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  • PRIMARY DEBATE SCORECARD: Climate Change Through 20 Presidential Debates

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    With 20 presidential primary debates now completed, debate moderators have only asked 22 questions about climate change, which is just 1.5 percent of the 1,477 questions posed. In addition, the moderators were more than twice as likely to ask a climate question to a Democratic candidate than to a Republican candidate, and they have not asked a single climate question to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination. Nearly one-third of the climate questions were asked in the two most recent debates in Miami, following a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors urging the networks to address the issue in those debates.

  • Minorities Largely Excluded From Climate Change Discussions On Sunday Shows

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    latinos

    The African-American and Latino communities were badly underrepresented in climate change discussions on the network Sunday shows last year, according to a new Media Matters analysis, despite being among those who are most vulnerable to climate impacts.

    Of the 33 guests invited onto the major broadcast networks' Sunday news shows to discuss climate change last year, only 12 percent were non-white. The climate change conversations on the Sunday shows, which often set the media and political agenda for the week, included only two African-Americans, one Latino, and one Asian-American. This is a gross underrepresentation of the African-American and Latino communities in particular. African-Americans and Latinos made up 6 and 3 percent of the Sunday show guests who were asked about climate change, respectively. According to the most recent U.S. Census, African-Americans comprise 13.2 percent of the country's population and Latinos comprise 17.4 percent.

    Moreover, two of the four non-white guests -- including the only Latino -- were Republican presidential candidates who are also climate science deniers: Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. In an April 19 interview on CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer allowed Rubio to question the "percentage" of climate change that is "due to human activity," failing to point out in response that the vast majority of climate scientists say human activities are the primary factor in climate change. And on the February 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Carson to respond to criticism from "some Democrats" that "there are some elements in the Republican Party, both candidates and voters, who deny science, whether it is vaccinations, or climate change or evolution." Carson did not address climate change in his response, and then Wallace moved on to a discussion of "politics."

    The other African-American guest was American Meteorological Society president Marshall Shepherd, who was invited on Face the Nation on December 13 to discuss the landmark international climate agreement reached in December at a United Nations conference in Paris. The Asian-American guest was Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, who appeared on a Fox News Sunday panel discussion of the Paris climate agreement, also on December 13.

    Looking at the results by show, two of the four non-white guests -- Shepherd and Rubio -- appeared on CBS' Face the Nation, comprising one-third of Face the Nation's six total guests who were asked about climate change. The other two non-white guests, Carson and Tanden, appeared on Fox News Sunday, which hosted 18 total guests to discuss climate change in 2015. Neither ABC's This Week nor NBC's Meet the Press hosted a single non-white guest to discuss climate change in 2015. 

    Ethnicity chart

    The African-American and Latino communities were largely left out of the climate change discussion even though climate change affects them disproportionately. The NAACP has noted that African-Americans are particularly at risk from climate impacts such as rising sea levels, food insecurity, and heat-related deaths because they are more likely than whites to live in urban and coastal areas. New Hispanic immigrants are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to the National Climate Assessment, due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing."

    Furthermore, minority communities have the most to gain from the shift away from dirty fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that low-income communities face disproportionate health impacts from fossil fuel pollution, and that shifting to low carbon energy sources can lessen these impacts. In 2014, a report from the NAACP found that nearly three-quarters of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. African-Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to die from asthma-related causes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Hispanic children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Hispanic whites.

    This may help explain why African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. overwhelmingly support acting on climate change, according to multiple polls. And why prominent civil rights organizations have expressed support for the the Obama Administration's flagship climate policy, the Clean Power Plan -- including the NAACP, The League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Council of La Raza, and many more.

    The lack of minority voices in the Sunday shows' climate coverage is in line with a broader lack of diversity on the Sunday shows that Media Matters has continued to observe. According to a new Media Matters study of diversity on the Sunday shows in 2015, the percentage of guests on the four network Sunday shows -- and CNN's State of the Union -- who were people of color ranged from 17 percent on Face the Nation to 25 percent on Meet the Press. And no more than a quarter of the guests on any of the Sunday shows were people of color in 2014, either.

    chart

    Civil rights and environmental justice advocates have previously spoken out against the underrepresentation of communities of color in the media. Prominent advocates for the nation's Latino community have highlighted how the media's nearly complete lack of Latino representation ranges from the dearth of Latino voices and perspectives included in English-language news to the absence of substantive coverage of issues that matter most to Latinos.

    As Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of the environmental justice organization Uprose, has explained to Media Matters, "understanding the intersectionality" between climate change and social justice is "really important. We can't pick, we can't choose. It all matters to us, all of these issues."

    Yeampierre further wrote in The Guardian:

    Those of us from low-income communities of color are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. US cities and towns that are predominantly made up of people of color are also home to a disproportionate share of the environmental burdens that are fueling the climate crisis and shortening our lives.

    *This post has been updated to incorporate the newly-published study of diversity on Sunday shows in 2015.

  • STUDY: How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change In 2015

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER, DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife.

  • Debate Moderators Keep Failing To Mention Climate, So Democratic Candidates Are Doing It Themselves

    Dems Bring Up Climate Change More Than Twice As Often As Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    PBS Dem Debate

    The PBS moderators of last night's Democratic presidential primary debate never uttered the words "climate change." But Senator Bernie Sanders did.

    As we have progressed through the primary debate season, this has happened again and again. The media figures hosting the debates keep failing to bring up climate change, so the Democratic candidates for president are taking matters of our planet's future into their own hands.

    According to a Media Matters analysis of Democratic debate transcripts, Senator Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic candidates who are no longer in the race have thus far brought up climate change on their own 17 times combined, proactively addressing climate change in their opening or closing statements, or connecting climate change to a question they were asked on another topic. That's more than twice as often as the moderators of the debates, who have only asked seven questions about climate change to the Democratic candidates so far.

    Here are the 17 times that Democratic presidential candidates brought up climate change on their own:

    • In his opening remarks at the October 13 CNN debate, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said: "I want to address climate change, a real threat to our planet." [CNN, 10/13/15]
    • In his opening remarks at the CNN debate, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said: "[W]e must square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change and make this threat our opportunity." [CNN, 10/13/15]
    • In his opening remarks at the CNN debate, Sanders said: "Today, the scientific community is virtually unanimous:  climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren." [CNN, 10/13/15]
    • In her opening remarks at the CNN debate, Clinton said she has put forward a plan to "tak[e] the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • O'Malley was asked during the CNN debate to name "the greatest national security threat to the United States." He replied: "I believe that nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of ISIL; climate change, of course, makes cascading threats even worse." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • Sanders was also asked during the CNN debate to name "the greatest national security threat to the United States." He replied: "The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable.  That is a major crisis." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • During the CNN debate, Clinton responded to O'Malley bringing up her position on the Keystone XL pipeline by saying: "I have been on the forefront of dealing with climate change, starting in 2009, when President Obama and I crashed a meeting with the Chinese and got them to sign up to the first international agreement to combat climate change that they'd ever joined." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • Former Senator Jim Webb was asked during the CNN debate whether he is "out of step with the Democratic party" because "[y]ou're pro-coal, you're pro-offshore drilling, you're pro-Keystone pipeline." Webb responded, in part: "Well, the question really is how are we going to solve energy problems here and in the global environment if you really want to address climate change? And when I was in the Senate, I was an all-of-the-above energy voter.  ... And really, we are not going to solve climate change simply with the laws here [in the United States]." He added: "So let's solve this problem in an international way, and then we really will have a way to address climate change." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • During the CNN debate, Chafee was asked which "enemy" he was "most proud" of making. He responded: "I guess the coal lobby.  I've worked hard for climate change and I want to work with the coal lobby.  But in my time in the Senate, tried to bring them to the table so that we could address carbon dioxide.  I'm proud to be at odds with the coal lobby." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • In his closing statement at the CNN debate, Chafee said: "America has many challenges confronting us - ending the perpetual wars, addressing climate change, addressing income inequality, funding education, funding infrastructure, funding healthcare, helping black Americans, helping Native Americans." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • During the November 14 debate on CBS, O'Malley was asked whether he would use the tax increases he implemented in Maryland as a "blueprint" to pay for his family leave plan. O'Malley replied, in part: "I believe that we paid for many of the things that we need to do again as a nation, investing in the skills of our people, our infrastructure and research and development and also climate change -- by the elimination of one big entitlement that we can no longer afford as a people. And that is the entitlement that many of our super wealthiest citizens feel they are entitled to pay, namely a much lower income tax rate and a lower tax rate on capital gains." [CBS debate, 11/14/15]
    • During the CBS debate, Clinton was asked a question about her use of a private email server as Secretary of State. Clinton replied, in part, that it is important to "start talking about the issues that the American people really care about." She then noted that although "there are differences" among the Democratic candidates, "the differences among us pale compared to what's happening on the Republican side," and pointed out that unlike the Republican candidates, "[a]ll of us believe climate change is real." [CBS debate, 11/14/15; Media Matters, 7/1/15]
    • In his opening statement at the December 19 debate on ABC, Sanders said: "I'm running because we need to address the planetary crisis of climate change and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy." [ABC debate via The Washington Post, 12/19/15]
    • In his closing statement at the ABC debate, O'Malley said: "The other big challenge we have is climate change. The greatest business opportunity to come to the United States of America in 100 years. We need to embrace this. I have put forward a plan that does this, that moves us to 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050." [ABC debate via The Washington Post, 12/19/15]
    • In the January 17 debate on NBC, O'Malley was asked to name his top three priorities for his first 100 days in office. He replied, in part: "I believe the greatest business opportunity to come to the United States of America in 100 years is climate change. And I put forward a plan to move us to a 100 percent clean electric energy grid by 2050 and create 5 million jobs along the way." [NBC debate via The Washington Post, 1/17/16]
    • During a discussion of campaign contributions in the February 4 debate on MSNBC, Sanders said: "Let's talk about climate change. Do you think there's a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real, and that we need to transform our energy system? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system? ... You know, there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. And in my view, it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not the working families of this country." [MSNBC debate, 2/4/16]
    • During a discussion of campaign finance reform in the February 11 debate on PBS, Sanders stated: "Why does the fossil fuel industry pay -- spend huge amounts of money on campaign contributions? Any connection to the fact that not one Republican candidate for president thinks and agrees with the scientific community that climate change is real and that we have got to transform our energy system?" [PBS debate, 2/11/16]

    And here are the 7 questions that debate moderators managed to ask the Democratic candidates about climate change, some of which misrepresented the issue or downplayed its importance:

    • During the October 13 CNN debate, CNN's Don Lemon rephrased a social media user's question about what candidates will "do to address climate change" by broadly asking O'Malley how he would "protect the environment better than all the other candidates." As Vox's David Roberts explained, this "maddening segue" suggested that Lemon and CNN view climate change as a "special interest issue" that is only of concern to environmentalists. [CNN debate, 10/13/15; Vox, 10/14/15]
    • During the October 13 CNN debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Sanders: "Senator Sanders, are you tougher on climate change than Secretary Clinton?" [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • During the October 13 CNN debate, Cooper asked Clinton to "respond" to Sanders' comments about climate change. Clinton said, in part: "When we met in Copenhagen in 2009 and, literally, President Obama and I were hunting for the Chinese, going throughout this huge convention center, because we knew we had to get them to agree to something. Because there will be no effective efforts against climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world. ... [T]here will be an international meeting at the end of this year, and we must get verifiable commitments to fight climate change from every country gathered there." [CNN debate, 10/13/15]
    • In the November 14 debate on CBS, CBS' John Dickerson noted that Sanders said he wants to "rid the planet of ISIS," and then asked Sanders if he "still believe[s]" the statement that he made one month prior that climate change poses the greatest threat to America's national security. In this context, Dickerson was bringing up climate change solely to challenge its importance relative to terrorism. [CBS debate, 11/14/15; Media Matters, 1/11/16]
    • During the January 17 debate on NBC, NBC's Lester Holt asked Sanders: "How do you convince Americans that the problem of climate change is so urgent that they need to change their behavior?" [NBC debate via The Washington Post, 1/17/16]
    • Holt also gave O'Malley "30 seconds" to respond to the question he had asked Sanders about climate change. But he did not give Clinton an opportunity to respond to the question. [NBC debate via The Washington Post, 1/17/16]
    • During the February 4 debate on MSNBC, NBC's Chuck Todd asked Clinton: "So there are three big lifts that you've talked about: immigration, gun reform, climate change. What do you do first? Because you know the first one is the one you have the best shot at getting done." [MSNBC debate, 2/4/16]

    Denise Robbins assisted with the research for this analysis.

  • ANALYSIS: Notable Opinion Pages Included Denial In Coverage Of Paris Climate Summit

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Media Matters analysis found that four of the ten largest-circulation newspapers in the country published op-eds, editorials, or columns that denied climate science while criticizing the international climate change negotiations in Paris, including The Wall Street JournalUSA Today, the New York Post, and The Orange County Register. Altogether, 17 percent of the 52 opinion pieces that the ten largest newspapers published about the Paris conference included some form of climate science denial, and many of them repeated other myths about the climate negotiations as well.

  • Network Evening News Programs Yet To Address What Exxon Knew About Climate Change

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.

  • TIMELINE: The Conservative Media's History Of Ignoring Pollution Prior To EPA Mine Spill

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KEVIN KALHOEFER

    The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and Fox Business are aggressively criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for accidentally spilling toxic wastewater into Colorado's Animas River while attempting to treat pollution from an abandoned gold mine. But over the years, these same conservative media outlets have almost completely ignored pollution that was caused by the fossil fuel industry, devoting more attention to the EPA spill than to seven recent cases of industry-caused pollution combined.

  • STUDY: How The Media Is Covering Presidential Candidates' Climate Science Denial

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.

  • STUDY: California TV Stations' Drought Coverage Gave Short Shrift To Climate Change

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    It has become increasingly clear that human-induced climate change is exacerbating California's historic drought and will continue to make droughts in the western U.S. more common and more extreme, as many studies and leading climate scientists have concluded. Yet a Media Matters analysis reveals that over a one-month period, the local television stations in California's two largest media markets addressed the role of climate change in less than two percent of their drought coverage, and when they did it was usually in segments that also included climate science denial.

  • STUDY: Media Largely Ignored Climate Change in Coverage Of Winter Snowstorms

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.

  • How The Merchants Of Doubt Push Climate Denial On Your Television

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Merchants of Doubt

    A new documentary shows how a "professional class of deceivers" has been paid by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the science of climate change, in an effort akin to that from the tobacco industry, which for decades used deceitful tactics to deny the scientific evidence that cigarettes are harmful to human health. The film, Merchants of Doubt, explores how many of the same people that once lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry are now employed in the climate denial game.

    An infamous 1969 memo from a tobacco executive read: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy." Using similar tactics, a very small set of people have had immense influence in sowing doubt on the scientific consensus of manmade climate change in recent years.

    Merchants of Doubt features five prominent climate science deniers who have been particularly influential in deceiving the public and blocking climate action. Their financial connections to the fossil fuel industry are not hard to uncover. Yet major U.S. television networks* -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, ABC, CBS, and PBS -- have given most of these deniers prominent exposure over the past several years. 

    Merchant of Doubt

    Number of TV Appearances, 2009-2014

    Marc Morano

    30

    James Taylor

    8

    Fred Singer

    8

    Tim Phillips

    7

    Now that these Merchants of Doubt have been exposed, the major cable and network news programs need to keep them off the airwaves, a sentiment echoed by Forecast the Facts, which recently launched a petition demanding that news directors do just that.

  • On Fox, A Train Spilling Oil Is An Argument For Keystone XL, But A Pipeline Spill Isn't News

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    After a massive oil tanker derailed in West Virginia, several members of Fox News claimed that the accident demonstrates the need to build the Keystone XL pipeline because it is supposedly "safer" to transport oil by pipeline than by train. However, pipelines spill even more oil than trains, and when a major pipeline spill recently occurred near Keystone XL's proposed route, Fox News barely mentioned the spill and didn't once connect it to legitimate safety concerns about Keystone XL.

  • Fossil Fuel Donations Largely Absent From Newspapers' Coverage Of Keystone XL

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    A Media Matters review of several major newspapers found that their coverage of congressional efforts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline has been missing an essential component of the story: the hundreds of millions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry spent in the midterm elections to elect members of Congress who support Keystone XL and other aspects of the oil industry's agenda. Of the newspapers reviewed, only The New York Times tied congressional support for Keystone XL back to the fossil fuel industry's campaign contributions.