A new report examines alleged misinformation in the media on the relationship between natural disasters and climate change.
The report uses a number of examples from major media outlets where journalists attribute natural disasters to climate change when there is no evidence to support the claim or the evidence points in the opposite direction.
Among the examples listed in “Climate Fact Check 2022” of reporters wrongly attributing climate change to natural disasters is last summer’s historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park.
The report, which was published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), The Heartland Institute and other organizations, shows how The New York Times in June didn’t come out and say the floods were caused by climate change.
Instead, the report calls out the national newspaper for implying it with the headline “Flooding Chaos in Yellowstone, a Sign of Things To Come.”
The NYT article acknowledges that it’s difficult to connect the flooding to rapidly warming global temperatures and that rivers have “flooded for millenniums.”
The article then goes on to count a “litany of threats” to America’s national parks that “read like a biblical reckoning” as a result of climate change.
Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has penned a series of articles titled “What The Media Won’t Tell You …”
Each article in the series covers a different type of natural disaster.
In the piece on floods, Pielke shows that the International Panel on Climate Change, a government consortium of the world’s leading climate scientists, has no confidence in any trends one way or another about flooding, and it does not have any confidence that the “probability or magnitude of flood events” can be blamed on climate change.
Pielke provides a few examples of national media claiming that climate change is increasing floods, including NPR, The Washington Post and a New York Times article from August that included photos from the Yellowstone floods.
The article claimed that climate change is “likely exacerbating the frequency and intensity of the extreme flooding events.”
The CEI report links to a Cowboy State Daily story from July that quotes Meteorologist Don Day, who explained that the Yellowstone floods were the result of above-average snowpack that thawed just as heavy rains came to the area.
Steve Milloy, an adjunct analyst with CEI, told Cowboy State Daily that many journalists just assume natural disasters are caused by climate change and don’t bother questioning their assumptions.
“I think that reporters have gotten … I guess a charitable description would be lazy,” Milloy said. “And so anytime something bad happens, they just automatically blame it on climate change. There’s no thinking going on anymore.”
Milloy, a biostatistician and environmental and public health consultant, is the founder and publisher of JunkScience.com. He served on the EPA transition team for the Trump administration, has authored several books on scientific misinformation and published hundreds of articles in major newspapers.
Climate Cancel Culture
To illustrate his reputation in climate activist circles, Milloy tells the story of how Mark Morano, a former Republican political aide who founded and runs ClimateDepot.com, introduced himself to Associated Press climate reporter Seth Borenstein at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Morano said Borenstein “recoiled in horror” and called him a “lying, disgusting and deceitful person” who was “just a notch up from Steve Milloy, who is the worst.”
The fact check report notes that The Associated Press received $8 million in donations from several organizations, including the anti-fossil fuel Rockefeller Foundation, to cover climate change. The AP reported on the donation in February, saying the money will allow the organization to hire 20 climate journalists.
“People like me, we climate denialists, we were canceled before anyone else,” Milloy said.
Besides the flooding in Yellowstone, the CEI report lists coverage of June through October floods in Pakistan with the same assumption that climate change was the cause, despite the fact that monsoonal rainfall has actually declined slightly in the Asian country since the 1950s.
Hurricane Ian also was reported as proof climate change was causing extreme weather events, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricane activity in the Atlantic region is within natural variability, meaning no trend in intensity of frequency can be established.
“They get away with making these sorts of attributions because they don’t feel like they have to get any response from somebody that has a different opinion,” Milloy said.
Some media outlets attributed last week’s Arctic blast that barreled through Wyoming and the West to climate change.
The event happened too late to include in the CEI report, but Milloy said reporting on the storm followed the same trend.
“The greens are trying to blame this diversion of polar air into North America on global warming,” Milloy said.
In the wake of the storm, NOAA posted a graphic suggesting that warming is causing the polar jet stream to destabilize and dip down into lower latitudes.
On his Twitter account, Cheyenne resident and climate change skeptic Tony Heller posted the NOAA graphic next to a graphic from a 1975 article in Science News claiming that the world was on the verge of another ice age because of global cooling.
The 1975 graphic attempts to show how the cooling of the Arctic will destabilize the polar jet stream in the same way the recent NOAA graphic claims is now happening as a result of global warming.
“When you use the same image for two opposite events, that’s kind of crazy,” Milloy said. “That’s kind of where we are now. It’s literally true that every weather event they blame on climate change.”