Idaho’s Liberal Media Embarrass Themselves Attacking Climate Realism

Published January 30, 2020

Idaho’s liberal media showed this past week just how ill-informed and out-of-touch with everyday Idahoans they are by viciously attacking climate science and the people who deliver such science to their state. Their unfortunate attacks came in response to a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation I delivered January 23rd at the invitation of the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee.

I took great pains during my presentation to be as factual, cordial, and professional as possible. Every one of the 22 slides was populated with the best available information – objective charts and data produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Department of Agriculture, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other objective, authoritative sources. I welcomed questioning from the House committee after my presentation and disparaged nobody during or after my presentation. Nevertheless, the Idaho media responded with nasty, false, and often personal attacks in an attempt to divert attention away from the science that was presented.

The central message of my presentation was that temperatures are rising in Idaho at a slower pace than is the case nationally or globally, that precipitation in the state is increasing – especially in the dry summer months – and that the modest warming and increasing precipitation are bringing net benefits like longer and more-productive growing seasons and increasing plant density in the state. I documented these points with objective data from NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The response from the liberal Idaho media has been personal and rabid.

Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman published an article calling me an “Illinois-based lobbyist.” I neither live in Illinois nor am I a lobbyist. He could easily have learned the truth about both points simply by asking me.

Barker continued by saying The Heartland Institute is “heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry.” In fact, Heartland receives the vast majority of its funding from private individuals and charitable foundations with no connection to the fossil fuel industry. In fact, our funding from the fossil fuel industry is miniscule. That’s important to note because leftist environmental groups like the Sierra Club – with annual budgets much larger than Heartland’s – have received much more money from the fossil fuel industry than we have. I would have been happy to share that information with Barker if he had asked.

An Idaho Falls Post Register house editorial, titled, “Heartland Institute presentation was an embarrassment,” was even more vicious and erroneous.

The Post Register claimed I presented “lies from the very start” in a Policy Brief I wrote on the topic. I stated in that paper that Idaho Gov. Brad Little in January 2019 said climate change is “real” and “a big deal,” and that he did it “following” a hearing on climate change on March 6, 2019. They got me! I made a mistake by correctly identifying Gov. Little’s statement as occurring in January, but later saying it occurred “after” the March hearing. That is a regrettable oversight, but hardly a “lie.” [NOTE: We have corrected that passage in the Policy Brief.]

Here’s another attack designed to take attention away from the science: The Post Register, as well as Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman, made a point to derisively assert I “repeatedly” referred to Idaho as “Iowa” during my presentation and lectured that I should “know the difference.” Guilty as charged. I certainly know the difference, but such childish attacks have nothing to do with the science I presented. Moreover, I mentioned the state of Idaho by name 40 times during my presentation, and apparently said “Iowa” four times. As somebody who grew up in Iowa and frequently talks about and with people from Iowa, I think it is understandable for me to occasionally make that easy slip of the tongue. I certainly have experienced people from Idaho inadvertently refer to my home state of Iowa as “Idaho,” but I don’t take offense or respond childishly to it.

The Post Register further lied about me, and in a childish manner, when it stated, “The whitebark pines in the high mountains here, which Taylor has never seen….” I have been to Idaho several times and have certainly seen the whitebark pines in the state. I could have confirmed this to the Post Register if they had exercised minimal journalistic standards and asked before publishing their childishly asserted falsehood.

Moving on to the actual science, Barker’s Statesman article asserts in the caption of the accompanying video that “A new study out of the University of Idaho and Columbia University shows human-caused climate change doubled size of wildfires in the West.” The “new” study was published four years ago – in 2016 – and its findings have been thoroughly debunked since then. Perhaps by falsely referring to the old study as “new,” the Statesman believes it can induce people not to check into the newer, more accurate information that debunks the alarmist assertion.

The Statesman article responded to the data I presented showing increasing Idaho precipitation and a lessening of Idaho drought by asserting, “But in fact the fire season has grown by 47 days annually over the past 25 years, according to Boise State University geology professor Jen Pierce.” Of course, a lengthening of fire season (i.e., the number of days in which fires may potentially occur) is of minimal significance when drought conditions throughout the potential fire season are less frequent and severe due to increasing precipitation.

The Statesman also quoted geologist Pierce stating, “Even the increased crop yields could drop if the lower snowpack forecast reduces the water supply.” Yet my presentation delivered objective data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing Idaho crop yields are consistently increasing and setting frequent new records, even with a modest decline in recent snowpack, as more abundant annual precipitation and longer growing seasons enhance crop output.

A follow-up editorial from the Statesman‘s editorial board devoted most of its space to saying this year’s Australian wildfires debunk my presentation and show what Idaho could soon experience. Had the Statesman‘s editorial board examined the data before leaping to alarmist assumptions, they would have learned that there has been a long-term increase in Australian precipitation, droughts were much more severe 100 years ago, and the past two decades have been wetter than normal in Australia. Our modest recent warming is responsible for many benefits, but it can’t make all droughts and wildfires disappear.

I would mention science errors presented by the Post Register editorial board, but the Post Register editorial board barely mentioned any science. They hoped to avoid the topic by making their house editorial almost entirely personal. To the limited extend the Post Register addressed the science I presented, they couldn’t even get that right.

The Post Register stated, “Taylor’s two key messages were: Climate change isn’t happening in Idaho, and climate change is good for Idaho. While the two messages contradict each other….” I never said climate change isn’t happening in Idaho. In fact, most of my talk centered on how the pace of Idaho warming is modest, has occurred primarily during the coldest winter cold spells, and has brought beneficial increases in annual and dry-season precipitation. How could any competent reporter or editorial board describe that as “climate change isn’t happening?”

Ultimately, the Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Falls Post Register made themselves look bad by resorting to ill-informed and childish attacks against somebody invited to present information to an Idaho House of Representatives committee. The scientific information I presented was objective, authoritative, and delivered in a cordial and professional manner. Given a choice between objective science and childish personal attacks, I suspect Idahoans will choose objective science. Watch and listen to the PowerPoint presentation yourself and make up your own mind.