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August 16 2012

19:31

Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, Exxon Mobil began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

For years, Michaels has taken to the pages of “reputable” papers like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal in an attempt to paint climate change as fraudulent and uncertain, without the public realizing that his primary source of funding was the dirty energy industry and their front groups. One of his most recent crusades has been to convince the American public that fracking is perfectly safe, and we should all be singing the industry’s praises for providing us with cheap natural gas.

But Michaels isn’t the only one trying to convince us that fracking is safe and harmless – The industry itself has decided to jump on the science-buying bandwagon. NewsInferno has the story, based on an initial report by WIRED.com:

As the debate continues and local municipalities look to block fracking expansion in many areas, the energy industries have constantly countered, either mounting their own legal battles or now through influencing researchers to produce studies focusing on fracking’s benefits and safety.

WIRED reports that last week, the provost at University of Texas said it would have to “re-examine” a recent university report from one of its professors that declared fracking was safe on groundwater supplies when it was revealed that professor had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single gas developer in the state.

Nationwide, Americans are being influenced by seemingly unbiased research but not being told who is influencing the authors of these studies. Case in point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recently published a report, according to WIRED, entitled “Shale Works for US” that was directed at Ohioans caught in the crosshairs of the fracking safety debate.

One of the authors of the study, Robert Chase, has been identified as one person who’s been greatly influenced by the energy industries and was even employed as a consultant for companies like Halliburton and Cabot, leaders in the fracking industry. His influence was likely part of a Penn State University study that also found fracking to be safe and ultimately led state lawmakers there to allow some of the most unchecked fracking drilling in the U.S.
 

Just as the Exxon story made international headlines, so too should this story. Credible, honest studies have already been made public that show that there is nothing safe about the process of unconventional gas development. DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report is a great source of information on the dangers that fracking and other risky industry practices pose to the health of human beings as well as the environment.

But this is hardly the first time that the industry has been on the wrong side of science. In May of this year, I reported on how the fracking industry was trying to keep doctors in the dark about the chemicals being injected into the ground, and also attempting to get gag orders on doctors to prevent them from speaking with patients and the public about drilling-related illnesses.

The only thing currently holding back a wave of new fracking wells in America is public opinion and opposition from elected officials. But even with those hurdles in place, the industry continues to operate with almost no oversight, and drilling activities are still expanding. If scientists are willing to tell the American public and our elected leaders that fracking is safe, that could easily be enough to expand this dirty practice to areas that, at least for now, have been off limits to the industry.

November 17 2011

22:15

Climate Change Spin A Growing Problem For Fox News

When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.

The International Journal of Press/Politics has published a new study titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC,” [PDF] which details the ways in which the major American news outlets are reporting stories on climate change.

From the report:

National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.

The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:

Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.


The fact is that at least 97% of credible scientists believe that climate change is not only real, but that it is the result of human activity. But that fact hasn’t prevented Fox News from reporting that there is no scientific consensus on whether or not climate change is actually happening.

And, as Media Matters for America pointed out recently, this isn’t just biased news coverage or the opinions of Fox anchors: The network’s climate change denial is part of a broad agenda by network management to prevent the truth from reaching their viewers:

As an internal email revealed, Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directed Fox journalists in December 2009 to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed.

That same month, Fox News was aggressively promoting the false claim that the so-called "Climategate" controversy showed scientists "doctoring" data — a claim that the network continues to repeat to this day.

Fox has also tried to manufacture a number of pseudo-scandals by distorting climate science research, misrepresenting or disavowing the temperature record, and seizing on any opportunity to distract from what the National Research Council has called "a strong, credible body of evidence" supporting manmade climate change.

The study also found that Fox hosted "a higher ratio of climate change doubters to believers as interview guests." These guests often don't know what they're talking about but are presented as climate experts. And Fox, a network that has made an annual tradition out of mocking global warming during winter storms, reveals its bias through both what it chooses to cover, and what it chooses to ignore.


This is quickly becoming a systemic issue with Fox News. As the new report points out, Fox’s coverage has actually become more aggressive in recent years in their efforts to paint climate change as a hoax. Even as former skeptics of climate change are coming forward admitting that they were wrong on the issue, Fox continues to push their misinformation campaign on the American public - a public that is eating this news up, bringing a false sense of security to millions who no longer believe that climate change is something that we need to worry about.

January 01 2011

13:47

Cloud Atlas: Scientist Maps the Meaning of Mid-Level Clouds

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101123174338.htm ScienceDaily (Jan. 1, 2011) — Clouds play a major role in the climate-change equation, but they are the least-understood variable in the sky, observes a Texas A&M University geoscientist, who says mid-level clouds are especially understudied. The professor, Shaima Nasiri, is making those “in-between” clouds the focus of her research, which is being funded [...]

January 16 2010

12:01

A Time to Reflect

Poetry is a way of reflecting about how we feel about Climate Change and other pollutions that are changing our environment.  This is a few selected from some of the contributors of Climate of Our Future.   We are always accepting poems from anyone who presents us with original poems.  Please submit to Deborah…my email [...]
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