Fox News' inner struggle with climate misinformation

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Fox News' inner struggle with climate misinformation

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Aug 18, 2015 5:44 pm

Fox News' inner struggle with climate misinformation

Dana Nuccitelli
Monday 17 August 2015 06.00 EDT

Fox anchor Shep Smith calls out the same science misinformation tactics used by his own network

Research has shown that Fox News is a major driving force behind climate denial, decreasing viewer trust in scientists and the existence of global warming. In 2013, only 28% of Fox News’ climate science segments were accurate, although that was an improvement over its 7% accuracy in 2012.

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has been one of the few voices on the network willing to accept the scientific reality of human-caused climate change. On the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Shepard Smith Reporting, Smith reported on biased industry-funded science by Coca Cola, and made the connection to fossil fuel-funded climate denial studies.

Lisa Kennedy Montgomery: It’s actually very brilliant marketing on the part of Coca Cola, because they realize that if someone hears that there’s a scientific study behind a reported fact, then they take that, they internalize it and take it to be true … So, what Coca Cola has decided to do is use that “science” in their favor. And if only they could find a few scientists willing to report that it’s not the calories but the lack of exercise that’s making people obese, then they can use this as a sort of an underground marketing strategy.

Shepard Smith: Well this reminds me of two things. The article in the New York Times this weekend pointed out, it reminds you of exactly what the tobacco industry did back in the day, and more recently it also reminds you of what the climate deniers, the climate change deniers are doing as well.

In fact, just 2 days later, the Fox Business News show Varney & Co. used that strategy in an interview with Roy Spencer. Spencer is one of the fewer than 3% of climate scientists whose research rejects or minimizes the human contribution to global warming, and who infamously made comments about “global warming Nazis.”

The interview began not with a discussion of science, but rather with criticism of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Both host Stuart Varney and Roy Spencer claimed that the plan would increase energy bills for America’s poor. The Obama administration claims the opposite – that the plan will save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030. Although electricity prices are expected to rise, utility bills are projected to fall due to improvements in energy efficiency spurred by the rule, and hence reduced electricity consumption.

Spencer also claimed that wind and solar energy are “much more expensive than fossil fuels,” which is simply false. In any case, if conservatives are really concerned about the possibility of rising energy bills for low-income families, they can replace these regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon fee whose rebates would offset any increase in electricity costs.

Unfortunately the interview didn’t include any such constructive policy debate. Instead it shifted to science denial, with Spencer repeating the false claim of no global warming over the past 18 years. In reality, during that time the oceans, surface, and even the lower atmosphere have continued to warm. Unexpectedly, host Stuart Varney pushed back against this global warming denial, pointing out that 14 of the last 15 years have been the hottest on record, and Spencer was forced to admit that the planet has continued to warm.

Consistent with his status as one of the fewer than 3% of climate contrarian researchers, Spencer also contested the human contribution to global warming in the interview, using the same strategies discussed on Shepard Smith’s show. Spencer claimed,

We have published evidence and there’s getting to be more and more papers published in the scientific literature pointing out that about half of the warming we’ve seen since the 1950s has been natural rather than man-made. It’s because of more frequent El Niño activity.

In reality, very few scientific papers have blamed global warming on El Niño. Spencer is one of the few to make this argument, specifically arguing that changes in El Niño have changed cloud cover on Earth, which in turn impacts global temperatures. However, his analysis has been shown to be flawed in subsequent research by prominent climate scientists like Kevin Trenberth and Andrew Dessler. Scientist Barry Bickmore described Spencer’s study as a “curve-fitting paper,” using an approach also described by climate scientist Ray Pierrehumbert as “How to cook a graph in three easy lessons.”

The big problem with Spencer’s argument is that there have been a roughly equal number of El Niño and La Niña events since 1950, so the temporary surface temperature cooling effects of the latter have cancelled out the temporary surface warming effects of the former during that time. These short-term cycles can’t explain the rapid global warming we’ve observed over the past 65 years.

In the latest IPCC report, the world’s top climate scientists stated with 95% confidence that humans are responsible for the majority of the global warming since 1950, and that we’re most likely responsible for all of it. Although there are a few outliers like Roy Spencer who publish flawed research arguing to the contrary, there is a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

However, as noted on Shepard Smith’s show, it’s smart marketing to focus on the outlier studies that argue the contrarian position, because “if someone hears that there’s a scientific study behind a reported fact, then they take that, they internalize it and take it to be true.” That’s exactly how Fox News markets global warming denial on most of its programs.

source ... nformation


Fox News found to be a major driving force behind global warming denial

Dana Nuccitelli
Thursday 8 August 2013 00.16 EDT

American consumers of conservative media like Fox News distrust climate scientists and don't believe the planet is warming

A new study published in the journal Public Understanding of Science (PDF available here) surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 Americans in 2008 and 2011 about their media consumption and beliefs about climate change.

The results suggest that conservative media consumption (specifically Fox News and Rush Limbaugh) decreases viewer trust in scientists, which in turn decreases belief that global warming is happening. In contrast, consumption of non-conservative media (specifically ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post) increases consumer trust in scientists, and in turn belief that global warming is happening.

The study also examined previous research on this issue and concluded that the conservative media creates distrust in scientists through five main methods:

1) Presenting contrarian scientists as "objective" experts while presenting mainstream scientists as self-interested or biased.

2) Denigrating scientific institutions and peer-reviewed journals.

3) Equating peer-reviewed research with a politically liberal opinion.

4) Accusing climate scientists of manipulating data to fund research projects.

5) Characterizing climate science as a religion.

Media Matters provides examples of Fox News engaging in all five of these tactics. One prime example involves contrarian meteorologist Joe Bastardi, a frequent climate misinformation guest on Fox News who Rolling Stone awarded the #1 dumbest thing ever said about global warming for claiming that CO2 "literally" cannot cause warming because it doesn't "mix well in the atmosphere."

In reality we've known for nearly 190 years that rising CO2 causes global warming, and we know for certain it's well-mixed throughout the atmosphere, as illustrated by measurements from around the world.

The results of this study can be compared to the PhD research done by my Skeptical Science colleague John Cook, at the University of Queensland. Cook surveyed representative samples of Australians and Americans regarding their political ideologies and the effect of consensus on their acceptance of human-caused global warming. After being shown evidence of the consensus on human-caused global warming, Australian acceptance of this scientific reality grew across the political spectrum, but especially among conservatives.

In the American sample, acceptance grew for most political groups, but especially among political liberals. In the American sample, there was also a small and extremely politically conservative group who actually became more likely to reject human-caused global warming in response to evidence of the expert consensus. Cook presented his data at the American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference on Climate Science Communication, shown in the video below at the 10-minute mark.

Cook's result appears consistent with the new study published in Public Understanding of Science, which found that exposure to conservative media decreases trust in climate scientists. In short, Fox News and other conservative media outlets plant the notion that climate scientists are somehow faking evidence for human-caused global warming. This makes viewers less trusting of climate scientists and less likely to accept that global warming is happening.

With conservatives tending to get their information from conservative media sources, this is increasing the political polarization on the subject of climate change. However, with the real-world effects of climate change constantly becoming more difficult to deny, this is not a sustainable situation. Eventually reality must break in, and there are signs that this is beginning to happen.

A growing number of American conservatives are demanding that the Republican Party stop denying the problem and begin participating in crafting the solution. For example, the list of conservatives supporting a revenue-neutral carbon tax continues to grow:

51 percent of Republican voters
Art Laffer, economic advisor to Ronald Reagan
Greg Mankiw, economic advisor to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney
George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary of State
Gary Becker, Nobel Laureate in economics
Bob Inglis, former Republican Congressman from South Carolina
A staffer for a House Republican
William Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator under Nixon and Reagan
Lee Thomas, EPA Administrator under Reagan
William Reilly, EPA Administrator under George H.W. Bush
Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator under George W. Bush

The list goes on. Moreover, 73 percent of young voters under the age of 35 associate denial of global warming with words like "ignorant," "out-of-touch" or "crazy," including 53 percent of young Republicans. Climate solutions are also growing in popularity due to their real-world success, with British Columbia's revenue-neutral carbon tax enjoying 64 percent support, and California's carbon cap and trade system experiencing 67 percent support.

The question now is how long the Republican Party's global warming denial and obstruction of climate solutions can last in the face of these growing numbers of Americans (including Republicans) demanding climate solutions. Climate misinformation from Fox News and other conservative media outlets may be stemming the tide against climate denial, but the tide is rising, both literally and figuratively.

source ... l-fox-news
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