Veteran environmental journalists and top environmental journalism professors say The Wall Street Journal's editorial page routinely downplays scientific consensus, overstates the cost of taking action and claims that politics, not science, motivates those concerned about the climate – and has been doing it for decades.
Critics cite a recent report published by Media Matters, "The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976," in which more than 100 editorials from 1976 to present were analyzed.
According to the report, the Journal continues to cast doubt on the fact that human activities are contributing to climate change in the face of a strong scientific consensus driven by abundant evidence. Following the pattern they used in responding to previous environmental threats, the newspaper has downplayed this consensus, claimed that fixing any potential problem is too expensive, and attacked those seeking to fix the problem as motivated by politics, not science.
Sharon Friedman, director of the Science and Environmental Writing Program at the Lehigh University Department of Journalism and Communication, shared her thoughts in a recent Media Matters article, along with other academics and journalists.
"Editorial writers are also supposed to do their research and base their opinions on factual information," she said. "I find a significant difference as I am sure many have between the general news reporting in The Wall Street Journal and the editorial pages. Some of them I have problems with."
After reviewing the Media Matters report, Friedman cited several Journal editorials that disturbed her, including a Feb. 16, 2010, Journal ITALICS editorial on climate change that stated: "We think the science is still disputable." It questioned "how much our current warming is man-made as opposed to merely another of the natural climate shifts that have taken place over the centuries."
"As far as the majority of scientists go, there is no dispute that climate change is occurring," she said. "I don't like that sentence, it is misleading, it is a misleading sentence."