Despite the scientific consensus and the mounting evidence – found in the extreme weather events that have wreaked havoc and death throughout the U.S. – there is still widespread climate denial in the U.S.
Among our members of Congress are 182 climate deniers: 144 in the U.S. House of Representatives and 38 in the U.S. Senate. [i]And only roughly half of Americans believe global warming is caused by man-made emissions.[ii]
We know that this climate doubt was sowed (and funded) by Exxon and other Big Polluters that have known for more than four decades that its products were causing pollution and fundamentally disrupting the earth’s climate.
But if Big Polluters are the manufacturer of climate denial, Fox News is among its top distributors.
And like Exxon, the “powers that be” at Fox News seemingly understand the climate change threat, but perpetuate misinformation about the crisis anyway. In 2007, CEO Rupert Murdoch told Grist Magazine, “I think when people see that 99 percent of scientists agree about the serious extent of global warming, it’s going to become a fact of life.”[iii] Yet Fox News’ coverage of climate change is dismissive and often misleading. A 2012 Union of Concerned Scientists report found that Fox News’ representation of climate science was accurate just 7 percent of the time over a six-month study period.[iv]
There’s More Than One Way to Deny a Crisis
Fox News uses a variety of tactics to misinform, cast doubt and deny the realities of the climate crisis.
Fox News is dismissive of climate disruption – regularly characterizing the crisis as a hoax, scam and superstition.
Its hosts manufacture preposterous rationalizations for the increasingly dire reports and climate-related weather events.
Fox News reports have stated or left unchallenged statements that the “temperature basically hasn’t changed much since the ice age,” that it’s actually “getting colder,” that carbon dioxide “literally cannot cause global warming,” that stopping the burning of coal might hurt plants and that “wind farms” may be causing climate change instead. [v]
Fox News denies the scientific consensus that human activity is driving climate disruption and peddles the myth that the issue is still heavily debated by “scientists on both sides.” “There are hundreds of thousands on both sides debating” the causes of global warming, said one Fox News contributor.[vi] Among active climate scientists, 97 percent agree that human activity is a significant contributor to global warming.
In fact, Fox News regularly features climate deniers rather than representatives who have sounded the alarm on the climate crisis. [vii]
The network has even gone so far as attempting to discredit reputable climate science and attacking climate scientists. Fox hosts have accused NASA of “fudging the numbers” on climate change and called the phenomenon of climate change something only “corrupt” scientists believe in.[viii]
Fox News passes off as a climate “expert” a person who has no climate science training. Scientists have called statements by Joe Bastardi – a meteorologist often featured to comment on climate change – as “completely wrong,” “simply ignorant” and “utter nonsense.” [ix]
Why Does it Matter?
With 2.2 million viewers, Fox News occupies the No. 1 prime-time spot for all of cable. In short, it has a big microphone and it is using it to perpetuate the stark partisan divide in climate change perceptions, as well as shape and polarize its audience’s views on the climate crisis.
Fox News is tarnishing and making a mockery of, well, broadcast news.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that bold and immediate action is necessary to avoid irreversible climate disruption. And while the Obama administration has taken some actions to advance our fight against the global crisis, the sale of climate denialism by networks like Fox News continue to obstruct any meaningful action to slow down this climate crisis.
What Can Fox Do?
Fox News leadership should use the recent scandal and shake-up at the network to reposition its views on climate disruption. In fact, 21 organizations are calling on Fox News to do just that. This is an opportunity to do what CEO Rupert Murdoch promised nearly a decade ago: engage “readers, viewers and customers on sustainability issues through partnerships and content of the highest caliber.”[x]
And an opportunity for FOX to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the climate solution.