Steve Milloy

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  • New Book Provides Illustrated Guide To Media-Fueled “Madhouse” Of Climate Change Denial

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Sometimes even the world’s most serious problems are best handled with a little bit of humor.

    Case in point: The Madhouse Effect (Columbia University Press), a new book by Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, which lays out a plan for media, politicians, and the public at large to “escape the madhouse” of climate change denial before it’s too late.

    There is no shortage of books about climate change. But what makes this one unique is the way it combines Mann’s science communication skills, which help succinctly describe the roots, methods, and implications of climate science denial, and Toles’ illustrations, which provide an equally biting and amusing perspective on the dynamics the book describes. The book speaks to both our left and right brains, with the hope that it will motivate many to push for climate action -- and maybe even convert a few deniers along the way.

    The Madhouse Effect is also a book about media, and it dissects many common media failings that we frequently analyze and write about here at Media Matters.

    First among them is false balance, which the book describes as giving false industry-friendly claims about climate change “an equal place on the media stage with actual science.” As we documented in a recent study of newspaper opinion pages, one place where this problem is alive and well is USA Today, which often pairs scientifically accurate editorials about climate change with “opposing view” op-eds that flatly deny climate change is happening or that it's caused by human activities.

    Several of these climate science-denying “opposing views” in USA Today were written by Republican members of Congress, exemplifying another point Mann and Toles make in the book: False balance is “greatly exacerbated by the increasing polarization of our public discourse.” This can also be seen in print and TV news coverage of GOP presidential candidates’ climate denial, which frequently failed to indicate that the candidates' statements about climate change conflicted with the scientific consensus on the issue.

    Mann and Toles argue that false balance has been further worsened by the decentralization of news sources, particularly the rise of the “right-wing echo chamber” led (at least in the U.S.) by Rupert Murdoch-owned outlets Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, climate science denial remains a staple of both outlets, with the Journal editorial board and Journal columnist Holman Jenkins peddling every denialist trope imaginable, and Fox News recently erasing all mentions of climate change (and coincidentally, Mann) from an Associated Press article about Tropical Storm Hermine.

    The Madhouse Effect also pinpoints where these denialist talking points often originate, detailing many of the fossil fuel front groups whose representatives frequently mislead about climate change in major print and TV media without disclosing their glaring conflicts of interest. Among them are leading opponents of climate action such as Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), all of which have received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    The book exposes many of the individual industry-funded operatives known for misinforming about climate change, too, including the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, Heartland’s Fred Singer and James Taylor, editor Steve Milloy, ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano, and CEI’s Chris Horner and Myron Ebell.

    Mann and Toles give special attention to Bjorn Lomborg, a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and USA Today:

    Of Lomborg’s particular style of misinformation, they write:

    Lomborg’s arguments often have a veneer of credibility, but scratch the surface, and you witness a sleight of hand, where climate projections are lowballed; climate change impacts, damages, and costs are underestimated; and the huge current subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, both direct and indirect, are ignored.

    (Unfortunately, after Mann and Toles wrote a September 16 op-ed in the Washington Post profiling Lomborg and other members of the book’s climate “deniers club,” the Post opted to publish its first Lomborg op-ed in nearly two years on its website on September 19.)

    Thankfully, The Madhouse Effect debunks many of the top climate falsehoods promoted by these industry operatives -- and conservative media. These include claiming that addressing climate change will keep the poor in “energy poverty”; citing the global warming “hiatus” or “pause” to dismiss concerns about climate change; pointing to changes in the climate hundreds or thousands of years ago to deny that the current warming is caused by humans; alleging that unmitigated climate change will be a good thing; disputing that climate change is accelerating sea level rise; and denying that climate change is making weather disasters more costly.

    And Mann and Toles detail some of the climate connections that major media outlets often ignore, such as the counterintuitive role of climate change in the winter snowstorms that blanketed the Northeast in early 2015, and the impacts of climate change on national security, the economy, and public health. In part, they attribute this lack of coverage to a modern media environment where very few stories can survive more than a few 24-hour news cycles, which is “prohibitive for raising awareness about slowly growing threats such as climate change.”

    The book concludes with a call to action for readers to “leave the madhouse” and help lead the fight against climate change. The authors convey a sense of urgency, writing: “We will not, we cannot, wreck this planet. There is no Planet B.” As with so much else in The Madhouse Effect, that sentiment is also expressed in cartoon-form, via Toles’ illustration of a thermometer for a chapter titled, “Why should I give a damn?”:

  • The Right-Wing Media's Most Unhinged Reactions To The EPA's Historic Climate Plan


    Right-wing media have reacted to the unveiling of the final version of President Obama's historic Clean Power Plan with claims that it will hurt America, denials that it will benefit public health, and personal attacks on the president and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. Here's a sampling of the conservative media's most unhinged, over-the-top reactions.

  • Conservatives Celebrate "Huge Victory" As SCOTUS Rules Against Life-Saving Pollution Safeguards

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.

  • Conservative Media vs. The Pope: The Worst Reactions To Pope Francis' Climate Change Encyclical

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change reveals his belief that there is a moral obligation to act swiftly on climate change, which disproportionately harms the world's poor. But conservative media are relentlessly attacking the pope over the encyclical, calling it "insipid" and "blasphemous," and fearmongering that the Catholic leader is a "Marxist" pushing for "a new world order," among other things.

  • What Business Reporters Are Missing About The EPA And Manufacturing

    New Report Shows How EPA Carbon Standards Protect Manufacturers

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Source: Business Forward

    Business media have been spreading the myth that the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to rein in carbon pollution will harm the American manufacturing industry by increasing electricity prices. But a new report by a group of business leaders found that the manufacturing industry is at far greater economic risk from the extreme weather events that the EPA's clean power plan would help prevent.

    When the EPA proposed standards for the carbon pollution driving climate change for existing power plants, several top U.S. business media outlets promoted claims that the rules would harm manufacturers. Reuters published two articles that uncritically repeated utility industry lobbyists' claims that the rules will "destroy jobs" at "manufacturing plants." The Wall Street Journal cited a steel industry spokesman that claimed the rules will "impede the post-recession growth of American manufacturing" without criticism, and the newspaper's editorial board suggested that the rules will "punish" regions that rely on manufacturing. Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted Steve Milloy, a policy director at coal giant Murray Energy, who lambasted the rules, stating: "if you work in manufacturing, do you want to see your job exported to China?"

    However, an analysis by Business Forward -- an association of American business leaders focused on sound public policy -- found that extreme weather events will have severe economic impacts on the automotive manufacturing industry in the United States, while any increase in electricity prices as a result of turning to clean power will have minimal costs for the manufacturing industries. The analysis has not been covered* by the prominent business media outlets that promoted claims that the standards would harm manufacturers.

    For example, automakers, who represent the nation's largest industrial sector, are extremely vulnerable to disruptions in the global supply chain caused by extreme weather events. The study found that extreme weather events -- many of which are happening more frequently -- can cause an auto assembly plant to shut down at immense costs of $1.25 million or more per hour. Business Forward explained that even when extreme weather events happen on the other side of the globe, they impact manufacturers:

    Because supply chains are global, disruptions on the other side of the planet can slow down or shut down an American factory. For example, in October 2011, severe floods in Thailand affected more than 1,000 industrial facilities. Production by consumer electronics manufacturers in the U.S. dropped by one-third.

    The carbon standards, by contrast, would cost the automotive industry far less because electricity is a "comparatively small portion" of their total costs. The report found that if electricity costs increased by 6.2 percent by 2020, it would add less than $7 to the cost of producing car that sells on average for $30,000. Overall, this would cost the average auto assembly plant about $1.1 million, or the equivalent of less than an hour of assembly line downtime at a single auto plant each year. The EPA estimates that electricity prices will increase slightly as a result of the standards, but efficiency improvements will lower electric bills by 2025.

    Automaker electricity costs

  • Myths And Facts About Solar Energy

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Conservative media have denigrated solar energy by denying its sustainability, ignoring its successes, and arguing the U.S. should simply cede the solar market to China. Yet this booming industry has made great strides, and with the right policies can become a major source of our power.

  • Meet The Climate Denial Machine

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    Despite the overwhelming consensus among climate experts that human activity is contributing to rising global temperatures, 66 percent of Americans incorrectly believe there is "a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening." The conservative media has fueled this confusion by distorting scientific research, hyping faux-scandals, and giving voice to groups funded by industries that have a financial interest in blocking action on climate change. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have shied away from the "controversy" over climate change and have failed to press U.S. policymakers on how they will address this global threat. When climate change is discussed, mainstream outlets sometimes strive for a false balance that elevates marginal voices and enables them to sow doubt about the science even in the face of mounting evidence.

    Here, Media Matters looks at how conservative media outlets give industry-funded "experts" a platform, creating a polarized misunderstanding of climate science.

    Heartland Institute And James Taylor

    The Economist has called the libertarian Heartland Institute "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change." Every year, Heartland hosts an "International Conference on Climate Change," bringing together a small group of contrarians (mostly non-scientists) who deny that manmade climate change is a serious problem. To promote its most recent conference, Heartland launched a short-lived billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" including Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Facing backlash from corporate donors and even some of its own staff, Heartland removed the billboard, but refused to apologize for the "experiment."

    Heartland does not disclose its donors, but internal documents obtained in February reveal that Heartland received $25,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2011 and anticipated $200,000 in additional funding in 2012. Charles Koch is CEO and co-owner of Koch Industries, a corporation with major oil interests. Along with his brother David Koch, he has donated millions to groups that spread climate misinformation. Heartland also receives funding from some corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science. ExxonMobil contributed over $600,000 to Heartland between 1998 and 2006, but has since pledged to stop funding groups that cast doubt on climate change.

    Despite their industry ties and lack of scientific expertise, Heartland Institute fellows are often given a media platform to promote their marginal views on climate change. Most visible is James Taylor, a lawyer with no climate science background who heads Heartland's environmental initiative. Taylor dismisses "alarmist propaganda that global warming is a human-caused problem that needs to be addressed," and suggests that taking action to reduce emissions could cause a return to the "the Little Ice Age and the Black Death." But that hasn't stopped Forbes from publishing his weekly column, which he uses to spout climate misinformation and accuse scientists of "doctoring" temperature data to fabricate a warming trend. It also hasn't stopped Fox News from promoting his misinformation.

  • Myths And Facts About Coal


    Conservative media have claimed that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on "cheap," "clean" coal that will cause blackouts and massive layoffs. In fact, the Obama administration has simply implemented long overdue and legally required clean air regulations to protect public health without hurting electric reliability or employment, and much of the transition away from coal is due to the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.

  • Wash. Times' Milloy Twists EPA Admin.'s Words To Construe A "War On Coal"

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    In a Washington Times op-ed, serial misinformer Steve Milloy called for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to resign for "rail[ing] against the coal industry." But in his attempt to reinforce the narrative that EPA has launched a "war on coal," Milloy grossly distorted Jackson's remarks about coal pollution regulations. Milloy wrote:

    It is time for Lisa P. Jackson to resign. Last Friday at Howard University, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) railed against the coal industry, saying, "In [the coal industry's] entire history - 50, 60, 70 years or even 30 - they never found the time or the reason to clean up their act. They're literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us."

    This is patently false, of course, as emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are quite heavily regulated. Those emissions controls are the reason U.S. air is clean and safe and why, say, the air in regulation-free China is not.

    But Milloy took Administrator Jackson's quote entirely out of context. Jackson was specifically referring to the aging coal-fired power plants that have failed to install long overdue pollution control technology, not to the coal industry as a whole -- as many coal plants have already installed this technology. Here's what she actually said:

    One of the reasons the mercury standards are so important is that the vast majority of plants that are going to have to meet the standards - - that don't meet them now - - are very, very old, uncontrolled coal fired power plants.


    But you know, 50, 60, we actually I think had one that was approaching 70 years old. And in their entire history - 50, 60, 70 years or even 30 - even though we had A Clean Air Act of 1970, even though we had Clean Air Act amendments in 1990, they've never found the time or the reason to clean up their act. That's what we're dealing with. They are literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us, because we get to breathe in the pollution that they put out, or our rivers and streams get contaminated with the mercury and arsenic and lead and acid gases that they put out. That's a very important rule, and it has come only because of the President's strong support.

  • Fox Decides The EPA Is No Longer Necessary

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Good news, everyone: America has eliminated pollution.

    At least that would be your impression if you watched John Stossel and Steve Milloy on Fox yesterday.

    Fox's Stossel said, "Thank goodness for the EPA. The air and water are cleaner than they used to be." Following that, he declared that the EPA's purpose has been fulfilled:

    STOSSEL: It's diminishing returns. They've done a wonderful job. Stop already. Stick a fork in it, and it's done.

    Later on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, climate skeptic Steve Milloy said, "We have made tremendous environmental progress since 1970, but guess what? It's no longer 1970, it's 2011. Our environment is clean and safe. We do not need more environmental regulations," which he called "a luxury." Watch:

    Of course, these claims are absurd and simply not true. The EPA's clean air regulations reportedly "prevented 160,000 premature deaths" in 2010 alone. Yet Stossel and Milloy seem to think it's simply no longer necessary to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths annually by regulating pollution.

  • Conservative Media Declare That Solar Power "Doesn't Work"


    When Solyndra, a California based solar panel manufacturer, announced this week that it will file for bankruptcy, conservative media outlets immediately cheered the loss as evidence that solar power doesn't work. That couldn't be further from the truth.

    In fact, solar energy was the fastest growing industry in the United States last year. And as Climate Progress reported, "America is a net exporter of solar products ... to the tune of $1.8 billion."

    Arizona-based First Solar is currently building its second U.S. factory, which will "roughly double the solar-panel maker's U.S. production capacity," according to the Wall Street Journal. The company is also investing in several large solar farms.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers announced in June that solar panels, which have great potential for increases in efficiency, could become most cost-effective electricity source within a decade, even challenging fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency also recently said solar generators, including both solar photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants, may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years.

    Despite all this, conservative media claim solar power isn't worth pursuing.

  • Smog Screen: Conservative Media Contradict Health Experts On Air Quality

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Conservative media claim stricter standards for ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog, are unreasonable and unnecessary. In fact, EPA is strengthening the standards because health experts, including the scientific panel that advised the Bush administration, have said that the standards set in 2008 are not sufficient to protect the public.

  • Wash. Times Op-Ed Denies Health Benefits Of Clean Air Controls

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Steve Milloy claimed in a Washington Times op-ed that air pollution from power plants is "not causing air-quality or public-health problems" and that EPA's clean air regulations "will bring no health or environmental benefits." However, health experts disagree with Milloy, who previously downplayed the dangers of secondhand smoke while taking money from the tobacco industry.