What does it take for a presidential candidate to get away with lying to the American public about the scientific reality of climate change?
A passive media doesn't hurt.
Media Matters is out with an in-depth report on how newspapers and broadcast news are handling these early days of the 2016 election cycle, filled as they are with an overload of candidates vying for the Republican ticket and running, for the most part, on a platform of climate denial. The idea is that that at this point, it's irresponsible journalism not to note, when a candidate says something like "the climate is always changing" or "the science is not decided," that such assertions are blatantly incorrect.
So far, things aren't going particularly well. Not in print, where articles have failed to establish that candidates' positions on climate change conflict with the scientific consensus:
And most certainly not on Fox News, where hosts often jumped in to defend candidates' factually inaccurate statements:
It is astoundingly simple for news outlets to correct the record when candidates get it wrong. Angry pieces rebutting their false statements, while always fun, aren't even necessary. For example, in an article on where Ted Cruz stands on the issues, the Associated Press noted that he says satellite data indicates that there has been "zero global warming" for the past 17 years. "But scientific experts say satellite data is the wrong way to measure global warming, which the vast majority of scientists say is happening and is caused by the burning of fossil fuels," the article continued. "Temperatures at ground level show that the planet has warmed since 1998 and that 2014 was the hottest on record."
Just like that, debunked!
But in another "on the issues" article, this one concerning Rick Perry, the AP quoted him as calling climate science "unproven" and saying, "I don't believe that we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination" -- and just left it at that. The effect is that this ends up reading as an opinion, instead of a flat-out false statement.
The Wall Street Journal did something similar by reporting that Marco Rubio "recently questioned humans' role in climate change," and then countered this claim by explaining that the Obama administration's position is to maintain that "the debate about this issue is settled" -- which it is. There's no need to politicize that.
For the most part, it just seems like the media needs to get its act together and be more consistent in fact-checking. There are, however, some major exceptions.
Of course, I'm talking about Bill O'Reilly. Watch as he defends Rubio against a Los Angeles Times headline that states, quite accurately, "Marco Rubio says human activity isn't causing climate change":
And here's Sean Hannity, agreeing with Donald Trump that first it was "global cooling," now it's global warming, and it's all just a load of nonsense:
Suffice it to say, the facts are not on their side.