The Course of Reason

Watch Fox News? You’re Less Likely to Believe in Global Warming.

August 23, 2013

Global warming isn’t happening.  That’s what you’re more likely to believe if you watch Fox News, according to a study published in the journal Public Understanding of Science.

Really, who would have thought that the same network that once asked Bill Nye if volcanoes on the moon were responsible for global warming would also lead some of its viewers to question whether the whole thing is made up?  I for one am absolutely shocked that a network with the integrity of Fox News would ever mislead its audience.

In all seriousness though, 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. (Source.)

Method 5 really gets me, given the implicit message that religion is bad.  What Fox is trying to do is characterize climate science as not based on evidence but religious faith.  Well Fox, I assume this means we can disregard everything your anchors say about their own religion, right?  Your audience should distrust Christianity because religion.  Ok, got it.

While the report rightly goes after Fox News, and other conservative media, for sowing seeds of doubt among viewers, the rest of the major media outlets in America still hold some of the blame for the general lack of understanding of climate change in the U.S.  In general, climate change doesn’t receive a lot of coverage in US media.

“Even during the warmest year on record in the US, the nightly news programmes combined devoted only 12 full segments to climate change,” Media Matters reports. “By contrast, these programmes dedicated over seven times more coverage to the royals in 2012.” (Source.)

Think about that for just a moment.  Coverage of the royals, something that has no bearing on the life of the average American citizen, completely overshadowed coverage of climate change, an issue that the average American should be concerned about.  Fox News may be responsible for creating doubt about climate change, but the rest of the media has done a fine job attempting to ensure that most Americans don’t care that global warming is happening.

With the situation for the Earth’s climate becoming more dire, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere recently passing 400ppm (scientists say we need that level to be around 350ppm to have a stable climate) with little attention from the media, we can’t sit around and rely on the media to inform the general public about the urgency to act.  Communicating this issue, whether it be through social media, blogs, or our direct communication amongst friends, family, and the community, is going to be necessary.

 

 

About the Author: Chris Burke

Chris Burke's photo
Chris Burke holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies: Honours Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. Next he will be working towards a Masters of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. He's an active member of the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo student group. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing music.

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