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Monday, September 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many members of the media and the political left have been quick to pin the blame for these storms on climate change. While there is no question that the hurricanes have wreaked havoc across many communities, including in my home state of Texas, these severe storms are not indicative of a climate trend — despite what the clickbait masters would have us believe.

In fact, it is rare that a day goes by without some misleading, exaggerated or flat-out false statement about climate change showing up in the media. Often, journalists knowingly publish false information with exaggerated headlines to grab readers’ attention. This strategy comes at a high cost. Trust in the media is at a record low, with only 27 percent of Americans having confidence in them. What’s more, Americans’ trust in news from the internet is at an all-time low of 16 percent.


The way the media operates today does not help increase the public’s trust. Day after day, the media publishes biased news to push a one-sided agenda. Recently, The New York Times printed a front-page, headline-grabbing story alleging that a draft climate change report had been leaked supposedly to prevent the administration from hiding it. Further investigation revealed that this draft of the report had been public for months. In an interview, multiple authors of the report said they had not heard or seen any sign of suppression or censorship by the White House.

So what exactly was The New York Times reporting? It appears the only purpose of this false story was to push the alarmist view that the world is doomed unless Obama-era regulations are enforced. The media is spewing alarmist rhetoric and scare tactics to intimidate Americans into believing their bias. Americans deserve better than to be misled about important issues such as climate change. Instead of painting a dire future, media outlets should accurately report all the varying climate scenarios, not just the worst-case, catastrophic ones.

Perhaps no one is better at reciting false claims about climate change impacts than former Vice President Al Gore. In his 2006 movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Gore made many predictions about the impact of climate change that have failed to materialize. For instance, he famously predicted that snow on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro would be gone within a decade. Today, there is snow on the mountain year-round. Mr. Gore also claimed the Arctic would be ice-free in the next 50-70 years, and as a result, Arctic animals would be endangered. Today, data show that polar bear communities are thriving, and there is still plenty of Arctic ice.

Even more egregious are Mr. Gore’s claims about extreme weather events. When his original movie debuted, the United States had just endured one of the strongest hurricanes in recent history, Hurricane Katrina. It seems Mr. Gore wanted to piggyback on its devastation and scare audiences into believing that such storms are the new normal. We’re seeing a similar phenomenon in the media now following the recent hurricanes. Fortunately, Mr. Gore has been proven wrong yet again. Historical data has shown no increase in hurricanes over the years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also has “low confidence” that climate change has an impact on severe storms.

The story is the same for many of the extreme weather indicators, including tornadoes, droughts and floods. But this hasn’t stopped Mr. Gore. Recently, he released his second movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel,” in which he continues to push many of the same false claims he did before. Most notable is his insistence on associating extreme weather events with climate change, a claim that has continually been debunked. The former vice president, along with many in the media, prefer to spew the same misleading and fraudulent claims.

Just as shocking as his false predictions is the fact that although Mr. Gore shared a Nobel Prize with the IPCC in 2007, he has continued to utter claims that are at odds with his co-prize winners. If Mr. Gore knowingly perpetuates false information about climate change, what is his real motive?

Whether claiming that each month is the “hottest on record,” or that each flood or drought is linked to climate change, alarmists do a disservice to the American people who deserve the facts and accurate scientific data. For instance, surface temperature data sets show considerably more warming than do satellite data, which are considered more reliable. There are also margins of error and various confidence levels involving these new records, none of which are usually reported by the media. Likewise, the flooding in Miami that Mr. Gore linked to climate change was caused by high tides and other meteorological events, as local forecasters pointed out. Yet again, these facts are seldom reported.

There seems to be a culture of relishing climate scare tactics by the media. Unfortunately, the media tries to indoctrinate Americans by limiting the news to support only the networks’ views and agendas. Because of its actions, the media perpetuates misunderstandings and the exaggerated fear of climate change. This makes for bad policy and undermines our democracy.

• Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.


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