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Study Shows News Corp Misleads on Climate Change

by Taylor Tyler, published

A study released Friday by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows News Corp misleads on climate change. The UCS reports that two of the most popular news outlets in the US, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, do not appropriately handle the issue.

Ninety-three percent of Fox News' representations of climate science, and 81 percent of representations found in the Wall Street Journal's opinion section were misleading, according to the report.

The UCS examined transcripts and articles relating to climate change and global warming and reports that over a six-month period, 37 out of 40 instances that aired during Fox's prime time coverage were classified as misleading. Over the course of a year, 39 out of 48 instances in the Wall Street Journal's opinion section were classified as misleading.

According to the analysis, misleading claims by Fox News personalities and Wall Street Journal contributors were found to include, “broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and disparaging comments about individual scientists.” Some discussions went as far as to “denigrate climate science by either promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.”

In one example cited by UCS and aired on Fox News on March 23, Rush Limbaugh states,  “The green energy stuff – I mean, that's – that's all a hoax and a fraud based on another hoax and fraud, global warming.”

Another instance examined an op-ed article written by Robert Tracinski and published in the Wall Street Journal in March that states, “We are in the middle of what you might call a global warming bubble. It is a failure of the global warming theory itself and the credibility of its advocates.”

The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that climate change is real and can be proven with the large body of research available. A report issued in August by the American Meteorological Society concludes that the warming of Earth's atmosphere, rising sea levels, and shrinking ice levels can be mainly attributed to human activity since the 1950s.

An article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the publications of 1,372 climate scientists and found 97 to 98 percent agree that climate change is occurring and mainly attributable to humans.

Despite these scientific findings, according to a recent Gallup poll, much of the American public still doubts that climate change is currently occurring. A poll from March shows that only 52 percent of people polled believe the effects of global warming have already begun to happen, down from 61 percent in a similar poll released in 2008.

The UCS report notes how influential media is on public perception, citing a study conducted in February:

“The importance the media assigns to coverage of climate change translates into the importance the public attaches to this issue.”

A study published in the scientific journal "EMBO Reports" suggests interest groups may influence media coverage on climate change:

"Historically entrenched cultural preoccupations with free markets and economic growth—along with the concomitant politics of interest groups—has also caused an attitude of denial that has strengthened scepticism of scientific claims about environmental decline and, more specifically, anthropogenic climate change."

The same study cites "balanced reporting" as having a "rather detrimental effect" on media coverage relating to climate change. Claiming balance is often “a surrogate for validity checks" if the article gives undue attention to views held by a small minority of the scientific community.

In 2007, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch said, “I think that when people see that 99 percent of scientists agree about the serious extend of global warming, it's going to become a fact of life,” and issued a 2011 memo announcing that News Corp had met its goal of becoming carbon neutral.

The Carbon Disclosure Project, a UK based organization that works with corporations to disclose greenhouse gas emissions, released a 2012 report showing News Corp ranked number 19 out of 343 participating S&P 500 companies.

The misleading climate change discussion is not limited to American media owned by Murdoch. An Australian study conducted by the Australian Center for Independent Journalism claims that Murdoch-owned News Ltd, one of Australia's largest media companies, has reported negatively 81 percent of the time on Australian government carbon policy.

"In their reporting of the Gillard government's carbon policy it's fair to say they've campaigned against it rather than covered it," reported study author Professor Wendy Bacon.

Other mainstream media outlets are far from innocent in their lack of reporting climate change. A Media Matters study published in August claims "only 8.7% of television segments and 25.5% of print articles reported on record-breaking July heat waves in the context of climate change."

UCS concludes their report by offering a recommendation to Murdoch: “News Corp needs to help its staff to differentiate between opinion about climate change and scientific facts. And while it is appropriate to question new science as it emerges, it is misleading to reject or sow doubt about established science – in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.”

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