Right now, at some of the most widely-read media outlets in the world, climate denial is being peddled as just another point of view.
Nowhere is this truer than at The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which hosts an editorial section absolutely overrun with unsubstantiated opinions and gross misrepresentations of climate science.
For years, the WSJ has run opinion piece after opinion piece, questioning the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Too often, these "opinions" are written by authors with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry.
In May of 2018, for example, the WSJ published an article that proclaimed, "Sea levels are rising, but not because of climate change."
The piece was written by Fred Singer, a long-time science denier who receives $5,000 a month from The Heartland Institute, a climate denial think tank funded in a large part by fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil.
Throughout his career, Singer has denied pretty much any science that he can find corporate sponsorship for. In the past, he has turned against the scientific consensus and questioned the health impacts of second-hand smoke, coal's role in creating acid rain, the danger of asbestos and the role of CFC's in creating the ozone hole.
Like so many of his other pieces, published in major news outlets like the WSJ and The Hill, Singer's newest article on sea level rise is full of cherry-picked data that suits his preconceived conclusion - one that stands in direct opposition to the best available climate science and the most basic physics.
Overlooking the wealth of modern sea level records, Singer concludes that climate change is not causing sea level rise, using sea level data solely from 1915 to 1945.
An analysis of the article by five scientists at ClimateFeedback, an organization that has scientists review science articles, reveals the commentary "grossly misleads readers about [the] science of sea level rise," scoring -1.8 for scientific credibility.
@WSJopinion could correct its bias by publishing evidence-based information instead of unsupported opinion. There are thousands of scientists who are actually studying sea level changes, easy to find:https://t.co/4IJ8OADB7a#JournalismEthic— Climate Feedback (@ClimateFdbk) May 18, 2018
The article was so scientifically inaccurate and inconsistent that it prompted one researcher to claim, "If this were an essay in one of my undergraduate classes, he would fail."
In a letter to the editor, two scientists refuted the science in Singer's opinion piece, calmly explaining that, "When water warms, it expands. When ice warms, it melts. To deny these facts is not just to deny climate change. It is to deny basic physics."
It seems impossible that something so factually inaccurate and misleading could make its way into a news outlet with the largest print circulation of any newspaper in the US. But it did. And it does. A lot more often than you would think.
Even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man made climate change is real, just 5 percent of the WSJ's opinion content from 2012 to 2016 acknowledged that truth, according to the Partnership for Responsible Growth.
It would be unfair to single out the WSJ without acknowledging how common place this practice really is. Today, it appears that op-eds and columns are largely exempt from the ethics of responsible journalism.
When it comes to equalizing scientific fact and opinion, for instance, Forbes gives the WSJ a run for their money.
One Forbes articles, titled "The Top Ten Global Warming Lies That May Shock You," written by James Taylor, a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, was even said to have won "the Olympic gold for cherry-picking data, misleading claims, and a long list of scientifically unsupported assertions," according to a scientist at Climate Feedback.
Recently, The Washington Times ran an article that attacked the Paris climate accord for being a "fossil-fuel haters club." The article was written by Marlo Lewis, another climate denier associated with The Heartland Institute, who has flatly rejected evidence that the planet is warming and that CO2 is in fact a pollutant.
Last year, after launching a truth campaign, The New York Times hired climate denier Bret Stephens as a columnist. His very first piece was accused of promoting climate skepticism.
"Stephens' column is so light on concrete assertions that it is hard to know what it actually means, but it is evocative enough to be used to promote skepticism about climate change science as a whole," ClimateFeedback.org concluded.
Just last week, The Hill published a piece by Fred Singer, titled, "There's no need to panic about the rising sea level."
"Basic physics teaches that sea water must expand as temperature rises," writes Singer.
"I believe that evaporation of sea water offsets thermal expansion. The evaporated water causes an increase in precipitation, which turns into snow and ice as it rains over the continent of Antarctica."
Except that is not how physics works… at all.
Treating climate science as an opinion or belief is a breach of journalistic integrity. When the disastrous effects of climate change are already upon us, it has never been more important to uphold and fight for the truth.
It's time to remind the mainstream media that science doesn't care about their opinion pieces. You can't will away a physical reality by pretending it doesn't exist.
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