Climate Deniers Losing Ground at Fox News?
August 17, 2015
As I posted here last week, the struggle for Fox News’ climate-denying soul has been breaking out in the open.
The polling is clear that most Americans not only agree that climate change is happening, and that humans are the cause, but want the government to do something about it. What we are seeing on Fox News is a foreshadowing of the larger struggle that will be happening in the midst of an election campaign, as 2015 breaks new temperature records, and almost all of the GOP candidates for President are on record as firmly in denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue.
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.
The Guardian points out that, “In fact, just 2 days later, the Fox Business News show Varney & Co. used that strategy in an interview with Roy Spencer…”
Roy Spencer is a former NASA scientist, most famous for repeatedly, stubbornly, and very publicly misinterpreting his own data to claim that the atmosphere was cooling, which he did for years until the overwhelming body of scientific evidence forced him to admit his errors. (he had misplaced “+” and “-” signs).
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.”
Indeed – the “warming has stopped” climate crock has long passed its sell-by date, as 2014 was the hottest year in the modern record, and is soon to be eclipsed by a burgeoning “godzilla el nino” event in the Pacific. Scientist John Abraham sends me this graph showing how the first seven months of 2015 compares to the annual temperatures of previous years:
Indeed, Spencer’s own temperature graph from his website shows an undeniable warming trend.
The Guardian piece goes on to note that Spencer’s argument makes no sense in light of the facts:
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.