Science Group Calls on News Corp. to Improve Climate Science Content

Analysis Shows Fox News, Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Pages Heavily Misrepresent Climate Science

Published Sep 21, 2012


NEW YORK (Sept. 21, 2012) – The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is calling on News Corporation to improve the representation of climate science on two of its prominent media holdings, Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section, after an analysis showed both heavily distort the facts on the issue.

In letters to News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes, and Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, UCS board chair and former American Association Advance for Science President Jim McCarthy said the science on human-induced climate change is clear.

“We should all be able to accept these basic facts regardless of whether or not we support or oppose personal, business or societal actions related to climate change,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, public and policymaker opinion regarding the reality of human-induced climate change has been for far too long polarized and based on ideology rather than facts.”

UCS examined representations of climate science from both Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section. In its analysis, UCS found:

  • Over a recent six-month period, Fox News Channel representations of climate science were misleading 93 percent of the time (37 out of 40 citations).
  • Over the past year, the Wall Street Journal opinion section’s representations of climate science were misleading 81 percent of the time (39 out of 48 citations).

“It’s like they’re talking and writing about a parallel universe,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist at UCS. “Their viewers and readers simply aren’t getting an accurate story on climate science.”

Representations featured broad dismissals of the reality of human-induced climate change, disparagement of scientists, mockery of climate science as a body of knowledge, and the cherry-picking of facts and studies to cast doubt on established climate science. The analysis further found that both media outlets framed acceptance of climate science in ideological rather than fact-based terms. The analysis did not examine the Wall Street Journal’s news section, which is run by a separate set of editors.

News Corporation says it is committed to engaging its audiences on sustainability issues through its Global Energy Initiative. Murdoch himself has said he accepts the reality of human-induced climate change, but the misrepresentations revealed in the analysis undercut these claims.

The analysis recommends the media giant conduct a review of its climate science content and develop standards and practices for communicating climate science to its audiences. It further suggests that both Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal opinion section could do more to highlight the views of people who accept the reality of human-caused climate change.

After the panel discussion, McCarthy along with UCS supporters and staff delivered more than 20,000 postcards from members and supporters to News Corporation’s New York offices—including some more than 1,000 from the organization’s scientist members—calling upon the company to improve the accuracy of its climate science content.

The analysis and recommendations draw upon a growing body of social science research that finds a correlation between viewing Fox News Channel and dismissing the evidence for human-caused climate change. Furthermore, social scientists find that people’s beliefs about the role of government can deeply affect how they view the credibility of scientific expertise on a variety of issues, from mandatory vaccinations to nuclear waste and climate change.

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