Sparse, context-free reporting on climate protests not only distorts public perception of their immediacy, but also leaves unaddressed the increasing trend of their criminalization

Media Matters / Andrea Austria

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Conservative commentators and right-wing Christian media deny climate change by claiming God controls the weather

Far-right Christian media figures and TikTok users have invoked the End Times and “demonic attack” to explain extreme weather and reject climate action

Conservative pundits and right-wing Christian media figures have rejected the scientific consensus that human activity is fueling the warming climate and exacerbating extreme weather events, instead claiming that God controls the weather and attributing natural disasters to “demonic attack,” biblical prophecy, or a supposed sign of the End Times. TikTok influencers and accounts with tens of thousands of followers have also adopted End Times rhetoric to explain natural disasters. 

  • White evangelical Protestants, particularly those who watch right-wing media, have a higher rate of climate denial than the overall American public

    • Concern over climate change has declined among evangelicals, despite the scientific consensus that climate change is real and worsening natural disasters. According to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute, “while the proportion of all Americans who consider climate change a crisis has risen 16% since 2014, among white evangelicals it has dropped 38%.” [PRRI, 10/4/23; Religion News Services, 10/4/23]
    • In public polling, right-wing Christians who express little concern about climate change and reject government action to curtail it cite a host of reasons, including the notion that God controls the climate and the belief that natural disasters are a sign of the End Times. Notably, the 2023 PRRI poll found that “agreement with the severity of natural disasters as evidence of the end of times is greater among Americans who most trust Fox News (52%) or far-right news outlets (43%).” [Pew Research Center, 11/17/22; PRRI, 10/4/23]
    • Republican politicians, prominent figures on the religious right, and key right-wing media funders have for years invoked religion to deny climate change and reject action to curtail it. Farris Wilks, an evangelical fracking billionaire and early funder of PragerU and The Daily Wire — both of which also have histories of pushing climate denial — has attributed climate change to God’s will, saying in 2013, “If [God] wants the polar caps to remain in place, then he will leave them there.” In a 2019 appearance on a right-wing Christian radio program, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) dismissed the need to mitigate climate change by citing “God’s word” that the world would not flood. [The Guardian, 9/5/23, 9/6/23; Right Wing Watch, 10/15/19; Baptist News, 9/27/19; Vox, 2/23/18; Time magazine, 5/31/17]
  • Right-wing Christian media figures and TikTok influencers have dismissed climate change and instead cited biblical prophecy, the End Times, or “demonic attack” as explanations for extreme weather events

    • FlashPoint, a Christian nationalist program that has interviewed high-profile Republicans including former President Donald Trump, tied record heat waves in the summer to biblical prophecy. Regular contributor and self-proclaimed prophet Hank Kunneman claimed that “when God tells you ahead of time what it’s going to specifically be and he lists out that it’s going to be in the hundreds and it is in the hundreds, and those specific numbers that he listed coincide with certain redemptive promises in the book of Psalms. … God’s anger is rising and it's coming with justice. Now, it isn't just weather and here's why. There is a connection between the prophetic and weather.” [Victory Channel, FlashPoint, 7/25/23; Media Matters, 7/18/23]
    • Kunneman also connected the wildfires in Maui to biblical prophecy, suggesting the fires were the result of “demonic entities” and that God will show “it’s not climate.” Kunneman claimed that the week before the fires, “the spirit of the Lord … began to prophesy about Hawaii, and he began to prophesy about North America and the fire. … And he said that ‘the demonic entities have stretched their hands.’” [Victory Channel, FlashPoint, 8/22/23]
    • TikTok influencers have also seized on wildfires as a sign of the End Times and return of Jesus Christ. An account with over 350,000 followers posted a video that suggested fires in Hawaii, Texas, Oregon, and Washington “have to do with the End of Times.” Another account with nearly 30,000 followers posted a video of wildfires in Canada with text that the fires were a “sign of His coming.” [TikTok, 8/22/23, 8/23/23
    • Other TikTok users have claimed that rain, floods, or drought are also signs of the End of Times. A video of extreme weather in Mexico with nearly 5 million views asserted, “Terrifying roars from the sky convince people the apocalypse is coming,” with the caption claiming, “He’s at the doors!!! #Jesus.” An account with more than 28,000 followers posted a video of flooding in Israel with the hashtags “#bibleprophecy #prophecy #endtimes #endtimesprophecy #lastdays.” An account with over 100,000 followers cited biblical prophecy that the Euphrates River would dry up, stating, “The rapture may be closer than you think,” with the hashtags “#bible #prophecy #rapture #israel.” Another account with 31,000 followers posted a video of flooding in France with the hashtags “#bibleprophecyishappening #christiantiktok #jesusiscoming #GOD.” [TikTok, 8/15/23, 4/13/23, 10/17/23, 11/3/23
    • Charisma News, a right-wing Christian outlet that is the top corporate sponsor of the Christian nationalist “ReAwaken America” tour, has repeatedly pointed to End Times biblical prophecy in coverage of recent extreme weather events. A Charisma News article titled “Growing ‘El Niño’ Expected to Cause End Times-Level Disasters,” asserted that “weather pattern changes” are “linked with the decline of morality in the end times of the Earth.” Another article suggested that “current bizarre weather events point to Biblical Prophecy,” citing “biblical” floods in Pakistan and the Euphrates River drying up. [Charisma News, 5/25/23, 9/1/22; Rolling Stone, 2/28/23]
    • In an opinion piece for the Christian Post titled “Who’s behind the weather,” the Rev. Mark Creech suggested that a warming climate is a sign of the “last days,” not climate change. Creech quoted a book, God’s Answer for America, that claimed natural disasters “are not ‘global warming’ (or ‘climate change’), but they are part of God’s ‘global warnings’ as signs for these last days.” Creech agreed, writing that the book presented “a more likely cause” of extreme weather. [The Christian Post, 1/24/23]
    • On the program Elijah Streams, which has interviewed members of the Trump family, self-proclaimed prophet Charlie Shamp attributed the Maui wildfires to “demonic attack” by a fire-breathing dragon upset over the legality of abortion. [Twitter/X, 9/7/23]
    • Televangelist Jim Bakker declared that discussions of climate change dismiss that God is unleashing “judgment” that will “come in the last days.” Bakker claimed, “Global warming is the world’s excuse that God wasn’t in the storm. I’m going to prove to you God’s in the storm, God’s in the rain, God’s in the wind, it’s God’s storm, it’s God’s wind, it’s God’s lightning.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/16/19]
  • Prominent right-wing media and Christian media figures have downplayed links between climate change and extreme weather events by arguing God controls the weather

    • Right-wing influencer Benny Johnson claimed that Hurricane Ian was caused by “acts of God, not an act of global warming or climate change, as much as the perverse, seething scum wish to make it that.” [The Benny Show, 9/30/22]
    • While covering Hurricane Ian, former Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson told his audience that the left “think they are God, they think they’re in charge of the weather.” Carlson stated that all natural disasters are “products of nature — God’s in charge, we’re not God.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/29/22]
    • Right-wing Christian pundit Eric Metaxas hosted conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi to discuss “the hoax of global warming and climate change,” where Metaxas declared that “God has his hand on all of this, that to me is the key. And this is the hysteria of the, you know, the anti-fossil fuel left is simply a political narrative.” [Salem Media Group, The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, 8/14/22]
    • Family Research Council, an extreme right-wing evangelical activist group, published an article titled “A Biblical Perspective on Climate Change,” which asserted that “Christians should not forget that God is the one who calms the storms and is Lord over the elements.” The article also suggested that, “God is in control of everything that happens in the world, and nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission.” [Family Research Council Action, 9/9/21]
    • On Fox News, host Pete Hegseth suggested that climate activists are “wanting to play God” by attempting to mitigate climate change. Hegseth said: “This goes back to people wanting to play God. Climate has happened for thousands and thousands of years.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/27/23]
  • Right-wing media and far-right Christian media have cited their faith to reject action on climate

    • On Fox, Rachel Campos-Duffy asserted that it is not necessary to curtail climate change because of religion. Discussing climate activists, Campos-Duffy said: “For them, where we live right now, this place, Earth is it. So everything’s on the line here for them. They think, as you said, they can perfect this Earth. Those of us who have faith don’t believe that, and we believe how we act here determines where we go after. And so we got to behave.” She added that “if you don’t have a faith, whether it’s Hindu, Islam, Christianity, you’re going to create one. And it could be climate, or it could be yourself.” [The Daily Beast, 1/4/23]
    • Right-wing pastor Perry Stone, who has more than 750,000 subscribers on YouTube, said that the reason Christians don’t worry about climate change is because they know that all those problems will be taken care of “when Christ comes back to Earth.” Stone declared: “The travail of the earth will cease when the messiah returns, so those that criticize believers now for not being environmentally concerned or whatever, we know how the book ends, we know where this is going.” [Twitter/X, 8/11/21]
    • On Family Research Council’s Washington Watch podcast, FRC President Tony Perkins claimed that the warming climate is caused by sin and to combat it, people should “turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Twitter/X, 9/15/21]