Memo to Fox News: Science and Politics Don’t Mix

Fri, 2011-02-11 14:11Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson's picture

Memo to Fox News: Science and Politics Don’t Mix

This piece was co-written by Ryan Koronowski, Alliance for Climate Protection Research Director and Josh Nelson, Alliance for Climate Protection Director of Online Communications and New Media.

Former oil and energy trader Eric Bolling, a financial news personality on Fox News, often gets on television to talk about climate change. On Tuesday, Media Matters published research on Bolling’s program and uncovered a history of claims that are demonstrably false:

Bolling Hosted Skeptic To Claim “There Is No Global Warming.” Bolling hosted Brian Sussman, radio host and author of Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes The Global Warming Scam, who asserted that “there is no global warming.” Sussman claimed that the “hottest decade in history was the 1930s.”

Bolling: “I think We Warm And We Cool. It’s The Globe.” Discussing a Rasmussen poll asking respondents “how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data,” Bolling stated: “Listen, you know where I stand on this. I’m not – I think we warm and we cool. It’s the globe.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/4/09]

Bolling Falsely Suggested Snow Disproves Global Warming. On Fox & Friends, referring to the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Bolling stated: “I think, a couple of years ago, they were in Washington. It was snowed out. The global warming issue wasn’t, I guess, a factor there. But they solved that problem going to Cancun.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/9/09]

In fact, the decade from 2001-2010 was the hottest on record, and as Alliance for Climate Protection Chairman Al Gore explained in a recent blog post, extreme weather events – including heavy snow – are entirely consistent with climate science.

So why would Bolling repeatedly push these discredited ideas? One possibility is the fact that the managing editor of Fox News specifically instructed the network’s on-air personalities to do just that. This unfortunate myopia extends beyond Fox’s news and opinion programming – it affects the advertisements that Fox viewers are permitted to see.

Last May, VoteVets.org ran an ad on cable that made “the familiar case that climate legislation would have national security benefits by reducing the oil profits of hostile Middle Eastern states.” CNN and MSNBC aired the ad. But Fox viewers weren’t allowed to see the ad because it was “too confusing.”

Unfortunately, Fox’s deliberate attempts to mislead their viewers about climate change appear to be working. A pair of recent studies found that Fox viewers are far more likely to be confused about climate change than the general public. A December 2010 University of Maryland study found: “Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring.” Incredibly, regular Fox News viewers were 30% more likely (PDF) to believe that most scientists don’t agree about climate change, when compared to Americans who don’t watch Fox News.

A December 2010 Woods Institute for the Environment poll (PDF) had similar findings with regard to Americans’ understanding of basic climate science:

Among Americans who watched no Fox News, 82% believed that the Earth’s temperature has been rising, and 85% of them believed that any temperature increase is caused mostly by things people do, or about equally by things people do and natural causes.

Among the most frequent viewers of Fox News, 63% believed that the Earth’s temperature has been rising, and 60% of the most frequent Fox News viewers believed that the temperature increase is caused mostly by things people do or about equally by things people do and natural causes.

While these findings are unfortunate, a more important point is this: Climate science is bigger than politics. Despite the best efforts of conservative-leaning news outlets such as Fox News, Americans from across the political spectrum are concerned about climate change and understand the need to take immediate action to address it.

Consider former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who recently said, “As a Republican, I believe we should be talking about conservation,” he explained. “Because that’s our heritage. If you go back to Teddy Roosevelt, that’s who we are.” Or take Senator Lugar of Indiana, who once said, “Changes in climate will bring more droughts, floods and extreme weather events. Pests and disease will spread into new regions of the world threatening public health and economic growth. More conflicts will arise.”

Fox News viewers, we hope you’ll join us, and we’ll gladly welcome you to the cause. Climate change is too big of a problem to solve without your help.

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