When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.
The International Journal of Press/Politics has published a new study titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC,” [PDF] which details the ways in which the major American news outlets are reporting stories on climate change.
From the report:
National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.
The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:
Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.
The fact is that at least 97% of credible scientists believe that climate change is not only real, but that it is the result of human activity. But that fact hasn’t prevented Fox News from reporting that there is no scientific consensus on whether or not climate change is actually happening.
And, as Media Matters for America pointed out recently, this isn’t just biased news coverage or the opinions of Fox anchors: The network’s climate change denial is part of a broad agenda by network management to prevent the truth from reaching their viewers:
As an internal email revealed, Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directed Fox journalists in December 2009 to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed.
That same month, Fox News was aggressively promoting the false claim that the so-called “Climategate” controversy showed scientists “doctoring” data – a claim that the network continues to repeat to this day.
Fox has also tried to manufacture a number of pseudo-scandals by distorting climate science research, misrepresenting or disavowing the temperature record, and seizing on any opportunity to distract from what the National Research Council has called “a strong, credible body of evidence” supporting manmade climate change.
The study also found that Fox hosted “a higher ratio of climate change doubters to believers as interview guests.” These guests often don't know what they're talking about but are presented as climate experts. And Fox, a network that has made an annual tradition out of mocking global warming during winter storms, reveals its bias through both what it chooses to cover, and what it chooses to ignore.
This is quickly becoming a systemic issue with Fox News. As the new report points out, Fox’s coverage has actually become more aggressive in recent years in their efforts to paint climate change as a hoax. Even as former skeptics of climate change are coming forward admitting that they were wrong on the issue, Fox continues to push their misinformation campaign on the American public - a public that is eating this news up, bringing a false sense of security to millions who no longer believe that climate change is something that we need to worry about.