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Fox’s flagship “straight news” show has a troubling record on the climate crisis

Nearly 88% of Special Report’s climate segments since 2009 either spread misinformation or perpetuated false or misleading narratives

Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier is heralded as the network’s flagship “straight news” program that firmly embodies the show’s motto of “fair, balanced, and unafraid.” Under Fox chief political anchor Bret Baier’s direction, however, Special Report has failed to meet its own standards in covering the climate crisis and environmental protection, instead providing a platform for many of the same climate denier guests and fossil fuel industry talking points featured on the network’s opinion side. 

Media Matters examined Special Report with Bret Baier’s coverage related to climate change and the environment between January 1, 2009, and May 3, 2021. We counted and analyzed segments devoted to climate change or the environment and those in which a network figure discussed the issue or engaged with a guest who brought it up. We then broadly categorized the show’s misinformation and misleading narratives into five different angles of attack -- regarding climate science, the economy, the efficacy and public demand for domestic climate action, global cooperation, and the urgency of the crisis. These narratives undermined, doubted, misrepresented, or otherwise dismissed climate science and/or drives for climate action or environmental protection. We counted each angle once per segment even if it arose multiple times; segments often included more than one angle.

  • Key Findings

  • From January 1, 2009, to May 3, 2021, Special Report aired at least 972 segments covering stories related to climate change or the environment.

    • At least 851 of those segments -- more than 87% -- featured false or misleading narratives and misinformation. 
    • Since 2009, Fox chief political anchor Bret Baier, guest anchors, correspondents, and guests on Special Report have undermined, doubted, misrepresented, or otherwise dismissed climate science and the urgency of climate action at least 1,333 times.
    • Of the 851 Special Report segments that attacked or misrepresented climate change or environmental protection:
      • 14% undermined climate science.
      • 29% set up a false conflict between a healthy planet and a thriving economy.
      • 43% misrepresented the efficacy of climate action or the public demand for environmental protections.
      • 8% fueled nationalistic defenses of climate inaction and/or misled viewers about global climate efforts.
      • more than 5% undermined the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis.
    • Special Report’s specific attacks undermining climate science were most frequent at the start of Baier’s run as anchor, which began in January 2009. The show spread nearly four times as much misinformation or false or misleading narratives attacking climate science during President Barack Obama’s first year in office (when climate legislation was being considered in Congress) than during President Donald Trump’s first year. 
    • During President Joe Biden’s first four months in office, Special Report was already spreading climate-related misinformation and false or misleading climate narratives at more than three times its weekly rate of 2020.
  • Special Report is part of the decadeslong and ongoing campaign to delay climate action

  • In reviewing over a decade of Special Report’s climate coverage, Media Matters found at least 851 segments that featured misinformation or false or misleading narratives that undermine efforts to address the climate crisis or environmental degradation. Many of these same attacks are also heavily promoted by Fox’s opinion shows, which points to the shared talking points of the network’s “news” division and some of its most toxic prime-time personalities.

    These attacks on science are not isolated incidents -- they can be contextualized within the clear template of industry-funded science denial. As early as 1977, Exxon scientists were aware of the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels, but the company spent the next two decades leading misinformation campaigns to question the scientific basis of climate change, lobbying congressional representatives to reject domestic environmental regulations and international climate treaties, and spreading narratives to falsely pit the health of the economy against the need for environmental protections. 

    More than four decades after Exxon’s initial discovery, Fox News has scrupulously parrotted its successful misinformation campaigns, despite international and domestic studies overwhelmingly warning of the dire consequences of fossil fuels’ contributions to climate change. Special Report’s complicity in promoting these industry narratives is part of the larger, systemic failure of the U.S. to grapple with the climate crisis, which also includes denying communities equitable access to healthy environments, often at the expense of people of color, as well as the failure to pass meaningful climate and environmental legislation in the last decade. And the same science-denial talking points featured on Special Report have even been recycled by Fox News opinion shows and other bad actors (following a similar blueprint to the fossil fuel industry’s strategy to undermine climate science) to deny the existence and seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and to dismiss the urgency of finding solutions for this public health crisis.

  • Baier’s “straight news” coverage of the climate and environment echoes the lies of Fox’s opinion personalities

  • Media Matters’ extensive review of Special Report’s coverage of the climate crisis and environmental protections since 2009 found a persistent theme of the program sowing doubt about the existence of climate change and the efficacy of climate solutions. 

    Of the 851 climate or environment-related segments on Special Report that included such instances, 477 occurred during correspondent segments, 174 occurred during guest segments, and 200 were perpetuated by Baier or guest anchors. Excluding segments featuring guest anchors, Baier himself espoused or allowed 1,116 instances of climate misinformation and false or misleading narratives during the studied time period. 

    Week after week, year after year, Special Report viewers -- who are promised an objective and unbiased analysis of the issues -- have been inundated with misleading statements that reflect Fox’s opinion-side rhetoric: denying climate science, shirking responsibility for environmental degradation, downplaying the severity of climate change, and recklessly casting solutions as too costly or leading toward a slippery slope of tyranny. Here are the types of attacks we found.

  • Special Report undermines climate science

  • The overwhelming consensus from scientists, both domestic and abroad, is clear: Warming trends over the past century are extremely likely to be caused by human activities emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

    In 2007, just two years before Bret Baier took the helm of Fox's flagship news program, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international coalition of scientists who assess peer-reviewed scientific papers to summarize knowledge of the causes of climate change, released a report stating that the “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that oceans and other ecosystems were “being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.” The report said anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were “very likely” the cause of global average temperature rise, and it also urged policymakers to consider “a wide variety of policies and instruments” to “create the incentives for mitigation action.” These findings were strengthened in the IPCC's next six-year review in 2013, emphasizing that changes in the climate since the 1950s were “unprecedented over decades to millennia.”

    Despite these direct warnings from the world’s scientific experts, Baier’s viewers have heard a different story: Special Report’s coverage of climate change and environmental degradation has flatly denied science, focused on debunked, concocted controversies that attempted to dismantle scientific consensus, and selectively reported cool weather events to dismiss warnings of dire climate change consequences. 

    Overall, 14% of the misinformation and misleading or false narratives about climate change spread by Special Report since 2009 have undermined the consensus and conclusions of climate science, with nearly half of that misinformation -- 46% -- occurring within the first three years of Baier's run. In fact, throughout Obama’s first term, Special Report spread two and a half times as many instances of misinformation and false or misleading narratives undermining climate science as it did during Trump’s term. 

    Within just his first month as anchor, Baier ran a misleading climate segment on January 28, 2009, which cited David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank funded in part by the fossil fuel industry. Kreutzer suggested that scientists were moving to use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming” to distract from cooling trends and make it “easier” to blame humans for natural environmental variation. In February 2010, Baier himself even claimed that “‘global warming,’ the phrase, has been changed really to ‘climate change’ by supporters,” and he hosted current Fox prime-time star Tucker Carlson to lament that “there’s nothing that can’t be explained by the phrase ‘climate change.’” (While Fox News is still undermining climate science by conflating weather patterns with long-term climate disruption, the term “climate change” was actually championed by longtime Republican strategist Frank Luntz in an infamous 2002 memo advising the GOP on how to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that human activity was warming the planet.) 

    Baier has continued to attack the science of climate change by giving climate skeptics’ opinions equal weight to peer-reviewed scientific consensus. In February 2015, Baier ran a segment that cited a “retired accountant, blogger, and self-described climate historian” who baselessly claimed that climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had been modified to be “more supportive of those who say the planet is warming and that man is directly responsible.” The segment also cited another Heritage Foundation representative, Nick Loris, who cast doubt on the human-made drivers of climate change and falsely suggested that scientists do not believe policies restricting greenhouse gas emissions would be effective. 

    In October 2018, the next IPCC report estimated that human activities have caused approximately 1 degree Celsius of global warming above preindustrial levels, which is already wreaking havoc on communities, causing more extreme weather events and rising oceans. The report also gave a more dire warning of the urgency of climate change, telling policymakers they had as little as 12 years to limit warming to 1.5 C before climate change and the ensuing environmental degradation reach an irreversible tipping point. The report gave special note to a change in the “frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of weather and climate extremes,” yet Baier’s reporting has failed to note the potential impact of climate change on extreme weather events. The program even flatly denied the existence of climate change as recently as February 2019.

    Special Report dismissed the IPCC’s warnings once again, and Baier ran a segment in May 2019 that quoted Marc Morano, a fossil fuel industry-funded climate skeptic who has been described as “a central cell of the climate-denial machine.” In the segment, Morano dismissed another U.N. report warning of mass species extinction as “politics, not science.” 

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 6, 2019, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier 

  • Between 2009 and 2021, Morano’s climate denial was highlighted in at least 10 segments on Special Report, similar to his frequent visits on Fox opinion shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight. 

    Morano appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight in April of this year, responding to Carlson’s opening question on the Biden infrastructure bill: “How much of this bill is geared not toward cleaning up the environment, which we could badly use, but toward this global warming theory that they have? How much of it is climate-based?” Morano again argued that a focus on climate change was not due to necessity or scientific consensus, but claimed that it was simply a maneuver to accrue political power.

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 1, 2021, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Special Report's undermining of climate science wasn’t just left to his guests or correspondent segments -- Baier himself recently engaged in the same rhetoric to doubt climate science as a figure from Fox’s opinion side, The Five’s Jesse Watters. On May 3, Watters complained that “the worst part about the whole story” is that “Biden isn’t certain schools are gonna be open this fall, because, you know, he does not have a crystal ball. But at the same breath he says if we don't spend a trillion dollars on green energy, he knows the Earth's temperature, to a degree, in a hundred years. It’s hard to square those.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 3, 2021, edition of Fox News' The Five 

  • Baier attempted to make the same point in the next hour, asking why the Biden administration was being cautious in making predictions about school openings while citing scientific unknowns, but “they don’t have that same phrasing when talking about climate change.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 3, 2021, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier 

  • Special Report sets up a false conflict between a healthy planet and a thriving economy or misrepresents the efficacy and public demand for climate action and environmental protections

  • Fox News figures and other right-wing media personalities have often falsely pitted the economy against the environment, demonizing climate solutions as either too expensive or a waste of money that will not bring adequate returns in the green economy, in an effort to justify a lack of congressional action. Special Report’s coverage was no different throughout the last decade, with 29% of the misinformation or misleading narratives that it spread perpetuating that false dichotomy or failing to consider the cost of climate inaction, and 43% misrepresenting the efficacy and public demand for climate action.

    Special Report often emphasized the immediate cost of climate solutions while also pushing narratives that depicted environmental regulations as ineffective or decried the supposedly “socialist” implications of climate legislation. Almost one in three of the problematic segments identified by Media Matters -- around 273 -- both undermined the efficacy of climate action and portrayed potential environmental protections as hurting the economy. 

    Scientists and policy experts have repeatedly warned that transitioning to a clean energy economy -- often incentivized through legislation -- is not only necessary to ensure a livable planet, but will also reduce the price of mitigation after irreversible climate impacts take hold. In 2018, the Fourth National Climate Assessment warned that the “continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” Another recently published study in Scientific Reports estimated that the cost of failure to keep warming to a 1.5 C threshold rose “from 1.3 trillion dollars per year of inaction in 2010 to over 5 trillion dollars per year in 2020.” 

    Yet despite the long-term economic suffering promised by increasingly extreme weather and climate disasters, regional temperature changes reducing crop yields, and environmental degradation reducing tourism and recreation, much of Special Report’s climate coverage since 2009 has been fed by fossil fuel industry talking points emphasizing short-term -- and often biased -- economic costs. 

    Beginning during the Obama administration, Special Report relentlessly attacked the Environmental Protection Agency, framing its mitigation efforts as executive overreach without regard to the economy. 

    In April 2009, then-chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle declared on Special Report that the EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide could be restricted under the Clean Air Act “could hardly be more sweeping because it could affect everything from airliners to lawnmowers and almost every corner of the U.S. economy,” fearmongering that it “has the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all economic activity” without mentioning the environmental benefits of the proposed regulations. 

    In a June 2011 segment on Special Report, disgraced former Fox correspondent Doug McKelway cited the Heritage Foundation's Nick Loris, who argued that President Obama and then-Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson's carbon emission reduction policies “are intended to raise energy prices, and lower-income families pay a disproportionately higher percent of their income on energy prices,” resulting in the policies “hurting those people more than helping them.” In reality, Loris was pushing an oversimplified view of carbon pricing legislation. A study by the World Resources Institute found that legislation addressing either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program does not “inherently help or hurt lower-income households.” Its impact depends on how the policy is designed; for example, a small portion of the revenue raised from carbon pricing could be offered as rebates to protect low-income households from increasing energy prices.

    A month later, Angle appeared in another segment quoting both Loris, who claimed that the Obama administration’s plan to increase fuel efficiency standards would “be a significant ramp-up,” and the former chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, who fearmongered that the change would be costly to business and result in hundreds of thousands of job losses. In April 2014, Baier himself responded to the announcement that a federal appeals court upheld stricter emission standards from the EPA by citing complaints from anonymous “state and industry groups'' that the “new limits on toxins” would “cost billions of dollars annually to comply.” 

    In March 2016, current Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham appeared on Special Report and mocked people “losing sleep over the environment every night,” declaring that the Obama administration’s environmental regulations were actually “about redistributing wealth and making America poorer.” Baier failed to push back on this absurd framing.

    During the Trump administration, however, it became clear that Special Report was complicit in the demise of the network’s “news side,” serving as an echo chamber of misinformation to advance the GOP agenda. In Obama’s first term, Special Report worked to oppose the administration’s efforts to curb climate change, spreading one and a half times more misinformation and false or misleading narratives about than it did during the Trump presidency, when the show championed positive coverage of the short-term economic benefits of rolling back Obama-era regulations. During Trump’s final year in office, Special Report -- seemingly sympathetic to the president’s apathetic stance on the climate -- spread the least amount of misinformation or misleading narratives about climate change during the studied time period, with only 52 instances.

    One segment from December 2016 demonstrates how the show used misinformation and dubious claims to pave the way for Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Correspondent James Rosen cited the conservative American Action Forum’s claim that “recent EPA rules on heavy trucks pushed the total regulatory price tag over the next 10 years over the $1 trillion mark,” requiring “every man, woman, and child in our regulation nation to cough up $3,080 a piece to satisfy it.” The heavy trucks regulation in question -- an increase in the fuel efficiency standards -- would ultimately have reduced global warming emissions by 1.1 billion tonnes and saved the trucking industry $170 billion per year. Despite AAF Director of Regulatory Policy Sam Batkins admitting that the group does little research to check whether cost estimates fit reality, Rosen assured viewers that “Mr. Trump has vowed to carry a war of attrition to the regulatory beast.”

    Special Report’s focus on the perceived economic disruption and “socialist” implications of climate legislation has dogged Democratic efforts at climate mitigation, demonizing all legislation -- from Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal to the Green New Deal to Biden’s more moderate 2021 climate plan -- as radical attempts to wreak havoc on the American economy and livelihoods. 

    Attacking and spreading misinformation about the Green New Deal has been Fox News’ priority for the past two years; when it was first introduced, the network aired far more segments than its cable network counterparts on the proposal. As the flagship program of Fox’s “news” division, Special Report made no effort to differentiate itself from the network’s opinion coverage, with Baier characterizing the deal as “one of the most controversial political manifestos” and suggesting that the expensive price tag would lead to wasteful spending as part of “the Democrats' campaign against the prosperous.” 

    In February 2019, Baier hosted Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemmingway to complain that “there is not really a case being made for why you would need to upend your lives, destroy life as you know it, destroy wealth, destroy job opportunities, get rid of massive industries that employ thousands and millions of people, and for what?” Hemingway concluded that polls showing American support for the deal could only be attributed to pollsters asking people if they “want free things,” referring to the Green New Deal’s proposed guaranteed “economic security." Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York dismissed public support for funding the deal, claiming that “the idea that most Americans would think that climate change is a World War II-like crisis is really unlikely.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the February 7, 2019, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier 

  • These pointed attacks on the Green New Deal reflect the rhetoric often espoused on Fox opinion shows, such as by Sean Hannity, who referenced the Green New Deal in relation to Biden on April 20, 2020, claiming that “there are no moderates in today's radical, extreme Democratic socialist party.” In July 2020, Hannity lambasted Biden for “taking his cues from the most radical, the most extreme socialist extremist that this party has ever embraced, the Democratic modern socialist party.” Hannity then complained about the price tag of the climate proposal, exclaiming that it would “turn America into a socialist, bankrupt hellhole.”

    Baier did not push back in January after Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel used language similar to Hannity’s rants to attack the incoming Biden administration and the climate bill, stating that she would not “cede our country to the far left who want to turn toward socialism, institute the Green New Deal, and remake America as we know it.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the July 14, 2020, edition of Hannity

  • Special Report fuels nationalistic and misleading narratives opposing global climate efforts

  • Efforts to prevent and counter the worst consequences of global climate change have to be negotiated at the international level and require unprecedented cooperation between countries in order to succeed. But in covering those efforts, such as the U.S. signing on to the Paris climate agreement under Obama, Baier and his guests on Special Report instead echoed isolationist narratives to undermine global mitigation efforts. Like Fox opinion-side personalities, they suggested that international mitigation efforts are detrimental to the U.S. economy, that they favor China and India over America, and that global cooperation would fail to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Statements that fueled these nationalistic and misleading narratives opposed to global climate efforts constituted 8% of the total misinformation and false narratives spread on Special Report during the studied time period.

    In an appearance on Special Report in December 2009, the late conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer repeated one of the most prevalent talking points used to oppose climate action, suggesting that an international climate agreement would “mean a serious constriction of the U.S. economy, a lowering of our standard of living.” This claim is false and driven by a flailing fossil fuel industry attempting to distract from its own “terminal decline” by scapegoating climate mitigation efforts. 

    This line of attack was echoed on the network’s opinion side as recently as this year, when climate denier Marc Morano appeared on the January 21 episode of Fox & Friends First to claim that rejoining the Paris agreement is “climate virtue signaling” that will “hammer middle America, blue-collar America, [and] Americans on middle class and lower income.” In reality, committing to Paris emission reductions and building a 100% clean energy economy would create up to 25 million well-paid American jobs, and clean energy jobs are “more likely to be unionized and come with health care and retirement benefits than the rest of the private sector.”

    In a May 2014 appearance on Special Report, Krauthammer pushed the idea that international agreements, specifically the Paris climate accord, would benefit China at the expense of American prosperity because China lacked a legally binding commitment to emissions reductions. Krauthammer stated, “As we dismantle the coal plants in our country, China and India together are adding one coal fire plant every other week. The net effect is to shift the U.S. coal energy generating industry from here to India and China. It will have zero effect.” 

    This argument was repeated on the May 31, 2017, edition of Fox & Friends, when Fox Business host Stuart Varney denigrated the Paris climate accord as an “unequal” agreement meant to “take money and resources off Europe and America” to “give it to other countries,” including China. More recently, Fox opinion host Laura Ingraham expanded upon this argument in April, characterizing global cooperation on climate as tentative at best, with each nation pursuing “what’s in its best interest.” Ingraham then dismissed Biden’s “grand” climate plans as ineffective for failing to reduce global temperatures “at all.” 

    These are bad-faith arguments and they do not account for the fact that not only has the U.S. caused more global warming than any other country and maintains the highest per capita emissions rates, but it also lags behind China on substantive commitments to renewable energy and technology. Furthermore, climate change and its disruptions transcend national borders and are intrinsically linked to the public health, socioeconomic well-being, and growth of every nation. 

    In yet another appearance on Special Report in May 2017 dismissing the impact of Trump’s promise to pull out of the Paris accord, Krauthammer advanced the argument that U.S. participation in the “extremely weak” agreement was inconsequential, and he claimed it only made a “marginal difference” if “we are in it or out of it.” This sentiment on climate policy efficacy was also echoed this year on Fox’s opinion side by Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg on the January 21 edition of Fox & Friends. He argued that rejoining the Paris agreement would “cost a fortune and cut almost nothing, so basically achieve almost nothing to fix climate change.” 

    These arguments exploit legitimate concerns of the Paris agreement --that measures agreed to at the accord will not be enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius -- not to garner support for the strengthening of global commitments, but to gripe about the inherent complexities of any global treaty and ultimately erode support for addressing the climate crisis on any level. Despite Paris’ shortcomings, the U.S.’s participation in the agreement — as the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter — represented a critical step toward global climate mitigation. As international markets transition toward clean energy, it is imperative that the United States can advocate for American jobs and workers. Moreover, global emissions reductions work -- in 2016, global emissions flat-lined for the third year in a row even as the global economy grew, partly because the U.S. and China cut their emissions.

  • Special Report undermines the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis

  • Baier and his guests made statements that undermined the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis in more than 5% of Special Report’s misinformation and false or misleading narratives around climate change. 

    These bad-faith arguments have also come from Fox’s opinion side, which has framed the idea of addressing climate change as requiring personal sacrifice from individual viewers. Special Report suggested climate-conscious consumers should not own pets, should limit their hamburger intake, should accept rougher toilet paper, and should feel guilt for using water at hotels or pumping gas for their car. These segments’ reckless linking of personal consumer choices to environmental protection lets the real culprits -- the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions -- escape responsibility for the worst impacts of climate change, while discouraging popular support for climate action.

    Special Report also followed Fox’s signature strategy of focusing on some prominent people’s actions to deflect from those individuals’ concerns about the climate, using charges of hypocrisy as a smokescreen for climate inaction. Baier dedicated segments to personal carbon footprints, pointing to Obama traveling to an Earth Day rally; first lady Michelle Obama flying to Copenhagen to advocate for Chicago to host the Olympics; Prince Charles encouraging environmental awareness; Hillary Clinton traveling during her presidential campaign; and, most recently, Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry using a private jet. 

    On the February 4 edition of Special Report, correspondent Kristin Fisher noted that Kerry was “not necessarily leading by example by taking a private plane to Iceland to accept an environmental award.” Later in the episode, Fox contributor Byron York said that “he's got a government plane now, and you don't marry into a billionaire family if you want to fly commercial.” 

    This coverage on Fox’s flagship “straight news” show echoed a line of attacks on Kerry from Fox’s opinion hosts, such as Sean Hannity’s January 28 statement that “it’s almost as if John Kerry isn’t that concerned about the environment after all” and Tucker Carlson’s February 3 accusation that Kerry was being “hypocritical.” These personal attacks and red herring arguments serve dual roles -- to villainize and discredit specific activists while trivializing the urgency of the climate crisis. It is a well-worn tactic, as demonstrated by Special Report, that is used across the network’s opinion and “straight news” programming.

  • Video file

    Citation From the January 28, 2021, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Video file

    Citation From the February 3, 2021, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

  • Conclusion

  • Climate scientists have overwhelmingly warned for years that unless immediate action is taken to address the climate crisis, irreversible environmental consequences will impact every aspect of our daily lives -- ranging from an exacerbated refugee crisis to devastating economic impacts to irreversible environmental degradation.

    The stakes for news media to cover this issue seriously and responsibly could not be higher as Biden attempts to simultaneously reestablish United States' leadership in global mitigation and advocate for bold climate legislation, while the deadline to limit global warming to 1.5 C draws closer.

    Yet climate coverage on Special Report with Bret Baier has been characterized by blatantly false, biased, and desperate attempts to undermine climate change action and environmental protections. Ultimately, Special Report is another extension of Fox News’ climate denial machine, serving to sow misinformation and doubt to defend the politicians who actively prevent any climate mitigation.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the Nexis database for Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier for any of the terms and any derivations of the terms climate change, global warming, climate, global temperatures, climate science, climate scientist, Paris climate, climate accord, Paris accord, climate agreement, Paris agreement, climate deal, climate crisis, environment, Environmental Protection Agency, green new deal, climate conference, climate plan, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, green, Keystone Pipeline, Dakota Pipeline, or energy from January 1, 2009, through May 3, 2021.

    We included any segment when climate change or environmental protection was the stated topic of discussion as well as any segment that included a substantial mention of climate change or the environment, which we defined as two or more sentences of a news transcript or a block of uninterrupted speech by a guest, anchor, or correspondent. We did not include instances when guests mentioned climate change in passing without either a guest, anchor, or correspondent first prompting or another speaker subsequently engaging with the comment.

    Media Matters searched the segments for instances of Fox News anchors, correspondents, or guests undermining climate mitigation or environmental protection through five different angles:

    1. Statements undermining climate science, which included statements that rejected scientific consensus on climate change, claimed Earth has always had natural variations in weather and carbon patterns to discount recent unprecedented rises in global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, misleadingly highlighted reports of cold weather or accusations of scientists manipulating data, presented scientific studies out of context, dismissed or downplayed scientific studies warning of dire consequences from inaction or dismissed climate change’s potential exacerbating role in natural disasters, or downplayed consequences of environmental degradation.
    2. Statements setting up a false dichotomy between a healthy planet and thriving economy, which included statements claiming that climate mitigation or environmental protection would hurt the economy by decreasing jobs, depleting wages, or stifling business without substantial returns from the green economy, that they would make consumer goods or average costs of living more expensive, and that such measures would be a waste of money or too costly amid a rising national debt.
    3. Statements misrepresenting the efficacy of, and public demand for, climate action and environmental protections, including statements suggesting that climate action or environmental regulation would be ineffective or harmful to the environment, that they would be a Trojan horse for the government to exert more control over American lives and institute socialism, that they would politically hurt a politician or candidate, that such policies demonstrate how radical or progressive the Democratic Party has become, and that they would be a means to unjustly raise taxes. Statements highlighting the lack of voting priority Americans give to climate change, complaints of Environmental Protection Agency or Department of the Interior function and overreach, negative coverage of environmental protection projects, praise for deregulation without stating environmental consequences, politicians who conflate environmental protection with climate action, and arguments that climate change is not an immediate crisis an administration should be focusing on were also included.
    4. Statements fueling nationalistic and misleading narratives opposing global climate efforts, including statements claiming that there is no way to hold countries legally accountable to their climate commitments, that the United States will foot most of the bill for international climate action, that the U.S. does not need to participate in global climate treaties because it has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions, that developing countries should not receive or cannot responsibly hand out aid or reparations for climate change consequences, that China and India are the primary contributors of greenhouse gases and will not face or commit to emissions restrictions, and criticism of the United Nations and other international organizations. 
    5. Statements undermining the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis, including bad-faith arguments highlighting the carbon or environmental footprint of only climate activists, framing climate solutions within a narrative of personal sacrifice, and presenting stories out of context to fearmonger about climate solutions and environmental protections. 

    Analysts counted any segment if it included at least one statement that met any of the criteria of the five angles detailed above. A second analyst independently reviewed the video and transcript of all identified segments in their entirety. We counted each angle once per segment. 

    We determined whether segments constituted anchor statements, correspondent reports, guest interviews, or guest panels. We defined anchor statements as instances when the anchor spoke on one or more topics at length without turning to a guest or correspondent for a follow-up discussion or when an anchor read headlines or news briefs; correspondent reports as instances when a correspondent filed a packaged news report or reported live from the scene; guests interviews as instances of solo or joint interviews; and guest panels as instances when multiple guests were interviewed in a panel format for the express purpose of presenting contrasting points of view.