The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976

by Jill Fitzsimmons and Jocelyn Fong, via Media Matters

To forestall policy on climate change, the Wall Street Journal editorial board routinely downplays scientific consensus, overstates the cost of taking action, and claims that politics, not science, motivate those concerned about the climate. But an analysis of more than 100 editorials from 1976 to present shows that the Wall Street Journal used these same rhetorical tactics in previous decades on acid rain and ozone depletion and they did not stand the test of time.

The Journal’s Pre-Fabricated Arguments Against Environmental Protection

For decades the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board has campaigned with industry against government action to address major environmental threats. Regardless of the specific issue, the editorials offer this familiar refrain:

  • ‘We Don’t Know Enough’: The Journal makes claims that are out of step with the weight of scientific evidence, seizes on uncertainties, and argues for further study before any action is taken to mitigate the risk.
  • ‘It Will Cost Too Much’: The Journal claims regulations would have enormous economic costs, often citing unreliable industry-backed studies.
  • ‘It’s All Politics’: To sidestep the science showing a clear threat, the Journal claims that those who want to address the problem are motivated by politics, not science.

The Wall Street Journal On Climate Change

WSJ Claims We Don’t Know Enough About Climate Change. Despite a strong scientific consensus based on abundant evidence that human activities are contributing to global climate change, the Wall Street Journal editorial board continues to cast doubt on the science:

This is an excerpt from a longer report at Media Matters. Click here to continue reading.

Jill Fitzsimmons and Jocelyn Fong, write and research for Media Matters.

11 Responses to The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976

  1. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, what an absolutely devastating article.

    Methodically, based on past actions (Acid Rain, Ozone Hole) by the WSJ’s editors, this article eviscerates any legitimacy and claim of objectivity the WSJ tries to stand upon with regards to their editorials & news on Climate Change.

    Absolutely devastating.

  2. Brooks Bridges says:

    Off topic but not completely I just got this in email from Union of Concerned Scientists:

    “Not only did UCS surpass our goal of 40,000 comments, but together with a broad coalition of public health, environmental, labor, faith, and other organizations, we made history and broke a record! More than 2.3 million citizens across the country submitted comments to the EPA in support of the carbon pollution standard.”

  3. Brooks Bridges says:

    Awesome article.

    This is such a beautiful example of the denial industry at its best.

    Would be great if something similar were done on tobacco and cancer. Especially if it included Fred Singer and a few more of his ilk.

  4. Jay Alt says:

    Eco-economist Prof. Eban Goodstein has often exposed such phony claims.
    He is part of the E3E network.

    You can find such work in his economics text and in magazines articles like this –
    Behind the numbes: Polluted Data
    (might need to use search option)

    When the National Association of Manufacturers wanted a bad study, they turned to Dr Margo Thorning of the Charles River Group. She’s been churning out flawed reports for decades using unrealistic assumptions in her econ models. For example, she modeled the Waxnman-Markey Bill costs. She assumed no new renewable power would ever be built nor would any efficiencies ever be implemented. In such a fantasy world, companies would always pay progressively more for carbon emissions and would chose to go broke, rather than doing anything to limit their costs. Her dollar amounts were uncritically accepted by the GOP.

    The EPA also has many reports explaining the successes of their Acid Rain, NOx, VOC & (1?) other cap and trade programs.

  5. prokaryotes says:


    … in 1996, Singer joined Seitz and Nierenberg in attacking a young scientist from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Benjamin Santer, over his leadership of one chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Second Assessment Report. In the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, they attacked Santer, and claimed that he had altered the report to fit U.S. climate policy (as if there even was one!).

    The attack on Santer in op-eds and other non-science fora presaged last year’s assault on climate science, the theft of email from the University of East Anglia, and subsequent media feeding frenzy.

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    THanks for the tip about E3E network.

    Very valuable.

  7. catman306 says:

    The Wall Street Journal provides news and opinions that the uber-rich would like you to accept as uber-gospel. Too many readers do exactly that because it’s easy and will win them acceptance with other readers. It’s an alternate universe.

  8. Solar Jim says:

    As for the Maul Street Journal, I suppose war of choice is indicated for the former VP 1% doctrine and absolutely nothing is indicated for a 99% chance of climate chaos. Maybe they (and owner Murdoch) thrive on public chaos. Naomi Klein calls this perversity the shock doctrine.

    Hey, but ag commodities are up.

  9. Artful Dodger says:

    Perhaps you expected good journalism from Rupert Mudrake? There’s no cash in that….

  10. Artful Dodger says:

    Halleluiah, Brother. Amen. Now pass the Pork…

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The collusion of the Rightwing MSM in these scandals is quite open, but always denied with insouciant arrogance. In a propaganda system like the Western MSM, where the absolutely central role is to brainwash the public into accepting the current economic and social dispensation, and fear, hate and disbelieve any other possible world, the propagandists must be so brainwashed themselves that they are incapable of even noticing the complete uniformity of opinion amongst themselves and their peers and the steadily narrowing range of acceptable opinion, or really unprincipled hypocrites. It’s a diverting game to guess at which camp they are in-the dullards or the distorters. Both bask in the warm glow of immense self-satisfaction, save for the occasional frisson of fear if they suspect that King Rupert or one of his ilk may have cast their gimlet gaze in their direction.