A study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed some surprising details regarding the three major cable news networks’ coverage on the subject of climate science. The study looked at all segments that discussed climate science throughout 2013 on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. To the surprise of nobody, Fox News misled or straight up lied the most often when it came to covering climate science. The network discussed the subject 50 times during 2013. The UCS’s study shows that Fox provided misleading coverage on 72% of those segments.
One interesting part of the report reveals that over half of that misleading coverage came from one show in particular, The Five. That show, which features four ultra-conservative pundits (Eric Bolling, Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino and Andrea Tantaros) along with one supposed liberal (Bob Beckel), focuses on debate between the panelists. The UCS study provided examples of The Five’s panelists presenting false and misleading information. Below is one such example:
On September 30, The Five’s Greg Gutfeld accused scientists involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of obfuscation when he said that, “Experts pondered hiding the news that the earth hadn’t . . . warmed in 15 years, despite an increase in emissions. They concluded that the missing heat was trapped in the ocean. It’s like blaming gas on the dog if the ocean was your dog.” This was not the case, as scientists were publicly discussing questions about the relationship between surface temperature trends, heat trapped in the deep ocean, and the flow of heat throughout the planet as the climate warms.
The scientists’ study also found that Fox News was far more likely to understate the effects of climate change, disparage climate science in general or mislead during a debate on climate change that the other two networks. The report stated that MSNBC prioritized coverage of climate change during 2013, discussing it 132 times. Only 8% of the time they allowed guests, contributors or news hosts to present misleading or nonfactual information. In fact, the only misinformation presented on MSNBC about climate science in 2013 revolved around overstatements on the impact of climate change.
Meanwhile, over at CNN, the network only covered climate science 40 times in 2013. However, they presented factual information most of the time, as 70% of segments did not mislead or provide inaccurate information. That still means that 30% of the time, the network allowed lies or misinformation to get through. The study did find that most of the misleading information about climate science on CNN was in the form of debates where contributors or guests presented misinformation. One examples was from January 2013 on Out Front with Erin Burnett:
Also on January 23, Out Front with Erin Burnett hosted a debate that featured Erick Erikson, then a CNN contributor and columnist for RedState, who stated that extreme weather was worse in the 1950s than it is today. Erikson argued that, “It doesn’t help that scientists have to keep changing the language from global warming to climate change to now extreme weather.” Scientists have, in fact, tracked an increase in many kinds of extreme weather since the middle of the twentieth century, including coastal flooding, heat waves, and changes in precipitation patterns, and they have used the terms “global warming” and “climate change” interchangeably for decades.
It should be pointed out that this was one of Erickson’s last appearances on CNN as a contributor. A few days later, he left for, you guessed it, Fox News.
Overall, the scientists who compiled this report stated that MSNBC did an exemplary job of covering climate science in 2013. Their only recommendation was that the network do a slightly better job of steering guests and contributors away from overstating the impact or effects of climate change. Basically, don’t say that we are on the verge of the apocalypse.
As for CNN, the report suggested that the network should try to stay away from discussing climate science in a debate format. Most of the misleading statements from the network on climate science came from segments centering around debate of two or more participants. Basically, the UCS recommends that if CNN is going to continue to allow climate science to be debated upon its network, then the network needs to do a better job at picking knowledgeable guests who are learned on the subject. Also, they recommended fact-checking guests who make factually inaccurate statements on the air.
As for Fox News, the report basically concluded that the network just needs to scrap what it is doing. It did acknowledge that 2013 represented an improvement for the network. In 2012, the network only aired accurate climate science pieces 7% of the time. So, there IS improvement, though the coverage is still awful and extremely misleading. The report states that Fox News is dismissive of climate change as a whole and tends to focus on ‘politicized rejections of climate science.’ Also, much of the accurate information on the network regarding climate science came from hosts correcting overstatements made by guests. Therefore, it still shows the general dismissive nature that even those hosts may have towards climate science.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).