Greenwashing the News for Fun and Profit

If a prominent media outlet takes money from liberal philanthropies to report on "climate change," and then attributes all weather-related problems to that climate change, and never fact-checks how normal these weather phenomena actually are, what would you call that? Is it not the definition of corruption?

You'd also call it the new normal for the Associated Press – and several other outlets, all of which take funding from donors with agendas. Not surprisingly, they faithfully ascribe to "climate change" all manner of occurrence. In fact, it turns out that there are plenty of grants to go round if a media company wants to write about the climate.

Once upon a time in the newsroom, the "weather story" was generally assigned to the lowliest cub reporter, who would dutifully check the clips in the morgue and then compose her own variation on the hundreds of weather stories that had preceded the new one. "Largest snowfall in Frozen Elk, N.H. since 1986," or "hottest day in Fishburg since the summer of '42." 

Today, however the weather (however unchanged) is big news. According to Fox News, the AP “took $8 million in donations to fund climate coverage in 2022.” Fox was quoting from a year-end report called The Climate Fact Check Report 2022, put together by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute, and the International Climate Science Coalition. It argued that climate alarmists and members of the media promulgated claims about the relationship between manmade emissions and natural disasters, “claims that clashed with reality and science.”

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The organizations paying for this “philanthropy-funded news” via climate grants, are the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Quadrivium, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. An AP vice president is quoted as saying that they only accept money without strings attached. For what that's worth.

One AP article blamed climate change for flooding in Pakistan, Hurricane Ian, droughts in Europe, China, and Africa, as well as various heat waves. Heat waves in particular are always blamed on carbon emissions and the "climate change" they are said to create. That is the case even when the heat wave in question is well within the realm of normal heat waves for a country.

So ubiquitous is the ascription of all weather to climate change, that after recent devastating storms in California, the Los Angeles Times had to run a front page article on January 19th, stating that “Scientists cast doubt on storms link to climate change.” It went on to say that “as California emerges from a two-week bout of deadly atmospheric rivers, a number of climate researchers say the recent storms appear to be typical of the intense, periodic rains the state has experienced throughout its history, and not the result of global warming.” Shockingly, the report also blamed rugged topography and aging flood infrastructure, instead of “climate-altering greenhouse gas.”

Road closed ahead. Exit here.

The paper noted that many officials and other media had blamed the recent weather events on "climate change" but made the case that they were wrong. They quoted a scientist, Alexander Gershunov, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who said, “Assuming that these storms were driven by global warming would be like assuming an athlete who breaks a record was on steroids.” Gershunov warned that “a group I call ‘mediaologists’ always hype the current situation to make it seem worse than the last one." 

The story also quoted Mike Anderson, the official state climatologist for California, who suggested that the recent series of atmospheric rivers — long plumes of vapor that can pour over the West Coast — was a grim reminder that in a place so dry, sudden flooding can bring catastrophe. "Each of the recent atmospheric rivers were within the historical distribution of sizes of atmospheric rivers,” Anderson said. In the end, though, the Times couldn’t resist bringing ‘global warming’ into the picture. It quoted Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “Most recent storm systems don’t hold a candle to the kinds of extreme prolonged storms of the last century. They do, however, point in the direction of the episodes of hydro-climate we can expect to see more of due to global warming.”

The LA Times remains a liberal paper. But it is apparently still capable of independent reporting from time to time. Sadly, though, this is an exception. They’re probably not on a foundation payroll. 

Another Fox Digital article on Jan. 5th, noted that the well-endowed, North Carolina-based 1 Earth Fund, works in tandem with many mainstream papers to "fund cost-effective communication projects that can reach audiences across the political divide." The group markets itself as a counter to "disinformation campaigns" funded by fossil fuel companies. The foundation website adds that it funds "projects like Connected Coastlines," a nationwide climate reporting initiative in coastal states overseen by the Pulitzer Center. The project's list of partners includes The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Seattle Times, and Orlando Sentinel.

There's always a "climate" story.

The goal is to build a nationwide consortium of newspapers and independent journalists to “report on the local effects of erratic weather patterns on coastal populations using the latest climate science," the Pulitzer Center states.” Such “science,” however, always ends up attributing weather events to imaginary "man-made climate change," regardless of what the facts actually demonstrate. 

The larger goal, of course, is to proselytize to readers, convincing them to buy into green-energy agendas and other policies formulated to fight "climate change." Considering how widespread and well-funded this reporting is, it’s easy to see how they’ve created a huge constituency for those policies. Expect more of the same. 

The Ninety-Seven Percent Problem

Public opinion on global warming/climate change has been relatively stable for some time across the globe. Naturally, there are variations between nations, age-groups, and time-periods, but most surveys show a rough division of opinion between two-thirds of respondents who believe that global warming is largely caused by human activity and a serious threat to the world, and those who are skeptical on both points.

Of some moderate interest is that older people and those on the Right (Republicans, Conservatives, Tories) are somewhat more skeptical than younger people and those on the Left (Democrats, Labourites, etc.) Inevitably, however, the explanations for these examples of partisanship are partisan too.

Are young people more idealistic and global-minded in their concerns? Or are older people simply wiser because they’ve experienced other official “scares” as they've gone around the block? Do Democrats have more trust in government forecasts than the GOP? Or do Republicans have a stronger nervousness about rising costs of policy and the bottom line?

There are no correct answers to these questions because partisan attitudes tend to change when we change the subject. Democrats tend to be more concerned about rising costs when the money is spent on defense programs. Republicans trust official forecasts more when they show that tax cuts cost less or even repay themselves. And so on, and so on.

That said, it’s oddly interesting (i.e., counter-intuitive) that political partisanship seems to operate on global warming as strongly among scientists as among the rest of us. A Pew Research survey for this year’s Earth Day showed that while Democrats with a high degree of scientific knowledge were likely to have a strong belief in the human contribution to climate change, Republicans with the same level of information were much more skeptical.

These are intriguing, even embarrassing, results. The researchers plainly thought so, because they added this somewhat nervous comment on them:

A similar pattern was found regarding people’s beliefs about energy issues. These findings illustrate that the relationship between people’s level of science knowledge and their attitudes can be complex.

And maybe they illustrate something else, too. For these results seem to conflict with perhaps the single best known statistic about science and global warming, namely that 97 per cent of scientists believe in global warming. To unpack that claim, they believe that global warming is happening, it’s man-made, and it’s dangerous. That’s President Obama speaking. Former Secretary of State John Kerry added the word “urgent.” And that’s pretty much the internationally respectable orthodoxy of officialdom and the media. Anyone who dissents from it is labelled a “climate denier” and, as Herbert Spencer said of such judgments a century and a half ago, “nothing he says thereafter need be listened to again."

But that raises a doubt. If ninety-seven per cent of the scientists you meet believe in global warming, how come that many Republicans knowledgeable about science don’t believe them?

The shape of things to come?

That simply wouldn’t happen, and we can say that on scientific grounds. People are sensitive even against their will to the opinions of those around them. As the great sociologist of religion, Peter Berger, pointed out in “A Rumor of Angels” some years ago, if you were marooned on an island inhabited entirely by believers in astrology, you’d be saying six months later that there really might be something in this “governed by the stars” stuff. And if you want brilliant fictional explanation of that, read H.G. Wells’s superb early science fiction short story: "In the Country of the Blind."

That so many people who take science seriously also doubt the orthodoxy of global warming cannot simply be explained as the result of their blind political partisanship. That might bias them but it wouldn’t outweigh the overwhelming testimony of 97 per cent of scientists they either meet or read.

So maybe that 97 per cent is a mistake. Once that question is raised, moreover, it soon becomes clear that whatever that statistic is, it certainly isn’t the unvarnished truth.

If you want the short version of why that is, please have a look at this, in which Dr. John Robson takes you on a witty and entertaining tour of how that statistic was compiled and sold to the world with fun graphics and Ravel’s Bolero as a soothing background.

Among those organizations that suspected something was wrong with 97 percent figure was the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington which, among other tasks, has a watching brief on Green Ideology run amok. The 97 percent claim is an obvious target for the CEI. On July 19 last year, it submitted a formal complaint to NASA, which has on its website the claim that 97 percent of climate scientists agree humans are responsible for global warming.

Though more or less bogus, that claim was a boon to climate skeptics because U.S. government agencies have to meet certain standards when they make such assertions. So they can be held to account for misleading statements. When CEI filed its petition, for instance, it did so under the Information Quality Act (IQA)—pointing out major flaws in studies cited by NASA to justify its claim and asking NASA to remove it from the website and any materials it circulated.

The substantial flaws it finds in the studies include arbitrarily excluding from the surveys scientists who have published peer-reviewed articles in journals of climate science on the grounds that they were not climate scientists; misrepresenting the conclusions of scientific papers, as the scientists concerned later complained, to make them fit the desired conclusion; and above all assigning papers that expressed no opinion on man-made global warming into the 97 per cent column.

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When these failings were corrected, the 97 percent estimate fell massively in all cases to numbers ranging from one-third of climate scientists to 1.6 per cent! As yet the CEI-NASA dispute remains as unsettled as the science now seems to be. If you wish, you can add your signature to the petition CEI has launched, and unless NASA has some almost magical reply to CEI’s documented critique, you probably should.

For the 97 per cent statistic, in addition to looking like a myth, is and always was a club to beat down any criticism of, let alone opposition to, the “international community’s” vastly expensive plans to revolutionize the world’s economy along dirigiste lines. And before it started to wobble under Dr. Robson’s and CEI’s criticism, it also performed the vital function of sustaining the all-but-monolithic support for global warming shown by the statistics of popular opinion quoted at the start of this column.

Now that the key 97 per cent statistic is crumbling, however, how long will the other statistics showing a two-thirds majority believing in mankind's culpability in "climate change" remain dominant, let alone stable?