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Weekly Firebreak Roundup: September 29, 2023
The latest and greatest in media criticism from around the web
The press routinely amplifies groundless health scares on behalf of trial lawyers and environmental activists. Join us each week as we highlight the media critics who perform an invaluable public service by holding gullible and ideological reporters accountable.
Save the whales, down with wind energy: author and gadfly Michael Shellenberger blasts the media for covering up the wind energy’s devastating impact on whales:
In their rush to demonize oil, the press often botches its energy reporting. Dallas Fed economist Garrett Golding takes the New York Times to task for publishing a deceptive graphic in a recent story about the environmental impacts of fracking:
Doomsday bias in climate research is real, as Dr. Patrick Brown confirmed by publishing a deliberately exaggerated study in Nature linking forest fires to climate change. Brown is now defending his revealing experiment against a coalition of critics in science and the media:
Last week, I wrote an opinion piece in The Free Press on perverse incentives in scientific publishing.
I described the strong incentives researchers face to publish high-profile papers and how those incentives naturally push researchers to mold their research questions and the presentation of work so that they are palatable to ‘high-impact’ journals.
I also described how I believe high-profile papers put an inordinate focus on the negative impacts of climate change and underemphasize other relevant areas, especially the study of societal resilience to climate.
In response, I received a great deal of support for my editorial privately from other Ph.D. researchers who agree with me, are exasperated, and would like to see change, and a lot of very negative public reaction from high-profile climate researchers and journalists, some of whom have characterized my public airing of decisions that I made to increase the likelihood of the publication of my Nature paper as a “scandal.”
Much of the public criticism revolves around highly misleading (and in some cases patently false) claims about the research approach that I took in designing the study and what then transpired during the peer review process. One outlet falsely stated that I manipulated data. The editor-in-chief of Nature incorrectly suggested that peer reviewers instructed me to include changes in non-climate factors in our wildfire projections.
Environmental NGOs love to use fires as a bludgeon against the logging industry. Oddly, many activists also support restrictions on prescribed burns and stringent fire suppression policies, which boost the risk of forests fires. Firebreak contributor Yael Ossowski elaborates for the OC Register:
When we see the thousands of people impacted by flames that have engulfed forests and homes in Hawaii, or across the vast wilderness of western Canada and California, it is easy to be both shocked and angry.
Pristine forests, homes, and entire villages no longer exist as they once did. In Lahaina, the area most impacted by wildfires on Maui, at least 115 lives were lost and over $6 billion worth of property was destroyed.
While the underlying causes for this devastation continue to be examined — whether it was electrical utility negligence, water politics, or climate change — the fact remains that proven fire prevention methods haven’t been enough. Or, perhaps, in pursuit of more lofty goals, we’ve been hoodwinked by misguided activist groups to cast time tested knowledge aside.
Hyperbolic claims of trial lawyers aside, lead-sheathed telecom cables pose no serious risk to children’s health. Sadly, the Wall Street Journal was all too happy to promote that ambulance-chasing health scare anyway. DC Journal contributor Jeff Stier has the details:
Consider the saga over a campaign to force telecom companies to remove legacy lead-sheathed telecom cables. The playbook is familiar. In collaboration with environmental groups, lawyers manufacture a scare relying on an analysis by a discredited academic targeting a major industry with deep pockets.
The media, in this case the Wall Street Journal, runs a series of articles adhering to the activist/plaintiff narrative with little fact-checking or skepticism. Investors predict a transfer of wealth from the successful blue-chip companies we hold in our retirement accounts to the lawyers and their allies, causing stock prices to plummet.
The US government has given more than $125 million to a defunct cigarette company. You read that correctly. After receiving lavish federal subsidies, 22nd Century was unable to attract a customer base to its low-nicotine smokes—a product unappealing by design. The mainstream press celebrated when the FDA authorized 22nd Century’s cigarettes. Now that the company is going out of business, the media has nothing to say. The American Vapor Manufacturers (AVM) have the details:
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