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The Most Idiotic Media Coverage Of Climate Change In 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

1. Fox commentator David Webb said peer-reviewed climate studies are done by eco-terrorists and claimed that a pollution inequity study is just “gobbledygook.”

On the March 13 episode of Fox & Friends, Fox Nation host David Webb addressed a study about racial inequality in air pollution, which found that “pollution is disproportionately caused by whites, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities.” Rather than actually acknowledging this very real and serious issue of environmental racism, Webb just called the study “gobbledygook.” He said peer-reviewed studies like this one are often done by “eco-terrorists,” which is quite the claim to make against one of the world’s most well-respected and well-cited scientific journals. He also tried to deflect from the U.S. pollution problem by claiming that there is also bad pollution in Africa. This was not the first time that Webb, who has no scientific background, has made an outlandish statement about climate change.

2. Fox guest Patrick Moore says that “the climate crisis is not only fake news, it’s fake science.”

On the March 12 episode of Fox & Friendsclimate denier and all-around abominable human being Patrick Moore launched into a tirade about the Green New Deal and climate change. He said climate change is “not only fake news, it’s fake science.” He called it “not dangerous” and “not made by people,” while extolling the virtues of carbon dioxide. Moore, a consultant who often falsely bills himself as Greenpeace’s co-founder, has previously raked in money from polluting industries. Moore launched into the same boring tirade against climate change on the March 14 episode of Fox News @ Night, again claiming that climate change is “not just fake news, it’s fake science” and that there is “no hard evidence that CO2 is causing the climate change.”

Moore is a member of the Koch-backed CO2 Coalition, which claims that rising carbon dioxide levels are actually good for the planet (spoiler alert: they are not). Luckily for us, after a slate of Fox News appearances in mid-March, Moore has not appeared on the network since.

3. The New York Times’ Bret Stephens downplayed climate change, comparing policies addressing the crisis to insuring oneself against a “potential” fire.

On the March 26 episode of MTP Daily, New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens downplayed climate change by comparing policies fighting the issue to a family bankrupting itself by buying unnecessary fire insurance. Stephens stated that climate policy is “like a question of there could be a fire in your house,” and that “we have to take out fire insurance. … What you can’t say is we’re going to bankrupt ourselves in the process of insuring ourselves against the potential risk.”

What Stephens doesn’t seem to understand here is that our house is already on fire. There’s no “risk” of climate change getting worse — science tells us that it is here now, and that it will continue to get worse unless we rapidly reduce our carbon emissions. Additionally, the damages of climate change will cost much, much more than the policies will cost to fight it, both in human lives and financial loss. So Stephens’ attempt to use a clever metaphor falls flat — but what can we expect from someone who has previously had laughably bad takes on climate change?

4. Fox commentators Diamond & Silk inexplicably link climate change to the speed of Earth’s rotation.

On the April 5 episode of Fox & Friends, Fox Nation personalities Diamond & Silk tried to link climate change to the speed of Earth’s rotation. Referring to the Green New Deal as “a green new scam,” they implored Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to “talk to Mother Nature” about climate change, before adding, “Because with the Earth rotating at 1,000 miles per hour, OK, 365 days of the year, we subject to feel climate changing a little bit.”

Climate change, which has absolutely everything to do with humans burning carbon dioxide and nothing to do with the speed of Earth’s orbit, might actually be causing Earth to wobble on its axis. Maybe Diamond and Silk meant to say this, but we don’t think that’s quite what they were going for with this head-scratching take.

5. Longtime Fox guest and industry shill Marc Morano claims that carbon dioxide can’t be pollution because “we exhale carbon dioxide.”

Marc Morano has been at the forefront of climate denial for over a decade. Every year, he goes on Fox News to downplay or outright deny climate change, saying completely absurd things that must make his industry backers very happy. On April 30, he went on Fox & Friends to talk about former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s climate change plan. Morano stated that “carbon dioxide, humans — we inhale oxygen, we exhale carbon dioxide, so he’s calling CO2 pollution, which it’s not.” While it’s true that we do breathe carbon dioxide, it is indeed a pollutant and can be extremely harmful for humans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has it listed as a dangerous pollutant.

This is not the first time (and probably not the last) that Morano has extolled the virtues of carbon dioxide pollution. Appearing on Varney & Co. in December 2018, Morano said that carbon dioxide is actually a positive for global warming. This schtick of Morano’s is both tired and dangerous, and the sooner he disappears from any conversation about climate change, the better.

6. Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro says the real climate change deniers are the ones trying to solve it.

On the August 1 episode of The Ben Shapiro ShowThe Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro claimed that people like him are branded as climate deniers for both recognizing that the problem exists and arguing that there are some problems with collective action to address it. He then said that the “true deniers” are those who recognize we need to take action right now, for they are “denying the reality of the situation on the ground.” This is a magnificent spin on the climate change issue. The “reality of the situation on the ground” is simple — there is a clear need for collective action to rapidly decarbonize our economy to fight climate change, but those actions are being thwarted by fossil fuel companies (like the ones that fund Shapiro’s Daily Wire) and right-wingers of Shapiro’s ilk. Shapiro also brings up the rising emissions of China and India. While climate advocates recognize that this is a serious issue, the China and India argument is used by right-wingers to downplay the need for the U.S. to take action on climate change. Shapiro does not have a good history of talking about climate change, so his comments here are no surprise.

7. Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles claims that it’s “pagan” to be concerned over climate change.

Not to be outdone by his colleague Ben Shapiro, Michael Knowles offered up his own ludicrous climate change take. On September 5, he talked about climate change and the “secular left,” saying that “the way they’re talking about it is not modern, and it’s not scientific. This is ancient, this is primitive, this goes back to our most pagan roots.” He also states that “in the modern secular view, we can save ourselves … and the way we do it is not even by moral improvement or by living out the virtues, it’s by recycling, it’s by not fracking, it’s by killing our babies.”

Knowles really likes to deny climate change by comparing it to religion, and he keeps trying to find more colorful ways to do so. The way advocates talk about climate change is actually quite scientific, and there have been decades of research on the issue as well as near-unanimous consent on its occurrence.

8. Fox guest Charlie Kirk thinks climate change can’t be a problem because the Obamas bought a beach house.

One of the stupidest tropes to come out of the right-wing media echo chamber about climate change this year had to do with the Obamas buying a house on Martha’s Vineyard. The Obamas bought a beach house, rising sea levels might affect that house, and therefore, climate change must be a hoax, or it can’t really be that big of a deal. That argument was unironically offered by a number of right-wing figures and outlets. One of these figures was Charlie Kirk, a frequent Fox guest and co-founder of the unabashedly racist Turning Point USA. Kirk tweeted this argument at least three times this year, all with a thinking-face emoji. In the last one, he downplayed the idea that climate change can even be considered an existential threat.

To suggest that a beach house purchase overturns decades of scientific consensus on climate change should probably disqualify someone from being taken seriously, but nope, Kirk is still trotted out on Fox News to give his opinion.

9. Fox commentator Dan Bongino called global warming an “existential threat” to “the truth” and said it’s another liberal hoax.

On October 21, former Secret Service agent, failed congressional candidate, and current Fox News contributor Dan Bongino tweeted that “global warming is an existential threat to the the truth” while calling it “another hoax.” This is not the first time that Bongino has said something ridiculous about climate change — in August he said the crisis is “made up,” and he tweeted that it was a hoax in September.

10. Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza claimed that a “generation from now, no one will recall climate change.”

Dinesh D’Souza, perhaps one of the most vile individuals still appearing on Fox News, tweeted out this comment on November 9. What is really true is that the next generation will grow up in a time of deadlier extreme weather and social and economic conditions made worse by climate change. But we hope that generation at least will not recall who Dinesh D’Souza is.

11. While hosting a climate denier on his show, Tucker Carlson complained of “relentless propaganda” about climate change.

On his March 20 Fox News show, Tucker Carlson hosted climate denier meteorologist Joe Bastardi to discuss climate change polling. Tucker complained of “relentless propaganda” regarding climate change, and said it’s  “clearly political, not science.” Along with the irony of calling climate change propaganda while hosting one of the biggest climate change deniers around, Carlson made a few curious claims. He said that only 2% of people “are most concerned about climate change.” He’s extremely off base here — recent polling suggests that 57% of citizens believe that “global climate change [is] a major threat to the well-being of the United States.”

Carlson also took the opportunity to launch a bigoted, xenophobic attack on immigrants, baselessly claiming that “more people were killed last year in the United States by illegal aliens than were killed by climate change.” This is an absurd and wholly unsupported statement — there are no known numbers of deaths for either issue, but what we do know is that studies suggest undocumented immigrants actually commit fewer violent crimes than native-born citizens. We also know that climate change is amplifying extreme weather events, including heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes. Tucker’s need to mention undocumented immigrants in climate change segments speaks to a worrying trend of eco-fascism that he is clearly fond of.

12. Infowars host Alex Jones denied climate change and insisted that Hurricane Dorian was manipulated by geoengineering.

During a segment about Hurricane Dorian, Alex Jones pushed a weather control conspiracy theory, questioning why the media are quick to blame climate change for hurricanes and saying, “We’re having some extreme weather, and yes, a lot of it is being manipulated.” He accused “global warming advocates” of telling us all that “hurricanes are all our fault.” He also lamented those he said are silencing him, saying, “George Soros and the Democratic Party have come out and they want it outlawed for citizens to talk about the weather modification.”

It goes without saying that humans cannot control hurricanes, although this doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists like Jones from saying that we can. Human activity can affect hurricanes, though, and we already know how: climate change, which can impact things like hurricane intensity and rainfall. Jones’ segment came shortly after President Donald Trump suggested nuking hurricanes to stop them from hitting the U.S., so it’s possible Jones was defending the president.

13. Rush Limbaugh complained that people pushing for climate action “are ruining people’s lives.”

Radio host Rush Limbaugh ran through a number of climate denier statements on the August 1 episode of Hannity. He said that “there is no man-made climate change” and that those actually trying to solve the climate problem are “ruining people’s lives.” Limbaugh has been at the forefront of climate denial for years and often says really ridiculous things about the issue. And of course, contrary to what Rush says, climate change is going to really, really screw with our lives.

14. Former Environmental Protection Agency official and Fox guest Mandy Gunasekara claimed that climate change is just something used to distract people from Trump’s accomplishments.

On July 10, Mandy Gunasekara, former EPA official and co-founder of a pro-Trump energy PAC, spouted climate denial on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom. She called climate change “not an existential threat” while also claiming that it is something being used to distract people from Trump’s accomplishments. Gunasekara has repeatedly denied climate change in numerous right-wing media appearances this year, and she is a huge cheerleader for the Trump agenda. That’s no surprise, given her background with climate denier Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), her connection to climate denial groups, and her favoritism towards fossil fuel producers. We’re also not quite sure which Trump accomplishments she is referring to when she says climate change is a distraction, but perhaps it’s his devastating environmental rollbacks, his pro-polluter agenda, or his completely nihilistic attitude toward the overall crisis.

15. Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth said, “Global climate change is all about control.”

On the August 8 episode of Varney & Co.Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth threw a few climate denier arguments against the wall to see which one would stick. Speaking on the topic of the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s land and climate report, Hegseth stated that “global climate change is all about control” and that “there’s been ways in which they’ve cooked the books.” He repeated a few of these same denier arguments on the August 13 episode of Fox & Friends. Additionally, accusing scientists of “cooking the books” is really ridiculous, as climate models have been extremely accurate over the past several decades. Fox News has distorted the climate change debate with its misinformation over the years — instead of actually having a nuanced discussion about the IPCC climate report’s findings, it’s much easier for them to trot out the same tired arguments against taking action.

In Wildfire Coverage, Network TV Ignores Climate Change

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


This month’s catastrophic California wildfires garnered significant media coverage, with major national news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC airing more than 100 segments about the unfolding disasters. But Media Matters found that just 3.7 percent of those segments mentioned the link between climate change and worsening wildfires. That’s a minuscule improvement over their coverage of Western wildfires this summer, when the networks incorporated climate change into less than 2 percent of their segments.

On the local level, TV news programs on California stations included discussion of climate change in numerous segments about the ongoing wildfires. News shows on major TV network affiliates in the state’s three largest media markets aired 44 episodes that addressed how climate change exacerbates wildfires.

Climate change is a critical factor contributing to the growing severity of wildfires in the United States, according to researchers. Scientists have documented an increase in both the number of large fires and the total area burned per year in the U.S. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, as rising temperatures in the West have lengthened wildfire season by several months. Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, told The Associated Press that the increasing severity of fires is “much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”

NBC mentioned climate change in just two segments, while ABC and CBS each made only one mention

The three national broadcast TV networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — aired 107 segments about the California wildfires on their major morning and evening news programs from November 8 to 13. Only four of these, or 3.7 percent, included discussion of climate change. NBC aired two of the segments that mentioned climate change, while ABC and CBS aired one each.

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Both of NBC’s climate change mentions came from weather anchor Al Roker on the November 12 episode of Today. During the show’s 7 a.m. hour, Roker discussed the factors that have made the fires so bad: “July was the hottest month ever recorded in California. That hot weather dries out the vegetation. They’ve had no rain to speak of really in the last three months. Parched conditions. And this is all due to climate change.” He noted that the annual number of large fires in the state has more than tripled since 1970, and that there have been six times as many acres burned per year on average since then. He made many of the same points in a later segment during the same episode. Here’s the first segment:

CBS’ climate change mention came on the November 11 episode of CBS This Morning, during a segment by WCBS New York weather anchor Lonnie Quinn. He said researchers believe that “both forest management and the changing climate play a role” in worsening wildfires. “California’s temperatures have increased 2 to even 3 degrees over the last century,” he explained. “Making matters worse, there was a five-year drought from 2011 to 2016. That drought killed more than 129 million trees. That’s just fuel for the current fires that are out there.”

ABC’s coverage was the weakest, seeming to downplay the effect of climate change on the wildfires. On the November 10 episode of ABC’s Good Morning Americaanchor Eva Pilgrim said to ABC senior meteorologist Rob Marciano, “It seems like these fires are getting worse and worse every year. Is this climate change? What’s the deal with all this?” Marciano responded, “This summer we saw excessive heat waves and drought in some cases, you can link a little bit of that to climate change. But this is a Santa Ana season, so this is not unusual to get winds blowing flames like this, and this is a dry season as well.”

Even this fleeting mention of climate change is a slight improvement for ABC, which rarely brings up climate change at all in its coverage of extreme weather. During this past summer’s dramatic wildfire season, ABC’s coverage didn’t mention climate change a single time, and the network made no mention of climate change earlier this year in its coverage of both a deadly heat wave and Hurricane Florence.

CBS and NBC also did poorly when it came to incorporating climate change into their reporting on this summer’s wildfires in the Western U.S., even though they didn’t completely strike out like ABC. From June 21 to September 21, the main morning and evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 471 segments discussing the wildfires, and only nine of them, or 1.9 percent, mentioned climate change — six on CBS and three on NBC.

California local news shows mentioned climate change numerous times in their wildfire coverage

Media Matters also analyzed news coverage of the wildfires on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the three largest California media markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. From November 8 to 13, we found 44 news show episodes that mentioned climate change in relation to the wildfires — 16 in Los Angeles, and 14 each in the Sacramento and San Francisco areas. Over half of these episodes featured a clip of California Gov. Jerry Brown blaming climate change for the destructiveness of the wildfires during a November 11 press conference.

One example of such coverage came from Los Angeles’ KTTV Fox 11 noon news program on November 12. The segment was wholly focused on Brown’s comments about climate change and wildfires:

A more muddled example aired on Sacramento’s KXTV ABC 10 Morning Blend show. The segment discussed a tweet from President Donald Trump that blamed the fires on poor forest management. The hosts noted Brown’s comments about climate change, then invited viewers to take a poll and vote for either forest management or climate change as the bigger contributor to the fires. Most of the poll takers selected forest management:

Both of these segments would have been better if they had informed viewers of what scientists and other experts actually say: Climate change is a significant contributor, and, in the case of the current fires, forest management is not.

Still, it’s notable that many local news stations made a point of discussing climate change in the context of the fires. Local stations have a greater responsibility than national ones to report on the immediate dangers that wildfires pose to their community members, including evacuation orders and specific details about how fires spread. And yet this month in California, many local programs still found time to report on how climate change worsens wildfires. There’s no excuse for national networks not to do the same.


Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ Media for broadcast network TV news segments that covered wildfires using the search terms wildfire(s), forest fire(s), or fire(s), and then we searched within those segments for mentions of climate change or global warming. Our analysis covered morning news shows (ABC’s Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today) and nightly news shows (ABC World News TonightCBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) from November 8-13. For local California coverage, we searched IQ Media for news shows between 4 a.m. and midnight on affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the media markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto.

Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Top US Newspapers Downplay Landmark Climate Report

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

A United Nations scientific panel released a major new climate change report on the night of October 7, warning of dire consequences if world governments don’t take unprecedented and dramatic steps in the next decade to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The next morning, the majority of top U.S. newspapers failed to mention the report on their homepages.

IPCC report warns that fast, sweeping action is necessary to fight climate change

At 9 p.m. EDT on October 7, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited special report about what will happen if the average global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and what would be required to prevent such a rise. The average temperature has already risen 1 degree C worldwide, and we will see dramatic and deadly impacts if it rises 2 degrees or more, which is now considered extremely likely. The IPCC report was requested by world leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The report emphasizes the need for unprecedented action in the coming years to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and warns of the dire impacts if humanity fails to take that action.

The majority of top U.S. newspapers neglected to cover the IPCC report on their homepages

Between 9 a.m. and noon EDT on October 8, Media Matters analyzed the homepages of the top 50 U.S. newspapers as ranked by average Sunday circulation. Twenty-eight of the papers did not mention the report on their homepages at all:

Of the above newspapers, 10 serve cities that are listed among the “25 U.S. Cities Most Affected by Climate Change in a 2015 report: Baltimore, Buffalo, Columbus, Denver, Louisville, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, and St. Paul.

Other major newspapers in cities heavily affected by climate change also failed to highlight the IPCC report. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, did not note the report on its homepage. Las Vegas is ranked third in the list. The Miami Herald also did not mention the IPCC report on its homepage, though it did link to an article about how the risk of sea-level rise threatens real estate prices. Miami will be particularly affected by sea-level rise; a study published last year in the journal Nature concluded that rising seas as a result of climate change could cause more than 2.5 million Miami residents to flee the city.

Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers mentioned the IPCC report on their homepages

These are the papers that linked from their homepages to articles about the IPCC report:

A few of the newspapers featured the IPCC report prominently on their homepages, including The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but most of homepage mentions of the report were just headlines. Here’s how the Star Tribune featured the report:

Methodology: Media Matters searched for the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” “IPCC,” “report,” and “scientist” on the homepages of the top 50 highest-circulation U.S. newspapers between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST on October 8. The list of newspapers was taken from the recent Pew Research Center report State of the News Media.


Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters