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What's in a Number?: Media and Government Downplay Keystone XL Climate Rally Attendance

A Sunday report from the Globe and Mail gives a rather undersized account of what prominent environmental organizations are calling the largest climate rally in American history, suggesting Canadian media might be trying to downplay the extent of public opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline planned to cut across the U.S. to reach refineries and export markets.

In the wake of the massively successful display of North American opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday, February 17th, perhaps some Canadians are refusing to receive the message, or admit the significance of Canada's contentious, bituminous role in the whole ordeal.

Organizers for the event estimate 35,000 or more individuals attended Sunday's event, with some accounts citing figures as high as 50,000.

But as Paul Koring and his co-authors present the rally in the Globe and Mail, organizers only claimed 35,000 participants attended the protest, but “turnout seemed significantly smaller.”

Some protesters even “voiced disappointment at the numbers” after traveling across the country to be in Washington for the monumental day. An unofficial policeman's estimate, the article states, said the turnout amounted to perhaps 10,000, a meagre total evidenced by the unused portable toilets and protesters who skipped out early to leave nothing but a “straggling column” to march on the White House a mere two hours into the rally.

Sounds rather unimpressive. I suppose Canadians can rest easy, knowing rumours of growing tar sands opposition south of the boarder are exaggerated. Right?

Fossil-Fuel Funded Operatives Litter the Mainstream Media, Despite Simple Fix

Have you ever found yourself reading a news article or op-ed in which an “expert” from a distinguished-sounding “think tank” or “institute” seeks to distort or attack climate change science or, alternately, decries public investment in clean energy solutions, and wonder in whose interest this individual and their organization is operating?

Who is funding the proliferation of the anti-renewables, pro-status-quo perspective in all these mainstream media outlets? And why is the media providing them a platform at all, let alone without disclosing the fossil fuel funding behind their misinformation efforts?

Well, today the Checks and Balances Project released a report revealing the extent of this problem in the mainstream media. 

The Checks and Balances report, Fossil Fuel Front Groups on the Front Page, concludes that 58 of the largest mainstream newspapers and publications have quoted or given op-ed space to a fossil-fuel-funded “expert” every other day for the past five years, on average.

“Despite having received millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, these groups’ financial ties to the fossil fuel industry are rarely mentioned,” according to the report.

Checks and Balances writes that it “uncovered the extent of this deception by focusing on the 10 most prominent fossil fuel front groups’ traction [in] 58 of the largest daily newspapers, the Associated Press and Politico. This analysis does not include mentions in broadcast, radio or online publications for these 10 advocacy groups.  As a result, this report only scratches the surface on these fossil fuel-funded groups’ influence on the energy debate.”

The report has received a chilly response from some of the very “experts” often quoted without any disclosure of their fossil fuel funding.  Steven “Junk Man” Milloy was so peeved that he tapped out a quick post attacking the messenger, a typical tactic of the fossil-fuel-funded echo chamber.

Milloy knows the tobacco playbook well. As Connor Gibson points out over at PolluterWatch,  “Steve Milloy has been a central climate denier, who was paid to shill for tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Exxon before work for the Cato Institute and starting the climate denial website “JunkScience.” 

CNN Lends Credence To Serial Climate Misinformer Marc Morano

CNN’s Piers Morgan has fallen into the same “balance trap” that ensnared PBS several months ago, when he decided to “balance” an interview on climate change with Bill Nye by giving a microphone to Marc Morano.  Morano is a longtime skeptic of climate change, and a former communications director for noted climate change denier Republican Senator James Inhofe.

Morano, who is the chief correspondent and executive director of the industry-funded blog Climate Depot, was allowed to tell Morgan’s audience that the last two decades have actually provided no evidence that climate change is taking place – a point which Nye was able to disprove with the facts.

From Media Matters:

Offering two “viewpoints” about temperature data and suggesting that scientific facts are up for “debate” is misleading in and of itself. During the segment, Morano claimed that we “have gone 16 years without global warming according to UN data.” Nye pushed back, saying “This will be the hottest two decades in history, in recorded history. So when you throw around a statement like the UN says it's not the hottest 20 years, I got to disagree with you.”

Morano, who at one time was referred to as “Rush Limbaugh’s man in Washington,” was completely unable to back up any of his claims with facts, statistics, or any form of evidence.  Nye, on the other hand, used concrete figures that are accepted widely within the scientific community.

Piers Morgan failed to inform his viewers that Morano has absolutely no scientific training, or about the fact that his organization has been funded by dirty energy industry heavy hitters like Exxon Mobil.

Update via MediaMatters: In a blog highlighting the segment, CNN claims it invited “a pair of experts” to discuss climate change, without noting that Morano has no scientific expertise. The blog says Morano “presented an alternate theory regarding the impact, and concern, associated with carbon dioxide,”ignoring that the vast majority of scientists agree that carbon dioxide emissions are driving global warming and that the public should be worried about the impacts of it.

Why Is North America Behind The Curve On Climate Change and Energy?

Just three short years ago, it appeared that North America was on the verge of finally kicking that nasty dirty energy addiction that was crippling our economies and our energy independence.  The United States had elected a president (Barack Obama) who set incredibly lofty goals for renewable energy targets, and green energy investments across the continent were higher than anywhere else in the world.

Climate Skeptic Attacks PBS For Not Reporting Irrelevant Information

Recently, PBS found itself on the wrong side of the climate change discussion, when it chose to air a one-sided, misinformation-laden interview with climate skeptic Anthony Watts. During the interview for PBS’s Newshour, no attempt was made to air a differing opinion from a credible source, leaving Watts’ incorrect statements to be aired unchallenged.

Perhaps in an attempt to “balance” their one-sided interview with Watts, last week Newshour aired a segment titled “Arctic Icecap Shrinks to Record Low Level,” in which Walt Meier from the National Snow and Ice Data Center discussed the implications, dangers, and causes of the Arctic ice melt. These causes and concerns have been documented in studies and articles all across the world, so there is no room for debate on this issue when the facts clearly show that the arctic ice caps are melting at a record.

But apparently for climate skeptics, one one-sided story isn’t enough to keep them happy for very long, and they have now decided to attack PBS for ignoring their talking points about melting polar ice caps.

Psychological Study Reveals Why Misinformation Is So Effective

An intriguing new study released last week in Psychological Science in the Public Interest reveals why people are more apt to believe false information being fed to them by the media and politicians.

According to the team of psychological scientists working on the study, led by Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia, the main reason that people are more likely to believe false information (for example, that climate change is a hoax) is because it actually takes less brain power to believe a statement is false than to accept it as truth. Finding the truth takes time and effort that people often don’t care enough to spend on particular issues that aren’t of immediate concern.

A few excerpts from the report:

Hot Enough For Ya? Extreme Weather Events Consistent With Climate Change Science

Large portions of the U.S. are on fire. Record droughts currently encompass massive swaths of America. The areas not experiencing droughts have been inundated with flooding. Winter weather in many areas was almost non-existent. A few years ago, an Academy Award-winning film called “An Inconvenient Truth” warned wary Americans that all of these events would become the new normal due to climate change. But these are no longer warnings – this is the reality that we’re living in now.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the evidence of extreme weather that surrounds all of us. And it isn’t just the United States. Every corner of the globe is experiencing the direct effects of climate change in some form or fashion. And again, we were warned that all of this was going to happen.

My hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida feels like it's been a petri dish for climate change disaster stories. In the past month, we’ve had two separate droughts that were both ended by flash flooding. In between these events, we avoided a hit from pre-season tropical storm Debby, which turned eastward and drenched central Florida with torrential rains. Last weekend we had a heat index of 112 degrees, and I awoke this morning (again, after weeks of drought) to find half of my yard underwater due to coastal flooding.

In the U.S., the reality of climate change has certainly been an eye opener for many Americans.
  

Media Helps Sell The Myth Of “Job Killing Regulations”

Repeat something often enough, and it becomes true. That phrase has been a common theme among think tanks and politicians for decades. And sadly, there is a lot of truth behind that statement.

But the claim itself relies on the belief that people will not seek out the truth for themselves; that they won’t take the time to verify, fact check, or question the official story given by a media outlet or elected official.

And when that lack of follow up and lack of questioning occurs, then the lie does in fact become the truth.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the mainstream media has been all too willing to echo the “job killer” talking point for industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.

According to a new, joint report from Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa, the media has been pushing the myth of “job killing regulations” for nearly 30 years. In fact, the report shows that the myth has been pushed without any verification and without any honesty behind the claims.

Greenpeace Uncovers Shocking Photos Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Disaster

More than two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and BP's well spewed millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Greenpeace has finally been granted access to pictures that show the real impact of the oil on marine life. The pictures were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) and show a very different side of the Gulf than what the media, BP, and the federal government have portrayed.

These images are among those obtained by Greenpeace:

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Media Matters Analysis Shows Keystone XL Proponents Dominated Media

A compelling new study from Media Matters for America reveals that proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were granted far more time in the media than those who opposed it. As their study reveals, the majority of the coverage of the proposed pipeline regarded the creation of jobs, which was overwhelmingly discussed in a positive light, with most news outlets reporting only the industry’s own analysis of the jobs that would be created, even as reports repeatedly showed the industry’s job numbers to be false.

In general, the report shows that the pipeline issue was often covered in a positive light, with industry “experts” being quoted or hosted on TV news programs, as well as in print. The only two print outlets that the study found to have reported more negatively about the pipeline were The Los Angeles Times and USA Today. However, they note that the USA Today editorial board did come out in favor of the pipeline.

Here is a chart detailing coverage by type of media outlet:

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