Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Wall Street Journal: Selectively Pro-Science

with 16 comments

“Rigorous scientific studies have not identified links between autism and either thimerosal-containing vaccine or the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine” (Miller and Reynolds, 2009).  The scientific community also tells us that the world is round, that smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer, and that humans are causing global warming.  Recently, there were multiple editorials and op-eds in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) bemoaning the fact that people have not believed the scientific community on the question of vaccine safety.  

Unfortunately, while the WSJ touts accurate science with regard to vaccines, the WSJ is anti-science when it comes to climate change.  Read on for an analysis of the WSJ’s coverage of climate change and to read an excellent Letter to the Editor that was never published.

The WSJ has an archive of editorials and op-eds in a category labeled Climate Change that is only available to subscribers.  (Non-subscribers can see a few lines of content for each opinion piece but not the entire piece.)  Between October 2008 and January 25, 2011 there were a total of 86 items in the archive.  I decided to sign up for a one-year subscription ($103) that featured a two-week free trial period.  After reading all 86 items, I canceled via phone and was not charged.

I scored eachopinion piece using the following criteria:

PRO: Supported the scientific consensus.
CON: Did not support the scientific consensus, mocked or attacked the science or scientists, or cherry-picked data to cast doubt.
MISSING: Ignored any mention of human activities as a cause of climate change but did not misinform otherwise.
N/A: About non-science issues such as the pros and cons of cap and trade, carbon tax, political strategies, etc.

Figure 1 below shows the results:

Fig. 1: WSJ Editorials and Op-Eds and Correct Climate Science

Fig. 1: WSJ Editorials and Op-Eds and Correct Climate Science

There were only 4 op-eds (no editorials) that were pro-science!

Figure 2 below is the result of removing the 29 N/A pieces and combining the CON and MISSING pieces into one category.  

Fig. 2: WSJ Editorials and Op-Eds and Correct Climate Science

Fig. 2: WSJ Editorials and Op-Eds and Correct Climate Science

Figure 3 below shows a pie chart of the WSJ’s opinion of climate science.  It is the OPPOSITE of  the scientific consensus!

Fig. 3: WSJ Coverage Opposite of Science

Fig. 3: WSJ Coverage Opposite of Science

97% of climate science experts and every international scientific organization endorses the conclusion that human activities are primarily responsible for modern global warming.  An honest newspaper should reflect that consensus. 

Why does the WSJ mis-report climate science 93% of the time?

After reading the editorials and op-eds it becomes clear that the WSJ does not like the SOLUTIONS to climate change so they attack, misinform, and ignore the science in the hope of avoiding or delaying dealing with the issue.  A more honest approach would be to accept and explain the science of climate change and then debate how best to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Why did the WSJ side with science in its autism/vaccine articles and not with climate change science?  The most likely answer is that they were protecting the pharmaceutical industry that profits from producing vaccines and other medicines while also protecting the fossil fuel-based industries that profits from the current carbon status quo.

The WSJ should be telling its readers what they NEED to hear and not what they WANT to hear.

They have an obligation to report the overwhelming consensus on  scientific issues so that their subscribers can make informed decisions, especially when those decisions have great financial consequences. 

When considering future investments, WSJ readers cannot peer into the crystal ball if their heads are buried in the sand.

Dr. A. J. Dessler wrote a letter to the WSJ pointing out the irony of coverage of climate change science which he has allowed me to post here. The letter was not published by WSJ:

Your Editorial, “The Autism Hoax” Jan 8-9, 2011, highlights the failure of the medical scientific community to quickly put down an errant 1998 publication in The Lancet that blamed childhood vaccines for a coincident rise in diagnoses of autism. An explanation for this extended time for resolution can be offered by considering a parallel with what is happening with the present scientific findings on global warming. The Editorial states, “Researchers have all the while continued to churn out studies disproving the vaccine-autism link”, but nothing much happened for a decade. Similarly the atmospheric science community continues to “churn out studies” proving that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are largely responsible for global warming. Professional scientific organizations have collected, condensed, and synthesized these studies to estimate a range of climate consequences that can be expected.

However, the media, sensationalizing the inevitable contrary work by a negligible minority of the qualified scientific community, has caused doubt to pervade public perception. It is perhaps puzzling that statements on global warming by, for example, the American Academy of Sciences, American Meteorological Society, and America Physical Society, have not dominated media reporting. But the media usually gives roughly equal weight to the skeptical ideas of a small number of qualified scientists. As in the vaccine-autism debate, this has inflated the ideas of only a few to produce conflict in public thinking. It is important that the media not exaggerate skeptical ideas of a few individuals over the considered work of many hundreds of qualified researchers, lest the vaccine-autism circus be repeated.

A.J. Dessler holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Duke University and is presently and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M University.

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Written by Scott Mandia

January 31, 2011 at 6:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. Big business economic bias must be balanced with environmental and social justice perspectives for sustainable development to be achieved. We must rely on consensus building such as the scientific method for metrics for sustainable decision making…

    Sustainable Land Development Goes Carbon Negative

    “Fossil fuels are carbon-positive — burning them adds more carbon to the air. Ordinary biomass fuels are carbon neutral — the carbon captured in the biomass by photosynthesis would have eventually returned to the atmosphere through natural processes — burning plants for energy just speeds it up. Biochar systems can be carbon negative because they retain a substantial portion of the carbon that would otherwise be emitted by the plants or waste matter when it rots. The result is a net reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

    Terry Mock

    January 31, 2011 at 8:49 am

  2. The WSJ is a cheerleader for BAU.

    arch stanton

    January 31, 2011 at 9:15 am

  3. Well done.
    Just one thing – maybe this is just my (mis)understanding of the terminology, but I think of “articles” as being news articles, and “columns” as opinion pieces (op-eds and editorials).

    So initially I missed that your analysis only covered opinion pieces; the WSJ fallback will likely be “those are opinions, they don’t have to be credible”.

    Anna Haynes

    January 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    • Anna,

      I changed the wording to remove article. If the WSJ claims that these are just opinions by their editorial staff, I would ask “why then do you only show the opinions of those that are anti-climate science consensus?” The WSJ’s position is not defensible given that they are supposed to be informing their subscribers.

      BTW, if the WSJ ever went on record with that statement we would broadcast the heck out of it. :)

      Scott Mandia

      February 1, 2011 at 6:05 am

  4. I don’t think they published Von Storch’s LtE either. (From about a year ago, after Pat Michaels wrote a column misrepresenting Von Storch’s actions & views re the Climate Research resignations)

    Anna Haynes

    January 31, 2011 at 10:58 pm

  5. Any more of this mythological MMGW and I’ll be freezing my ass of.


    February 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

  6. I like the phrase anti-science. It has a poetic ring to it.


    February 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm

  7. [...] Wall Street Journal Stance on Climate Change – [...]

  8. Who owns the Wall Street Journal?, follow the ownership. Don’t we just love responsible organizations.

    Western Blot Reagents

    February 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

  9. [...] –Our guest blogger is Prof. Scott Mandia, in a repost. [...]

  10. [...] Spada dei Credenti che “sapientemente ignora” tutto della stampa e forse della vita, sembra invece che si sia voluto dar voce a tutte le opinioni, dimostrando, come [...]

  11. [...] By my count, over more than a two year period starting in late 2008, the Journal published only 4 opinion pieces that supported the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, but 39 that questioned it, attacked scientists or otherwise misrepresented scientific findings. Those trends have continued in recent months. Meanwhile, 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agree that human activities are significantly altering our climate. And our own National Academy of Sciences tells us, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.” [...]

  12. [...] Spada dei Credenti che “sapientemente ignora” tutto della stampa e forse della vita, sembra invece che si sia voluto dar voce a tutte le opinioni, dimostrando, come [...]

  13. [...] be so bad. The track record of correct climate science in WSJ op-eds leaves much to be desired. In Wall Street Journal: Selectively Pro-Science, I showed that WSJ op-eds fail to properly inform 93% of the time. In another study, The Union of [...]

  14. How is it that CO2 levels continued to rise during the entire time of “stalled” global warming, if CO2 is the cause of global warming? Isn’t it interesting that the polar cap on Mars was melting due to increased solar activity at the same time global warming alarmists were trying to tax us all for carbon emissions? When will the fraud end? Global warming appears more a religion for zealots than actual science, because real science if falsifiable. No matter when the evidence shows them to be wrong, global warming zealots think it still supports their quackery. When people start claiming that it is “settled science”, they stop being scientific and start being religious. If it weren’t for their pernicious impact on government policy, I would easily categorize them with the Flat Earth and Hollow Earth nuts.


    March 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm

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