CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech news & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today!The future is now.

Climate Change

Published on October 14th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


LA Times Refuses To Publish Climate Denial, Will Other Newspapers?

October 14th, 2013 by  

The science of climate change is settled – an overwhelming majority of the world’s climatologists say it’s happening, faster than predicted, and is 95%-100% likely caused by humans. So why do America’s biggest newspapers still publish letters denying these facts?

They shouldn’t, according to the Los Angeles Times, which recently announced it would refuse to publish any letters to the editor that deny the basic realities of climate science on the basis that doing so is factually inaccurate.

With one editorial, the LA Times has changed the game for journalism in America – and the country’s other major newspapers should follow suit to maintain their integrity, proclaims a new campaign from climate advocacy group Forecast the Facts.

Newspaper protester

Newspaper protester image via Shutterstock

Climate Change Is Fact, Climate Denial Fiction

Newspapers have a time-honored tradition of fact-checking editorials or letters from readers for accuracy, and publishing corrections if mistakes make it onto their pages. Even if they’re taking one side of an argument, reasoning goes that an opinion should be fact-based.

But that’s where climate denial goes off the journalism tracks, argues the LA Times. Multiple studies and research, including last month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, conclude climate change is happening now and we’re the cause. When 97% of scientists agree on something, much like the link between cigarette smoking and cancer, that point is generally taken as fact not opinion.

But not so for all of the LA Times’ readers, according to Paul Thornton, the paper’s Letters Editor. “As for letters on climate change, we do get plenty from those who deny global warming,” he said. “Many say climate change is a hoax, a scheme by liberals to curtail personal freedom.”

Thus, the paper’s decision to stick to the facts. “I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published,” said Thornton. “Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”  Shots fired, as they say.

Now For America’s Other Leading Newspapers

But what about the rest of America’s top newspapers? That’s where Forecast the Facts is taking up the cause. The group has launched an online petition urging the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal to adhere to the same strict journalistic standard.

(Full disclosure – I have been a Washington Post print subscriber for nearly eight years, and I signed the online petition on Saturday, October 12) 

When the campaign reaches 20,000 signatures, the petitions will be delivered to each of the papers and Forecast the Facts will press each of their editors to take a stand on the policy set by the LA Times and answer if they’ll do the same.

In an email to supporters, the campaign laid out its motivation:

“In a rational world, our nation’s journalists would have long ago agreed to this simple idea. These papers would never publish letters or opinion pieces from people who doubt that smoking causes cancer or that HIV leads to AIDS. But they still perpetuate a false balance that presents climate deniers as if they are legitimate contributors to public debate, as opposed to unhinged conspiracy theorists.”

With one sentence, the LA Times opened up a new front in the fight against climate change. Now it’s up to the editors of America’s most respected news outlets, and their readers, to decide if fact or fiction will reside on their pages.

Complete our 2017 CleanTechnica Reader Survey — have your opinions, preferences, and deepest wishes heard.

Check out our 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • Goddeloos

    As a physicist I applaud the Times decision. Denial is an anti-science stance.

  • Doug

    Anyone want to start a petition to Fox News? At least we know where the loonies go for newsertainment.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Most likely a waste of time. If one can grab even a small percent of the population and hang on to it they can make a lot of money. Fox can make billions saying the stuff that the “27%” wants to hear.

      There are 330 million people in the US. If you can get 1% of them to give you a dollar a month you’re going to be in very good financial shape.

      • Doug

        This was only in jest. Fox News is a lost cause.

  • Gwennedd

    I have asked several sites on FB to do what some science sites have done..remove denial comments from their postings. One has done so, Skeptical Science. Others may follow suit, but boy, did my request bring out the loonies!!
    Here’s my request:
    “I see that some sites that deal specifically with climate science are removing comments made by climate change denialists. It’s about time. There is no debate. Climate change is happening and we are the cause. I would like to see your site follow the same practice. Arguing about climate change has cost at least ten years of productive mitigation of climate change and the arguing has to stop.”

  • FreedomFan

    “overwhelming majority of the world’s climatologists say [global warming is] happening faster than predicted”

    Really? Where did they print that lie? What page? I’ll wait…

  • Hemi-Dart

    I Looked at NASA’s data and I’ve read too many conflicting arguments to UN reports. It looks like the trend has flatten. I’ve been a design engineer for 20 years and no one in industry would use a partial cycle of data to predict what the UN and the chicken little crowd are saying. There is not enough data to make any kind of logical prediction…Keep logging data for future generations to review and quit pushing self-interests.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A competent engineer would look at total system performance, wouldn’t you agree? And wouldn’t they factor noise out of the data so that they could more accurately measure performance?

      First graph – troposphere and ocean surface temperatures with solar cycles, ENSO cycles, and volcanic shading removed.

      Second graph – tropospheric, land and oceanic (including deep ocean) heat gain.

      To claim that there is not enough data is to admit lack of knowledge….

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Just ask yourself if you want subsidized monopolies controlling your power and using it as an excuse to find terrorists under your bed, in the plane, and in every country that is not able to defend itself. With wind and solar in place we will no longer have the subsidized monopolies yanking us about. That in my book is a good thing.

      • Hemi-Dart

        I plan on using both; I built a concrete/steel/brick house on 25 acres in TN and hope to get off the grid one day. I really like solar and wind power but both are subsidized with politicians at least if not more embedded in these fields. There’s gov’t corruption in all of the energy sectors. A lot of tax payer’s money was wasted on solar companies that went out of business over the past 4 years and I fear China will end up with the bulk of the sales in the future. Maybe the terrorists will leave us alone if we’re ruled by the Chinese?


        • Bob_Wallace

          I’d advise you to light your house with pitch pine knots and cook over your hearth fire.

          Electricity is out of the question for you as it would mean hooking up to TVA power which was built with taxpayer money.

          Socialism. It lives in Tennessee. It flows through the wires.

        • StefanoR99

          Nuke is the most heavily subsidized industry of them all. The only reason why we have it is because it was a happy by product of weapons production.

          The the true costs of nuclear (mining, building, decommissioning, waste) were on the electric bill rather than hidden through taxes people would be having a fit and the paltry subsidy that solar receives would seem cheap in comparison.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          The government is always lining their pockets. It’s like death and taxes. Might as well let them make their money by subsidizing your bunker. Then go off the grid. When the government runs out of money the terrorists will vanish.

        • Doug

          Once Australia and the US stop the insane practice of exporting coal to China, they will not have the energy to manufacture solar PV for export to the world.

    • Ross

      No, you are not an Engineer.

      • just_jim

        I’m afraid that he very likely is an engineer. I was an engineer for almost 30 years, and in scientific fields the proportion of engineers involved in crackpottery is rivaled only by the medical professions.

    • I can understand that being an engineer you are looking for guarantees.

      “I guarantee you that this aircraft will fly”

      “I guarantee you that this bridge will hold up in a scale 8.4 earthquake”

      That’s engineer talk.

      When there is a whole planet involved, things are a little different. We can’t put the earth in a wind tunnel or earthquake simulator.

      If you are looking for certainties, go to the church or take a math course. All other human activities have to deal with uncertainties and risks. The uncertainty in the effects of increasing greenhouse gases has been reduced to 5%.

      With so much at stake, trying to find out the behaviour BEFORE it is too late is wise. Analysis of the disaster AFTERWARDS (as you promote) is stupid.

      You’ve got some things mixed up. The ones pushing financial/ideological self-interest are the fossil fuel companies and right-wing extremists.

      • Doug

        Engineers (and finance folks) have well known methods of risk management. Risk assessments take into consideration the consequence and likelihood of an event. Good engineers practice risk management in everything they design and every recommendation they make.

        If the likelihood of man-made climate change is 95-100% and the consequence is rather dire (sea levels rising to flood coastal cities, crop losses), an engineer (or financier) would be forced to implement a risk management plan.

        In the case of global warming, affordable steps to reduce CO2 emissions are readily at hand. Political stalemate and a lack of leadership are the only things holding us back from implementing these steps now.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Even if the likelihood of man-made climate change is far, far less than 95% once the cost of extreme climate change is added in along with the relatively small cost of avoiding the worst a responsible engineer would be pushing for avoidance. One works to avoid low probably events when the outcome is disastrous.

          A competent engineer works to eliminate a 1% chance of an airliner crashing. We don’t fly those planes.

          Worst case, if climate scientists are wrong, we transition off fossil fuels and end up with lower energy bills, cleaner air and avoid the not too distant future problem of running out of fossil fuels.

    • Jack Wolf

      The interval you chose has a hot beginning point (because of a huge el nino). That’s what flattening your graph. Expand out and you can’t miss the trend.
      And, we have more information than we know what to do with, and it’s all saying hot, hot, hot. Oceans, soil, lakes, creeks, cities, the poles, everything including the atmosphere.

    • Doug

      I can think of nothing I would rather do than to serve on a jury with H-D. For sure, he’d be the one guy that refuses to believe the DNA evidence that “proves” the murderer is guilty.

      When 97% of scientist agree on something, how much weight can you really give to the other 3%? It’s important in science to be accepting of alternative theories and opinions – but it’s far more important to be capable of weighing the facts – not necessarily by an opinion poll, but by considering the massive research conducted in the past few decades. Of the thousands of research studies, nearly all point to the near-certainty that global warming is man-made.

      When the rare climate change denier paper is published, feel free to read it and weigh it against the facts presented in other papers. Dig into the authors and determine their self-interests. Even the most objective scientists will have some biases, including “just going along with the crowd.”

      So, given the evidence on hand and the near impossibility of ever obtaining 100% concurrence that CO2 is causing global warming, what is a reasonable person to do? Sit back and collect data for another hundred years? I don’t think so.

      Full Disclosure: In the winter, I enjoy skiing – so I suppose that I have a self-interest in keeping the mountains cold.

      • Hemi-Dart

        And you are part of the blind leading the blind group that won’t swallow their pride and state that we don’t know as much as You think. You pull numbers out of your extremities and your points end up being – crap.
        I’ve worked for AO Smith, Lochinvar, Trane and now another major player in the water heating / HVAC market. I’m dealing with NAECA 3 issues now. I’m involved enough to see political pressures that have very impure motives. From VPs to engineers less than 10% of the people in the companies I’ve work for, thnk the way you do.
        Your opening statement proves that you’re pushing a religion with no verifiable scientific facts. There is no valid evidence to prove that you cannot overcome your desires related to genes. We don’t know enough about how the brain works to determine the amount of influence it has. I suppress evil desires every day and thank God most people do as well. Our justice system falls apart when we don’t hold people responsible for their actions.
        I know that we can wreck certain economic sectors with laws we thought were helpful – why not phase out markets instead of destroying them quickly. These changes hurt the average American and all will be in vain if China and other big players do not follow suit. I’d bet you work for a company that doesn’t produce a product.
        Get off the Kool-Aid and move south east…it’s your only hope of coming out of the fog.

        • Doug

          As I expected, your reclama was irrational. You continue to state that you disagree with the 97% of scientist that agree with 95-100% certainty that global warming is man-made.

          Did anyone on the blog make any statements that recommend anything other than an orderly phase-out of of carbon-intensive industry? In most cases, the recommendations I’ve seen recommend a thoughtful, balanced approach that includes no new permitting for coal fired plants, continued deployment of smart grid infrastructure, improved conservation, and a continuation of existing incentives for renewable energy generation.

          Given that scientists first “discovered” that CO2 causes global warming over 100 years ago and that the international community has discussed “doing something about it” for decades – it should come to no surprise to effected industries.

          In the most recent issue of The Economist, there is a great article on the $500B loss in market cap of utilities caused by increased renewables and huge reduction in wholesale electric rates. Far from being blind, a number of us saw this coming. Might be time to open up your head to reality.

  • Marion Meads

    Rush Limbaugh is going to have a fit!

    • Jack Wolf

      Good. But, it might be from withdrawl, rather than reality.

  • Great news, this will help the US get on the right track and force republicans to stop their ridiculous behavior of denying climate change.

Back to Top ↑