There is no longer any legitimate debate that climate change is having dramatic effects on Planet Earth — except on cable news.
While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the Earth’s temperature is warming due to human activities, a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that CNN, MSNBC, and especially Fox News are failing to reflect the scientific consensus.
According to the report, released Monday, much of the major networks’ coverage has been abysmal. MSNBC has the best record of the three; it ran 132 segments mentioning climate science in 2013, 92 percent of which were accurate.
CNN covered climate science 43 times, and 70 percent of its coverage was accurate.
Fox News brought up the rear; it ran 50 segments on climate change, just 28 percent of which were truthful.
The networks also varied in the ways in which they misled viewers. All 11 misleading segments on MSNBC overstated the effects of climate change. By contrast, the majority of CNN’s misleading coverage came in debates that falsely suggested that there is no scientific consensus on the issue; according to the report, if CNN had avoided these debates altogether, its overall accuracy would have increased to 86 percent.
Fox News also aired many misleading debates, in addition to dozens of segments that understated climate change’s impact. On 12 separate occassions, Fox News hosts and guests openly disparaged climate science itself.
Fox’s coverage was not equally terrible across the board; in fact, one particular show — The Five — accounted for a full 53 percent of the network’s misleading coverage in 2013. According to the report, if The Five didn’t exist, Fox News’ accuracy rating would have been 45 percent.
Shockingly, Fox News’ dismal 28 percent accuracy in covering climate science is actually a major improvement from 2012. That year, only 7 percent of the network’s coverage was accurate.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ study used Lexis-Nexis to search CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC transcripts for the terms “climate change” or “global warming” between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013. The study’s full methodology can be read here.
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