The mainstream news outlet the Associated Press (AP) reported on Tues. Feb. 16 that, thanks to more than $8 million in philanthropic grants, it is assigning over two dozen journalists to cover climate issues around the world. The move is part of the AP's expanding coverage of climate issues as part of a significant global endeavor to incorporate the climate into all aspects of news coverage. The announcement comes as the financial outlook of legacy media outlets is increasingly bleak, revealing how philanthropy funding "has swiftly become an important new funding source for journalism."
"This far-reaching initiative will transform how we cover the climate story."
Integrating Climate Change Into Every News Story
Part of a "major global initiative," the grant is for three years and launches the hiring of close to 20 additional "climate journalists." Peter Prengaman is at the helm as the AP's climate and environment news director. Describing Prengaman as "one of the most capable and imaginative journalists I know," Brian Carovillano, AP's head of investigations, enterprise, grants, and partnerships, added:
"Over many years [Peter] has chronicled the real-world impact of climate change on real people and places. All of that had led him to this critical new role driving our coverage of the most important issue of our time."
The AP's sweeping climate journalism initiative announcement follows last fall's International Climate Conference in Glasgow held by the United Nations (UN) and the January meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). WEF's gathering—held online after COVID-19 concerns delayed its annual gathering in Davos—included a panel with US special envoy John Kerry and billionaire Bill Gates (who has funded solar geoengineering for years). Along with others, the two pushed the concept that innovations not yet invented or used widely would help drastically reduce emissions.
A Feb. 15 press release from the AP explained how its far-reaching initiative would transform coverage of climate change stories by thoroughly intersecting climate with the economy and state government, using locally relevant text, images, and video from large and small markets. The release explains the mission will have "a climate data team that will help newsrooms localize stories; a collaborations editor who will develop outside projects and work with local journalists; an accountability editor; and more." The announcement emphasized the all-encompassing intent of the project, adding:
"The new climate desk will leverage the expertise of AP's global staff to infuse climate coverage in all aspects of the news report, including words, visuals, data-driven journalism, and graphics reaching over three billion people each day."
Will Billionaire Funded Climate Reporting Mean Accurate Journalism?
With five philanthropists contributing to the endeavor, funding for the climate change narrative is a "big boost" for the AP. The company noted it has been "frustrated that its ambitions were bigger than its capabilities to achieve them." Besides backing for climate reporting, the AP's current pandemic coverage has been supported by funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. Brian Carovillano, AP news vice president who supervises partnerships and grants, explained the company's goals in such alliances, stating, "I want to go as big as we can possibly go, and I think that should always be the AP's ambition."
The five organizations fostering the AP's relevance are The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Quadrivium, and The Rockefeller Foundation. Either tied to Bill Gates in one way or another or funding existing climate change endeavors, many philanthropists in the US have played a behind-the-scenes role in framing climate change as a social problem for several decades. Yet, arguably they are part of the problem. Citing aviation sources, more than 400 private jets shuttled more than 1,000 billionaire VIPs and their staff to climate talks at the summit in Glasgow last year to "bring together world leaders to commit to urgent global climate action."
Not impressed, the European advocacy group Transport and Environment noted in a May report that private planes were 5 to 14 times as polluting as commercial planes on a per passenger basis and 50 times as polluting as trains. The group's UK policy manager told the Sunday Mail:
"It can't be stressed enough how bad private jets are for the environment—it is the worst way to travel by miles. Private jets are very prestigious, but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change."
Besides the hypocrisy of the billionaire elites, many frustratingly assert that objective reporting on climate issues is hard to come by. For example, a Nov. 4, 2021 opinion article in The New York Times claims polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, are "in trouble" due to climate change. The article—which attempted to tie its claims to the United Nations' annual climate meeting—declares it is now "too late" to save them. The piece begged the UN to take drastic and immediate climate change action to save the polar bears. However, according to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the NYT article is inaccurate—polar bear numbers are soaring, with polar bears doing exceptionally well in Churchill and elsewhere. The group asserts there is no polar bear extinction crisis requiring UN action.
Furthermore, despite mainstream media's growing focus on global warming and climate change, one of the warmest days on record in the United States occurred in March 1910, leading to some of the deadliest fires in US and Canadian history. Known as the "Big Blowup," a devastating series of forest fires swept over Idaho, Montana, and Washington, culminating on Aug. 20–21.
Interestingly, there is data manipulation as well. According to Climate Realism, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has been "the keeper of US wildfire data for decades," tracking both the number of wildfires and acreage burned dating back to 1926. Last spring, "in a blatant act of cherry-picking," the NIFC "disappeared" a portion of the data and now only shares information from 1983 and up.
Screenshot / Climate Realism: A comparison of the before and after erasure NIFC dataset showing acres burned. Note the blue trend line goes from a negative trend to a positive one when cherry-picked data is used.
By disappearing all data before 1983—which happens to be the lowest point in the data set for the number of fires—NIFC data now indicate "a positive slope of worsening wildfire aligning with increased global temperature." As Climate Realism points out, this truncated data set is ideal for asserting "climate change is making wildfire worse." Still, it is ultimately flawed because it lacks the context of the complete data set.
As reported by Real Clear Energy, A recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) claims there has been a dramatic increase in the number of natural disasters over the last 50 years. According to the WMO Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate, and Water Extremes (1970 – 2019), more than 11,000 reported disasters were attributed to these hazards globally, with just over 2 million deaths and $3.64 trillion in losses in the US.
However, as outlined in great detail by Real Clear Energy, the WMO's "study" claiming climate disasters increased was based on numbers that the authors knew were misleading at best. The actual numbers of disasters since accurate reporting has been in place show a decline in disasters over the last twenty years—precisely opposite the hyperbolic claims of the WMO.
*Article updated on 2/20/22 to correct the title to correctly reflect grant of $8 million—not $8 billion.