[Vision2020] Time, 2-14-17: "Climate Change Denial Is the Original Fake News"
starbliss at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 22:24:16 PST 2017
It's bizarre and ironic in the extreme when Donald Trump blasts media for
"fake news" when his numerous publicly stated lies, exaggerations and
apparently uninformed nonsense express the very definition of "fake." His
statements about and approach to anthropogenic global warming are a glaring
Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
Climate Change Denial Is the Original Fake News
Eric Pooley <http://time.com/author/eric-pooley/>
Feb 14, 2017
*Pooley, a former managing editor of *Fortune *and chief political
correspondent for* Time*, is a Senior Vice President at Environmental
Defense Fund and the author of *The Climate War
The great struggle of our era will be fact versus deliberate fiction.
Americans have watched this battle unfold in the 2016 presidential election
and the early days of the Donald Trump
<http://time.com/4645559/donald-trump-epa-social-media-blackout/>, as a
leader who plays fast and loose with the facts begins to erode the very
idea of evidence-based public debate.
For those fighting to solve climate change
<http://time.com/4635162/scott-pruitt-science-denial/>, this is an old
story. Professional climate-change denial is the original fake news
I’m not talking about your grumpy uncle’s doubts about whether climate
change is real. I’m talking about the fossil fuel-funded, decades-long,
under-the-radar public-relations campaign that helped sow those doubts.
In the 1990s, as climate change became a prominent issue, industry
associations like the American Petroleum Institute organized an ambitious
to confuse the public about the facts of climate science. Their campaign
was based on the tobacco industry’s work to obscure the link between
smoking and cancer, using fringe think tanks
<http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Climate_Change_Deniers> to spread
junk science. Late last year, one of the architects and chief spokesmen for
that campaign, a professional denier named Myron Ebell
<http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Myron_Ebell>, was put in charge of
President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team.
Fake science was infiltrating the new administration.
The goal of the professional deniers is to spread doubt about facts that
have been established through decades of research. Knowing that most people
reasonably enough don’t have the time or training to investigate scientific
claims, they toss out random theories and see what gains traction. Water
vapor, suns spots and the Medieval Warm Period have all had a turn.
We recently saw a fresh round of climate propaganda. A columnist in the
London tabloid *Mail on Sunday* falsely accused
scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of
fudging temperature data. The writer used the familiar tactic of taking an
obscure scientific point (there are small differences in the globally
averaged temperature results published by various scientific institutions)
and pretending that it discredits climate science itself. This is like
calling your diet an abject failure because one scale says you lost 39
pounds and another says you lost 40. The claims have been authoritatively
The so-called "whistleblower <http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060049630>"
featured in the fake news story has even come forward to say there was no
Yet inside the echo chamber of climate lies, the bogus claim spread farther
and faster that those rebuttals ever will. Breitbart-style outlets hailed
the “news” and conservative bloggers, tweeters and politicians amplified
it. Representative Lamar Smith, the climate change–denying chair of the
U.S. House Science Committee, whose campaigns are largely bankrolled by oil
issued a breathless press release and raised the issue at a recent hearing
And Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s pick to head the EPA, has been using
the same kind of climate disinformation
in his oral and written Senate confirmation testimony.
How can Americans spot bogus reports in the climate change debate and fake
news more generally? Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself that
can help separate fact from fake.
- *Is the claim based on peer-reviewed work?* Scientists have a system
for double-checking their work. Studies submitted to professional journals
have to be reviewed by other experts in the field, so people who know the
issues can spot mistakes and block bad science. In news stories on any
science topic, look for citations from reputable journals.
- *Do the writers spend all their time disputing the reality of climate
change?* The Professional Denier Hall of Fame includes people like Myron
Ebell, David Kreutzer and Willie Soon
<http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Willie_Soon> — no matter how many
of their theories are debunked, they’re always ready to make up more. The
same is true for fringe think tanks like the Heartland Institute,
Competitive Enterprise Institute, or George Marshall Institute. When in
doubt, check your source on watchdog sites like SourceWatch
- *Is the data cherry-picked?* Selectively choosing small time periods
or limited geographies is a handy way to "hide" a long-term trend. For
example, some deniers quibble over which year from the last decade was
hottest. All of them were exceptionally hot, but that new normal is just
part of the frightening long-term trend
- *Where was the news published?* Whatever you think of the mainstream
media, their business model depends on a reputation for accuracy. When they
get things wrong, they run corrections. Outlets that specialize in
sensational click-bait or lurid conspiracy theories, on the other hand,
make their money by playing to people’s biases and emotions. That’s true on
the left as well as the right, so *caveat emptor.*
In the past, the scientific community has made the mistake of letting
obviously frivolous attacks on climate research go by without an aggressive
response. No longer. And mainstream reporters are more careful these days,
too. But with senior government posts now filled by those who willing to
ignore or deny demonstrable facts — and even aerial crowd photography — we
can't let propaganda go unchallenged. If 2016 taught us anything, it is not
to assume the truth will sort itself out.
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