The AP Leans Left on 'Climate Change'

Lisa Schiffren07 May, 2024 5 Min Read
All aboard the Narrative.

Most American newsrooms rely on the guidance of the Associated Press Stylebook, for rules on grammar, usage, and spelling. It has a near monopoly on how American journalism provides information for readers as conveyed through language. Consequently, the choices that the authors of the AP Stylebook make have wide consequences. They determine how we see, hear, and interpret certain stories.

And, as it happens some of their choices are deeply political, and therefore color national reporting on stories that influence how Americans perceive significant issues, and how policy is influenced from the ground up. The latest round of stylistic updates, released April 5th, includes a lot of guidance on the proper way to discuss people who are “nonbinary” or transgender. For instance, the Stylebook advocates using “pregnant people,” instead of “pregnant women.” Why? As the guild helpfully explains,

Phrasing like pregnant people or people who seek an abortion seeks to include people who have those experiences but who do not identify as women, such as some transgender men and some nonbinary people. Such phrasing should be confined to stories that specifically address the experiences of people who do not identify as women.

I'm OK, you're OK.

That is a highly loaded way of insisting that everyone indulge pregnant women who wish to pretend that they are not women. You might wonder why a news service grammar guide gets to be the final arbiter of one of our current major social delusions. It just does, as it happens. Sex, is of course, a particularly bedeviling topic for those interested in the right use of grammar. But the woke project has other branches as well.

Take an issue central to our mission, here at The Pipeline -- "climate change." The new AP Styleguide is all over that. The guide's "climate change" entry opens by noting:

The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably. But climate change is the more accurate scientific term to describe the various effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases on the world because it includes extreme weather; storms; and changes in rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level. Global warming, the increase of average temperature around the world is one aspect of global climate change.

It adds, helpfully, that “The terms climate crisis, and climate emergency are used by some scientists, policymakers and others, and are acceptable.” This seems to imply that while "global warming" and "climate change" are not interchangeable, "climate change" and "climate crisis/emergency" are. So no need to encourage your sources, be they scientist, policymakers, or scribblers, from using the more anodyne term for the sake of viewpoint neutrality.

That said, they do pull back very slightly with this advice: “Avoid attributing single occurrences to climate change unless scientists have established a connection." Either they're being squeamish about running it all together, or  -- more likely -- they've noticed how easy it is to poke holes in their narrative when they say that the phenomenon that used to simply be called "weather" is presented as proof of "climate change." That said, if a scientist is willing to make the connection, by all means let him. Meanwhile, though it’s dicey to link a particular weather event to "climate change" without “extensive study,” “climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires.” So apparently the science is settled and now anything goes, really.

Not just a flood: "climate change."

And, of course, “climate change, resulting in the climate crisis, is largely caused by human activities that emit carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists,” the AP style guide intones. “This happens from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, and other activities.”

“Greenhouse gases are the main driver of climate change,” the guide proclaims.

Now that we’ve got that sorted…. in reality, there is a significant minority of serious scientists who don’t buy the assertion that "climate change" is, or is principally, caused by humans. The weather changes over time. So does the climate. The degree, if any, to which this is caused by humans remains up for debate. But the AP guide is not interested in even acknowledging that there s a debate. “Avoid false balance…” the guide advises, in perhaps the least journalistic sentence ever written. “For example, coverage of a study describing effects of climate change need not seek out ‘other side’ comment that humans have no influence on the climate.”

When it is necessary to refer to such people, it explains, don’t call them “climate change deniers.” Better to call them “people who do not agree with the mainstream science that says the climate is changing." It sounds a lot more official to reduce the argument to those who merely "do not agree." And it stigmatizes the offender to a far greater degree than when using an obvious insult.

Why, it is worth asking, is the AP so committed to one side of this serious scientific discussion? Why won’t the AP entertain the possibility that we just don’t know enough to be certain about causes and effects, which is the actual position of the skeptics? After all, a lot of damage can be done, policy-wise, if we ascribe any damage associated with a changing climate to the use of fossil fuels and the creation of greenhouse gases. In fact, it is unclear both where things are headed, climate-wise, and what effects that will have on human life.

To be sure, all politically fashionable sources are located on the "climate hysteria" side, so perhaps that’s part of it. But perhaps the real reason the AP is so dogged about "climate change," is that many wealthy donors with a stake in the debate have given the AP very large sums of money.

But it is political.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation spent $2.5 million on AP’s climate and education reporting, the Washington Free Beacon reported. “The Rockefeller Foundation awarded AP a $750,000 grant in 2021 for a climate change initiative to report on "the increased and urgent need for reliable, renewable electricity in underserved communities worldwide,’” the Daily Signal reported. The Signal also noted that the KR Foundation, a Danish nonprofit that seeks the “rapid phase-out of fossil fuels,” gave approximately $300,000 to the AP in 2022.

This is a phenomenon we've discussed in the past as well. And here is the ultimate purpose of it: Control of language is control of what can be thought and said. That is an enormous power to have, as totalitarians have known for centuries now. By discouraging reporters nationwide from using language that even hints at the possibility of disagreement with the prevailing orthodoxy the AP Styleguide debases journalism itself.

Lisa Schiffren has been an editorial writer, political reporter, war correspondent, (Afghanistan during the Soviet war, before there were roads), and GOP speechwriter. She wrote speeches for Vice President Dan Quayle, and worked in Counterterrorism/Special Operations policy at the Department of Defense. She writes these days from her native New York City.


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One comment on “The AP Leans Left on 'Climate Change'”

  1. …all of which compels me to shout yet again (though at times I feel as if I’m banging on the door of a house in which no one is at home) that we must dispense with the term “fossil fuels” and use the term “hydrocarbons” instead. “Fossil fuel” invokes a conceptual framework that has simply not been proven and is no less deceptive than the term “climate change.” Critical thinking requires critical examination of the premises in which deductive arguments are made and yet the skeptics allow themselves to, bit by bit, adopt the conceptual premises and frameworks derived from irrational dialectal reasoning—splitting the argument baby in the name of advancing “knowledge.”

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