Study Finds Mainstream Media's Climate Coverage is Overwhelmingly Misleading
In 2007, News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch claimed coverage of climate change in his media outlets—which include Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal opinion pages—would improve over time.
Such improvement has not been achieved. A 2012 snapshot analysis shows that recent coverage of climate science in both outlets has been overwhelmingly misleading.
The analysis finds that the misleading citations include broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge and disparaging comments about individual scientists. Furthermore, much of this coverage denigrated 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.
Fox News Channel Coverage of Climate Science
Millions of Americans get information about climate science from the Fox News Channel. In 2011, it was the most popular cable news channel in the U.S. During prime time, a median of more than 1.9 million people watched it.
- Ninety-three percent of Fox News Channel's representations of climate science were misleading from February 2012 to July 2012 (37 out of 40 references).
- The most common form of criticism regarding climate science was to broadly dismiss the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring or human-induced.
- Misleading representations also included 10 instances in which a panel member expressed acceptance of climate science findings, but was drowned out by hosts or other panel members responding with multiple misleading claims.
Wall Street Journal Opinion Page Coverage of Climate Science
The Wall Street Journal has a broad readership and enjoys the largest circulation among American newspapers—more than 2 million daily readers. Within the Journal, the opinion section operates separately from the news section.
- Eighty-one percent of letters, op-eds, columns, and editorials in the Wall Street Journal's opinion page were misleading on climate science from August 2011 to July 2012 (39 of 48 references).
- Most of the misleading editorials, op-eds, columns, and letters attempted to broadly undermine the major conclusions of climate science. Instances of attacks on individual scientists, mocking the science, and cherry picking data were all equally common.
- Denigration of climate science was routine. Instances included accusations that scientists were fudging data and claims that they are motivated by financial self-interest.
Examples of Misleading References to Climate Science
“The green energy stuff—I mean, that’s—that’s all a hoax and a fraud based on another hoax and fraud, global warming.” (Fox News Channel, 3/23/12)
“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 of the credibility of its advocates…” (Wall Street Journal column, 3/9/2012)
“The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade…” (Wall Street Journal op-ed, 5/27/12)
“I thought we were getting warmer. But in the ‘70s, it was, look out, we’re all going to freeze.” (Fox News Channel, 4/11/12)Coverage of Climate Action Also Overwhelmingly Negative
- Although the analysis focused primarily on representations of climate science, it also found that both outlets placed heavy emphasis on negative coverage of climate action aimed at reducing global warming emissions, including personal lifestyle decisions as well as government policies.
Recommendations for News Corporation
- News Corp.’s stated commitment to sustainability should be matched by a critical examination of the way in which its media properties live up to the company’s publicly stated goals. News Corp.'s efforts to engage its audiences on sustainability are undercut when it allows misinformation about a key sustainability issue to dominate coverage in two prominent outlets.
- News Corp. should examine how it portrays climate science and develop standards and practices for accurately communicating climate science to its audiences.
- To improve the accuracy of climate science coverage, News Corp. can help staff better differentiate between scientific and policy claims on climate change. It is always misleading to reject the overwhelming scientific evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring, but can be entirely appropriate to criticize specific policies aimed at addressing climate change.
- Download the full report (PDF)
- Global Warming 101
- The Causes of Global Warming: A Global Warming FAQ
- Global Warming Contrarians
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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