Fact-checking pundits on climate change

Is the "polar vortex" proof that the ice caps aren't melting? Rush Limbaugh says so.
Is the "polar vortex" proof that the ice caps aren't melting? Rush Limbaugh says so.

Climate change is receiving renewed attention this week after a large march in New York and President Barack Obama's address on the topic Tuesday at the United Nations Climate Summit.

PunditFact has sorted out a host of misinformation about climate change. Here are five of our favorites.

Want more? Browse all of PolitiFact's climate change coverage.

1. Rush Limbaugh

The boisterous radio host took credit for making Americans more skeptical of the "conventional wisdom of climate change" than their peers around the world.

"Fifty-four percent of Americans agreed with the statement, 'The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity,’ " he said. "Why would the U.S. be the leading nation with the highest amount of doubt about the conventional wisdom of climate change? Why do you think that would be?  I think that's exactly right: Me. There's just no other explanation"

We did not check whether he should be credited with planting the doubt. But as for his assertion that Americans leads in climate change skepticism, it rates Mostly True.

Some polls show certain developing countries have higher rates of doubt than the United States. But data shows the United States is one of the most, if not the most, skeptical countries of whether climate change stems from human causes -- especially when compared to peer countries. 

2. Joe Scarborough

The Morning Joe host said, "From 2004, 2005, 2006, Americans were bought in to the concept of climate change and that we need to move aggressively on it."

But since then, he said, the public shifted. "Check the polling: Most Americans began wandering away from this issue," Scarborough said.

We did what he said, but we did not find his claim completely accurate. We rated it Half True.

Polling shows Americans cooled a bit on climate change from 2004 to 2010. But support for acting on it has come back in recent years while remaining below 2004 levels. Overall, the drop in interest was not quite as extreme as Scarborough painted it.

3. Steve Doocy

In a segment on Fox and Friends called "News by the Numbers," Doocy directed viewers to the year 1934.

"That's the hottest year on record in the United States," Doocy said. "At least until NASA scientists fudged the numbers to make 1998 the hottest year to overstate the extent of global warming. The 1930s were by far the hottest decade in the United States."

We rated this claim Pants on Fire!

Doocy's assertion over-exaggerated the point of a blog post that said government scientists changed the U.S. temperature record (not the record for the earth). Further, experts told us that the analysis in the blog post was flawed and relied on raw data, which ignores developments in measuring temperatures over the past 80 years. 

4. Patrick Moore 

Moore, a climate change skeptic, said, "It has not warmed for the last 17 years. We know that for sure. And that brings into question the whole hypothesis."

His claim is Mostly False.

It is true that global surface temperatures have remained relatively flat for 17 years, since 1998. However, both 2005 and 2010 were warmer than 1998. Even more, Moore's claim does not address the fact that the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record. He is cherry-picking a timeframe by starting with an extremely warm year.

5. Rush Limbaugh

Yes, again. He made a much less accurate claim about climate science in an epic rant that basically argued the media invented last winter's polar vortex phenomenon to legitimize the "hoax" of global warming.

"We are having a record-breaking cold snap in many parts of the country," he said during his Jan. 6 show. "And right on schedule the media have to come up with a way to make it sound like it’s completely unprecedented. Because they’ve got to find a way to attach this to the global warming agenda, and they have. It’s called the ‘polar vortex.’ The dreaded polar vortex."

His claim is Pants on Fire!

Climate scientists told us his rant is wildly misinformed. The polar vortex has been a part of science for decades, and it certainly does not prove that sea ice is not melting.