducted by the Ifo Institute, a Munich-based think tank, and argued that a Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle driven in Germany is responsible for more carbon dioxide pollution than a Mercedes C220d diesel vehicle. The study, which was released in German on April 17 and has not yet been translated into English, finds that the Tesla emits between 156 and 181 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, compared to 141 grams of CO2 from the diesel Mercedes. The study attributes roughly half of the Tesla's emissions to the vehicle’s production process, including its battery, which the authors assume will only last 10 years or 150,000 kilometers. The other half of the Tesla’s estimated emissions in Germany come from electricity used to charge the car, some of which is generated by burning coal.

    English-language summaries of the study include a press release from the Ifo Institute and a Brussels Times write-up.

    Soon after the study's release, German-language outlets started pushing back on its findings and methodology, including Der Spiegel, the highest-circulation news magazine in Europe, and WirtschaftsWoche, a weekly business news magazine. Articles in both publications highlighted miscalculations and faulty assumptions, and pointed to a number of other studies on EVs that had come to opposite conclusions.

    One English-language debunk of the study came in a Twitter thread from Netherlands-based energy researcher Auke Hoekstra. Hoekstra noted that the study's claims about the diesel Mercedes' emissions are wrong -- the Mercedes emits closer to 220 grams of CO2 per kilometer, rather than 141, he argued. He also highlighted how the authors used an extremely low number for how long an electric vehicle battery lasts. He stated, “even Tesla's from the olden days can drive 600 000 km before the battery reaches 80% capacity.” He summed up his criticisms:

    Hoekstra also argued that the analysis should not be presented as an academic study. Instead, he characterized it as “the opinion of three people, … none of whom have any background” in EVs or batteries. One of the authors, Hans-Werner Sinn, has been criticized for using dubious assumptions in energy studies before: Sinn received strong pushback on a 2018 paper he wrote claiming that energy storage requirements ultimately limit the expansion of renewable energy. Sinn has also argued that criticism of Volkswagen over its role in the Dieselgate scandal has been exaggerated, and placed much of the blame for the scandal on U.S. efforts to regulate diesel engines.

    Another debunk of the Ifo study came from Fred Lambert, chief editor of the electric transportation news site Electrek. He noted:

    One of the biggest mistakes they are making is that they are comparing the full production and lifecycle of an electric vehicle, including the emission from the electricity uses, against the production and lifecycle of a diesel car without accounting for all the energy used to produce the diesel and supply it to the cars.

    Lambert also called out the study’s authors for falsely assuming a battery life of 150,000 kilometers and for failing to note that Germany is planning to rapidly decarbonize its electricity system, which would greatly improve the carbon footprint of EVs in the near future.

    Another criticism of the study has been its focus solely on Germany's energy grid and the authors' failure to take into account the overall mix of the larger European energy market that Germany is a part of. German carmaker Volkswagen, which manufactures both EVs and diesel vehicles, responded to the study by defending EVs. In an English-language article by Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster, Volkswagen noted that with Germany's current electricity mix, its Golf EV would have a similar CO2 output as a diesel car of the same type -- 142 grams per kilogram compared to 140. However, “using the European energy mix for calculations, which includes large amounts of nuclear energy from France and water power from Norway, the e-Golf's carbon footprint would be down to 119 g/km” -- far below the CO2 output of a diesel car.

    Other analyses have disproved the claim that EVs are not environmentally friendly. In 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a U.S.-based EV is equivalent to a conventional gasoline car that gets 80 miles per gallon. Unlike the German study, it looked at all of the emissions from fueling and driving both vehicles. It also found that EVs will get cleaner over time as electric grids get cleaner, noting that its 2018 estimate was an improvement of 7 mpg from 2017. And a 2017 report from the Transport & Environment group, a Brussels-based transportation policy group, found that EVs emit fewer greenhouse gases than diesel cars even when EVs are powered by the most carbon-intensive electricity.

    Right-wing outlets in the U.S. promote Ifo’s study to disparage EVs

    Although the Ifo study is specific to Germany’s electric grid and has been widely criticized, climate deniers and right-wing outlets in the U.S. have picked up on it and are using it to disparage EVs generally. Steve Milloy, a notorious denier and frequent Wall Street Journal contributor, tweeted about the study on April 19. On April 22, extreme right-wing outlet Infowars wrote about the study, and far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson tweeted about the Infowars piece. The right-wing website Zero Hedge wrote about the study too, and a tweet pointing to that post was retweeted by Mandy Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official and current Fox News contributor.

    After The Wall Street Journal wrote about the study, still more right-wing outlets covered it, including The Daily Caller, which has a long record of inaccurate reporting on climate and energy issues, and The Western Journal, a conservative news outlet with a history of deceptive climate claims.

    The Wall Street Journal has a long track record of misleading on climate and energy issues

    The Wall Street Journal's opinion pages have spread misinformation about climate change for decades. A Media Matters study found that from January 2015 to August 2016, one-third of the paper’s climate-related opinion pieces contained climate denial or other inaccurate statements about climate change. We’ve also found that the paper's opinion section is ExxonMobil’s chief apologist for its climate change lies, and it has defended the fracking industry against accusations that it contaminates drinking water. According to a recent article in Current Affairs, the Journal has shifted in recent years from denying climate change to downplaying it, but still remains an impediment to clean energy and climate action. The Wall Street Journal has always been a pro-polluter, pro-industry paper, so it’s no surprise that it would overlook flaws and publicize questionable research that disparages a direct threat to the fossil-fuel industry.

  • Candidates who care about climate change should be wary of partnering with Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    Fox News is trying to entice Democratic presidential candidates to participate in town halls on the network, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is scheduled to do on April 15. Though Sanders has explained his reasoning for wanting to do a town hall on Fox, there are plenty of good reasons why other candidates should think carefully about whether they want to partner with the network. 

    Fox is a pernicious propaganda machine for the Trump White House, and it has a long history of both denying and downplaying climate change and helping to block climate action. Fox is currently at the peak of its political influence, but it's also at a precarious point both financially and in the court of public opinion. Many advertisers have fled and others are considering following suit, not wanting to be associated with the network's bigoted and toxic commentary. Fox is now desperately courting advertisers by trying to paint itself as a legitimate news outlet ahead of May 13, when it will host an "upfront" event at which it aims to sell about 60 to 70 percent of its advertising space for 2020. Democratic candidates might want to keep their distance and not enable Fox's attempt at whitewashing its toxicity.

    Fox consistently spreads right-wing misinformation, lies, and climate denial

    The New Yorker recently exposed how Fox News has developed a symbiotic relationship with the Trump administration and has become a nexus of the right-wing disinformation network. And earlier in April, The New York Times Magazine detailed how Fox founder Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth” in the U.S. and beyond, “destabiliz[ing] democracies around the world.”

    After the New Yorker published its piece in March, the Democratic National Committee barred Fox News from hosting any of its upcoming presidential primary debates.

    Fox News has been especially destructive on the climate change narrative, serving as an echo and amplification chamber for climate denial and environmental deregulation efforts. For years, Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding trust in climate scientists and scientific institutions, according to a 2013 study. A separate study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 72 percent of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 "contained misleading statements." In the years since, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and attack those working to confront the climate crisis.

    During the Trump administration, Fox News has also provided a safe haven for disgraced officials like former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Not only did Pruitt and Zinke prefer Fox News over other news networks, they both used their appearances on Fox to question climate science and to advocate for harmful environmental rollbacks, often with little to no pushback from fawning hosts.

    Fox's "straight news" anchors are not honest brokers on climate change and other critical issues

    Fox News claims that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, the Fox hosts who will anchor the town hall with Sanders, are straightforward newscasters. But a closer look at their past comments and reporting reveals that they cannot be trusted to foster good-faith discussions about key issues, including climate change.

    MacCallum has denied basic climate science and made ridiculous claims about global warming. In 2014, on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, she said:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM: I mean the climate has changed over the course of the thousands and thousands of years that the Earth has been in existence. It has changed, you know, by several degrees up and down over the course of it. I just don't think that there is convincing evidence that the presence of man has altered that more dramatically than say the earth being covered with volcanoes emitting, you know, naturally noxious gases.

    That same year, MacCallum downplayed the importance of climate change and argued that Democrats in Congress should be concentrating on other issues instead. And in March 2015, after the Obama administration announced a voluntary emission-reduction pledge ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, MacCallum was critical of the move and falsely said that the U.S. was going to the "upper end of the range" with its commitment and "nobody else has to do it." In fact, dozens of other countries had by that point announced targets to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, including the European Union, whose target was more ambitious than the one the U.S. put forth.

    Baier has a reputation for not being as bad as some of the more explicit climate deniers on his network, but according to a 2014 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has still aired "a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science." He has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback.

    Fox is now desperately trying to convince advertisers that it's not toxic

    In March, Fox News executives held an unprecedented meeting with its advertisers to persuade them not to abandon the network after more than 30 companies had dropped their ads since the initial push began in December of last year. Recent calls for companies to pull their ads from Tucker Carlson Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine came in response to Media Matters releasing audio of Fox host Tucker Carlson's racist and misogynistic rants on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show from 2006 to 2011, and to Fox personality Jeanine Pirro’s anti-Muslim tirade against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

    For years, Fox News has let its prime-time hosts spew bigotry, propaganda, and dangerous conspiracy theories on a nightly basis, while using its so-called "news" programming to give the network a veneer of respectability. But the "news" side and the "opinion" side of Fox News are two sides of the same coin. Fox is dangerous and corrupt from top to bottom.

    The Fox executive wooing Democratic candidates has actively hampered honest reporting on climate change

    Bill Sammon, Fox's senior vice president and Washington managing editor, is courting Democratic candidates for town halls and trying to get the DNC to reconsider its decision not to let Fox host a debate.

    Sammon has a notoriously terrible record on climate change. In 2009, he sent a memo to Fox journalists ordering them to curtail honest reporting on climate change:

    We should 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.

    He sent the memo out less than 15 minutes after a Fox correspondent accurately reported that U.N. scientists said the 2000-2009 period was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record." When the correspondent returned to the air a few hours later, he added views from climate "skeptics" into his reporting. Sammon has also tilted Fox's coverage of other issues further to the right.

    Four years ago, Sammon played a key role in crafting questions for a Republican presidential primary debate. Do Democratic candidates want to invite Sammon to craft questions for them now?

    With Fox on the ropes with advertisers, Democratic candidates should consider if they want to throw Fox News a lifeline this spring.