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In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal, questions are being raised about the amount of influence automakers have over the enforcement -- or lack thereof -- of vehicle emissions standards. But rather than join in that conversation, conservative media are making excuses for Volkswagen's conduct and seeking to shift much of the blame to the Environmental Protection Agency and emission standards themselves.
Reality: Walker Has Struggled On Job Creation, Will Skip Debt Payments
CNBC anchor Joe Kernen praised Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) efforts "to get your state's finances in order" and suggested "reasonable people" would agree with his economic record. In reality, job and wage growth under Walker have trailed behind the national average, and he "will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts."
Kernen began his February 19 Squawk Box interview by telling the potential 2016 presidential candidate that "we've been together every step of the way on this show since your first election." He added, "I'm not going to recuse myself. But, you know, maybe [co-anchor] Andrew [Ross Sorkin] is here to grill you."
Kernen cheered Walker's economic and fiscal leadership. After Walker said he won his election because "in times of crisis, economic and fiscal in particular, they want leadership," Kernen said: "If there was an objective person watching the way the governor of Illinois approached that state's problems, and the way you approached it, I would think most reasonable people would say it looks like the way to do this maybe isn't just raising taxes to cover an ever increasing state budget."
Walker said, unchallenged, that Wisconsin's "tax burden is down, the economy is moving up, we've got a stable workforce, we've got all the sorts of advantages you want. And we're still -- plenty more work to be done, like it needs to be done across America, but there is a sharp contrast, no doubt about it."
This year saw landmark reports on climate change, detailing the ever-increasing scientific certainty that human activities are driving catastrophic climate change and that action needs to be taken to prevent the worst effects. Yet despite the fact that more Americans than ever support action on climate change, conservative media went to ridiculous lengths to cast doubt on the scientific consensus behind global warming, citing everything from free market economics to witchcraft, touting conspiracy theories and predictions of an "ice age," and even fulfilling Godwin's law.
Here are the 11 dumbest things conservative media said about climate change this year:
11. Bill O'Reilly: "It's Easier To Believe In A Benevolent God, The Baby Jesus" Than Manmade Climate Change. On the December 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly led a discussion on whether or not it is easier to believe in the birth story of Jesus than in manmade climate change, positing that it is "easier to believe in a benevolent God, the baby Jesus, than it is in some kind of theory about global warming." When his guest pointed out that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activities are driving global warming, O'Reilly baselessly countered, "I wouldn't put it that high. I've read a lot about it." He concluded: "[I]t's a choice -- people choose to believe."
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A flagship report found that acting on climate change and improving the economy go hand in hand, which was reported by business media outlets across the globe. But three prominent outliers left their audiences in the dark: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal.*
On September 16, many major business media outlets from Fortune Magazine to BusinessWeek reported on a recent analysis finding that the next 15 years are essential for acting on climate change, and that it is possible to do so while simultaneously growing the global economy. The report, titled "The New Climate Economy" and carried out by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, refutes the "false dilemma" between economic growth and climate change mitigation -- an important finding for businesses that want to thrive in the decades ahead. From Reuters:
Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.
Yet the report was ignored by three prominent business media outlets -- a disservice to their business audiences who deserve to know the economic risks of global warming. The outlets that ignored the findings of the "New Climate Economy" report may not come as a surprise: CNBC, Fox Business, and The Wall Street Journal all have a sordid history with reporting on climate change.
When the "Risky Business" report was released earlier this year -- another report detailing the economic costs of climate change inaction -- CNBC was caught soliciting a writer to talk about "global warming being a hoax" to rebut the report's findings. The network's on-air coverage of "Risky Business" featured Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen criticizing the acceptance of global warming as "Orwellian groupthink." Media Matters analyses found that CNBC misled their audience on global warming in the majority of their reporting on the topic in 2013.
Fox Business also regularly offers demonstrably false reporting on global warming. Co-hosts have often claimed that global warming is over, or even that we are in a period of global cooling. When the Risky Business report was released, Fox Business mocked its findings of heat-related mortalities and dismissed the report entirely as using "scare tactics."
Similarly, Wall Street Journal dismissed the findings of the Risky Business report, with its editorial board calling one of its authors' suggestions for a carbon tax as economically harmful as the 2008 financial crisis. The Journal has downplayed and dismissed the impacts of climate change and other environmental threats for decades, and gives a frequent platform to "skeptics" that urge inaction on climate change and dismiss the basic science behind the consensus.
The New Climate Economy was heralded by political leaders around the world advocating a transformation in the global economy. By ignoring it, these outlets are showing that their priorities are at odds with businesses that want to prosper in a changing climate.
*Based on a search of internal video archives from September 15 to 12 p.m. September 17 for "climate" for Fox Business and CNBC, and a Factiva search for "climate" for Wall Street Journal.
Exxon-Funded Physicist William Happer Fulfills Godwin's Law
The cable business channel CNBC continued to push climate change denial on its network, hosting a professor who compared the "demonization" of carbon dioxide to the Holocaust.
Physics Professor William Happer has published no peer-reviewed research on climate change, yet co-host Joe Kernen introduced him as an "industry expert" on the July 14 edition of Squawk Box. After a softball interview with Kernen, co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin challenged Happer for "not believ[ing] in climate change" -- to which Happer responded by telling Sorkin to "shut up." Sorkin then asked Happer about comments he made to The Daily Princetonian in 2009 comparing climate science to Nazi propaganda. Happer doubled down on his comments, stating that "the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews."
Sorkin also noted that Happer, who has suggested that people should be "clamoring for more atmospheric carbon dioxide," is the chairman of the Marshall Institute, which received $865,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2011.
While Sorkin's pushback was admirable, it's difficult to determine what benefit CNBC is giving its business viewers by once again hosting Happer to push climate denial, especially as it's becoming clear that unchecked climate change is inherently an economic issue that provides serious risks to businesses. A 2013 Media Matters report found that 51 percent of CNBC's climate change coverage cast doubt on the basic fact that the Earth is warming and that the majority of recent warming is manmade, contrary to a consensus of 97 percent of scientists. The channel recently came under fire for soliciting a story about "global warming being a hoax."
CNBC might also be able to find a few scientists who question whether HIV causes AIDS, whether secondhand smoke is dangerous, or whether vaccines cause autism -- as all three have a few contrarian "experts" supporting their cause -- but it wouldn't be responsible to give them a platform.
Refusing to act on climate change will be bad for business, according to a major recent report assessing the alarming risks of unchecked global warming on the U.S. economy. But while some top business media outlets recognize global warming as a serious issue for their audience, others are still stuck in denial.
On June 23, the Risky Business Project released a comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of climate change in the United States. The study found that the current path of "business as usual" -- emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for driving catastrophic climate change without restrictions -- will reduce labor productivity of outdoor workers by up to three percent, reduce agricultural yields by up to 70 percent in some regions, and cost up to $507 billion in property damages from sea level rise by 2100. The co-chairs are calling for business to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent an economic crash on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis or worse.
However, some top U.S. business media outlets are denying that climate change is a problem worth addressing -- a disservice to their business viewers, who have a lot to lose. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly cases of business media covering Risky Business:
In covering the study's findings, Bloomberg Television, a cable and satellite business news channel, featured an interview with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, one of the report's co-chairs and a Republican. Bloomberg's Erik Schatzer began the interview by stating that "the research [on man-made climate change] is overwhelmingly conclusive," and went on to have a rational discussion about solutions to global warming that businesses can take today. Schatzer noted that Bloomberg Television is a child company of the media organization founded by Michael Bloomberg, another co-chair of Risky Business. Paulson suggested that businesses fully disclose their climate change risks, that they invest in "resilience," and that the nation "take out a national insurance policy" to respond to the impacts of climate change, adding that businesses must advocate for government policies that would allow the nation to "avoid the most adverse outcomes."
Paulson elaborated on "the cost of inaction" alongside former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, in a well-done interview on the June 29 edition of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS:
Fox Business's coverage of the Risky Business report ridiculed the impacts of climate change and brushed aside the findings as "scare tactics." On the June 24 edition of Cavuto, Fox Business contributor Lauren Simonetti asserted that the organization is using "scare tactics," going on to entirely dismiss the idea of increasing heat-related mortality, saying "what does that mean -- mortality?"
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Patrick Moore's Climate Misinformation Is Nothing New
Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change -- without any expertise in the matter -- is nothing new.
Yet CNBC Continues To Host Non-Experts Who Deny Climate Change
As part of a campaign to pressure CNBC to improve its climate change coverage, mobile billboards are circulating the financial districts of New York City and Chicago on Thursday and Friday. However, rather than airing accurate information on how prominent business leaders use climate science to optimize their risk management strategies, CNBC has continued to air people denying climate change entirely.
The campaign by Media Matters, Forecast the Facts, and Environmental Action was hosted on fuel-efficient trucks to highlight Media Matters' studies finding that the majority of CNBC's relevant coverage casts doubt on the basic scientific consensus that climate change is real and manmade. So far, CNBC has not shown any signs of improvement -- even after a 45,000-signature petition called on CNBC to improve its coverage.
Most recently, CNBC hosted Joe Bastardi, whose arguments for climate change denial have been called "utter nonsense," "very odd" and "simply ignorant" by scientists, to discuss Super Typhoon Haiyan. When another meteorologist noted that rising sea levels have worsened the damage from storms such as Haiyan, Bastardi -- who has claimed contrary to basic physics that carbon dioxide "literally cannot cause global warming" -- predictably dismissed the greenhouse gas connection:
CNBC's Joe Kernen reacted to news from the Indian central bank by forwarding a number of racial stereotypes against Indian-Americans.
On September 20, India's central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to address concerns over inflation.
Reacting to the news and its effect on exchange rates on the September 20 edition of CNBC's Squawk Box, co-hosts Joe Kernen, Becky Quick, and Andrew Ross Sorkin turned the discussion to the rupee. After Quick noted that she still had rupees left from a recent trip to India, Kernen repeatedly stated the name "Gandhi" -- whose likeness appears on the rupee -- in a stereotypical Indian accent and later asked, "Are they good at 7-11?"
After Quick told Kernen his comments were insulting, Kernen apologized, saying, "I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to."
Here's a full transcript of the exchange:
QUICK: I think I have rupees in my wallet right now.
KERNEN: From your trip?
QUICK: No, I think I honestly do from the last time I was in India.
QUICK: Yeah, I think I might. Hold on.
KERNEN: You got a rupee in your wallet?
QUICK: I think I do.
SORKIN: That sounds a little, um.
KERNEN: You've got to be kidding. There is the rupee chart, just in case you were wondering where the rupee is. The dollar had been soaring, look what happened when we said we were going to keep pumping.
QUICK: I do.
KERNEN: Becky's got a rupee.
SORKIN: A rupee!
QUICK: Here's a fifty and a ten.
SORKIN: How much are those worth, do we know?
QUICK: I don't remember.
SORKIN: Look at Gandhi.
KERNEN: Well, ones worth ten and one's worth fifty, what do you mean?
SORKIN: Gandhi's on the rupee. Look at that.
KERNEN: Gandhi. Gandhi. Now. No, I can't make any jokes about that, I mean do they take -
KERNEN: No I can't do it. I was going to say something.
QUICK: Please don't.
KERNEN: I really can't?
QUICK: No, you can't.
KERNEN: Are they good at 7-11?
KERNEN: Alright, alright, I won't. Let's look at the - people say that all the time. Right? Oh, you're nervous.
SORKIN: They do. They do say that all the time.
KERNEN: They do. They say it all the time.
QUICK: It's insulting.
SORKIN: I've heard that.
KERNEN: It is. Alright, I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to.
UPDATE: In a statement to Mail Online shortly after Media Matters reported on his initial comments, Kernen apologized:
In a comment to Mail Online, Kernen said: 'Last Friday, I made an inappropriate and insensitive remark on Squawk Box. I apologize for any offense it caused.'
In the first half of 2013, a little more than half of CNBC's climate change coverage cast doubt on the consensus position that it exists and is manmade. In the three months since, little has changed -- in a disservice to its viewers, who will need to factor climate change into their long-term business planning, CNBC has continued to deny the science.
CNBC has rolled out a week of climate change programming. The special coverage comes after a Media Matters report finding that the majority of CNBC's climate reporting in the first half of 2013 was misleading, leading over 28,000 people to call for improved coverage in a petition organized by the advocacy groups Forecast the Facts and Environmental Action.
On Monday, CNBC host Carolin Roth reported on "CNBC's special week of climate coverage" on her daily news show Worldwide Exchange. Tuesday, Roth again mentioned the "special week on climate change" during a segment on shale gas. On the show, Emily Wurth from Food and Water Watch asserted that "we know that all climate scientists tell us that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and we can't drill for every last drop of oil and gas."
However, this special programming has so far been limited to Worldwide Exchange, while CNBC's worst offenders are still misleading their audience on climate change.