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Parsing Bloomberg – The Dishonest Press

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Apr 25, 2017 at 7:47 AM
Climate Change

I recently propounded “Reid’s Law”, which is an “observational law” regarding climate.

“As an online discussion regarding climate grows longer, the probability of the term “denier” being used approaches 1.”

Reid’s Law has two corollaries:

“The less scientific and the more political a website is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original blog post.”

“The more liberal / progressive a media outlet is, the more probable it is that the term “denier” will appear in an original editorial, opinion piece or news story.”

A recent article on Bloomberg presents an interesting opportunity to illustrate one of the corollaries to Reid’s Law, as well as to illustrate the subtle changes in messaging which appear between the quoted statement of a public official and the journalistic perception of the official’s message. Bloomberg is generally recognized as a liberal or progressive media outlet.

The Bloomberg article is based on a response to a politically “loaded” question asked of new US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during an interview on CNBC’s "Squawk Box" on March 10th. Pruitt was asked if he agreed that human activity was a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt’s response was as follows.

"Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

The headline of the Bloomberg piece was titled: “EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Discounts Carbon’s Role in Warming Planet”; and, subtitled: “Says greenhouse gas is not a ‘primary contributor’ to warming”. The problem is that Pruitt neither said, nor intended to say, what the article’s title and subtitle suggest he did.

What he said is clear in the quote above from the article. Pruitt recognized that it is not currently possible to accurately measure the human impact on climate, no less its individual components, or to measure the impact of natural variation on climate. He also recognized that the degree of human impact is the subject of disagreement. Therefore, he declined to agree with the premise on which the question was based, since he did not believe he had sufficient information on which to base such agreement. Even the IPCC, in its Fifth Assessment Report, assigns 95% probability to the estimate that human activity is responsible for “more than half” of recent warming; and, that “probability” is questionable.

Later in the Bloomberg article, US Senator Brian Schatz (D, HI) is quoted as follows.

"It’s why we should have never confirmed him. It’s why he is unqualified to do that job. He held it together for one hearing, but he is a climate denier. There is no doubt about it."

Schatz accusation is, at the very least, hyperbolic and disingenuous. Some might consider it ignorant and duplicitous. Pruitt clearly does not deny that the earth has a climate, based on the quote above. He also clearly does not deny that the climate has warmed, or that there is human influence on climate warming, or even that the human influence is significant. Bloomberg’s choice of Schatz comment and its inclusion of the portion of the Schatz comment which includes the “denier” accusation is consistent with the distortion of Pruitt’s message earlier in the article.

The CNBC article regarding the interview with Pruitt is quite similar in tone to the Bloomberg article, more extensively quoting Senator Schatz. It also quotes Obama Administration climate negotiator Jeffrey Sachs as follows:

“President Trump dangerously wrong on climate change.”

Neither article bothers to quote or paraphrase anyone supportive of Pruitt, the positions he mentions or the distinctions he makes regarding human influence on climate change. Both Bloomberg and CNBC were even less objective, though far more supportive, in their coverage of prior Obama Administration EPA administrators Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy.