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Fox News climate change coverage is now 28% accurate, up from 7%

Posted on 8 April 2014 by dana1981

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has just published an analysis of 2013 climate coverage by the three major American cable news networks. The report and data are available online, and the results are summarized in the figure below.

Cable news climate coverage accuracy

UCS reviewed nearly 600 segments mentioning "global warming" or "climate change" across the networks' most prominent evening and weekend programs during the 2013 calendar year. Segments that contained any inaccurate or misleading representations of climate science were categorized as misleading; otherwise they were characterized as being accurate.

UCS also put the misleading statements in sub-categories that reveal the problematic tendencies of each network's climate coverage. Aaron Huertas, a science communications officer at UCS who led the analysis said of the difference between network climate coverage,

"Sometimes, it's like the networks are covering different planets. Unfortunately, too many politicians, interest groups, and pundits continue to dispute established climate science and cable shows sometimes give them a platform to do so."

The UCS analysis found that Fox News Channel hosts and guests were the most likely to accuse scientists of manipulating or hiding climate data. Fox hosts and guests often conveyed misinformation about scientific findings, including many false claims that global warming is not occurring.

Types of misleading climate coverage on Fox News

However, Fox did have some accurate climate coverage, including interviews with policymakers and fact-checking segments. Special Report with Bret Baier and The O'Reilly Factor were responsible for almost all of the network's accurate coverage, though both shows also had segments that featured inaccurate representations of science. The Five was the main culprit behind Fox's climate inaccuracies, and was responsible for 53% of the network's misleading coverage. If not for this program, Fox would have had a climate reporting accuracy rating of 45%.

Despite just 28% of Fox's coverage being accurate in 2013, this was a significant improvement for the network. A 2012 UCS report found that Fox News' representation of climate science was accurate just 7% of the time over a six-month study period.

On CNN, most of the segments that included inaccurate climate statements were from debates featuring guests who reject aspects of established science. Many networks like CNN and BBC that try to be 'balanced' in their climate reporting fall victim to false balance, giving the minority view disproportionate coverage, often in debate-style segments. However, two prominent CNN hosts condemned false balance this February, and since then CNN has not held a misleading debate on climate change.

Types of misleading climate coverage on CNN

MSNBC's climate coverage was far and away the most accurate. On a few occasions, hosts and guests overstated the speed and severity of sea-level rise as well as the link between climate change and some forms of extreme weather, such as tornadoes. However, they also accurately conveyed science on those topics in other instances. 57% of MSNBC's accurate coverage featured some criticism of politicians or other public figures that dispute established climate science. MSNBC also had the most frequent climate coverage of the three major cable networks. Chris Hayes' coverage particularly stood out for the frequency and depth with which he approached climate coverage.

Types of misleading climate coverage on MSNBC

These findings help explain why Americans tend to be relatively poorly informed about climate change. 38% of American adults watch cable news, with Fox News having the largest viewership. Only two-thirds of Americans accept that climate change is occurring, and less than half of Americans recognize that it is largely due to human activities. This is a stark contrast to the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

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  1. The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed its opinion that Money is Speech and thus subject to First Amendment protections against efforts to limit its influence in elections.  If you look at those statistics for Fox News and CNN, it seems plain that, often, Money is the very opposite of Speech.  Nobody wants to talk about one of the most important issues of our Age because, frankly, the money is directing them not to talk about it.  Money isn't Speech.  Money is a bullhorn or a muzzle, depending on how the donor wants it directed.

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