Right-wing media devoted a striking amount of coverage to last week’s World Economic Forum convening in Davos in Switzerland, using the story to mainstream the far-right “Great Reset” conspiracy theory. This has allowed them to warp many leftist policy goals — particularly on climate change — and push climate change denial instead. Some conservative influencers also used Davos as an entry point to discuss climate change when they have previously focused on other culture war issues.
Every year, political leaders, CEOs, civil society, media figures, and even celebrities attend the World Economic Forum’s exclusive convening at the Swiss resort to network and discuss world issues. The cost to enter for non-members of the WEF reportedly ranges from $70,000 to $250,000, and the price to become a WEF member is exorbitant – dues are reportedly between the low six figures up to nearly $1 million annually. The chosen mode of transportation for Davos attendees is often a private jet.
It’s not hard to see why this event has increasingly drawn criticism from both the right and the left for being out of touch and giving major corporations and the super rich even more power in global decision-making. But for right-wing influencers, in particular, the meeting represents the opportunity to focus their attacks on climate change as a fake crisis concocted by global elites to destroy modern civilization. This belief is also a core tenet of the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory, which the right now regularly uses to argue against almost any progressive talking point.
On top of its usual conspiratorial fearmongering, the right’s reaction to Davos this year demonstrated that it will continue to double down on climate change denial, not just attacking climate change solutions. Finally, Davos coverage was a clear indication that high-profile right-wing influencers are becoming more interested in focusing on climate change as a culture war battlefield to grow their audiences.
Right-wing influencers took a particular interest in climate discussions at Davos
At least 11 programs on Fox News — America’s Newsroom, Special Report, Hannity, Outnumbered, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle, America Reports, The Faulkner Focus, Fox & Friends, Sunday Morning Futures, and Jesse Watters Primetime — covered the Davos conference this year, frequently repeating the same talking points about the hypocrisy of high-profile attendees flying to Switzerland on private jets while encouraging everyday people to reduce their carbon footprints.
Climate activists have also criticized the use of private jets, which emit large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, and have pointed out that the lifestyles of the world’s richest people emit disproportionately large amounts of carbon dioxide compared to the average person. Members of the grassroots group Debt for Climate blocked entrances at the Davos airport, and Greenpeace released a damning report on January 13 which analyzed the carbon footprint of all the jets going in and out of Davos during the 2022 meeting, “causing CO2 emissions from private jets four times greater than an average week.”
At least three Fox programs — Outnumbered, Hannity, and Fox & Friends — cited the Greenpeace report in their Davos coverage, though pollution wasn’t actually their concern. Rather, these Fox programs weaponized the report’s findings against climate action by insisting that the lifestyle choices of world leaders reveal their true ambivalence toward the climate crisis, and claiming that any effort to combat climate change would play into their malicious plans.
“Greenpeace is up in arms about this,” said Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt on January 18. “They're saying here are all these rich, elitist billionaires that are flying in on their private planes and lecturing us about climate change.”
To be clear, right-wing media do not have a problem with private jets, as long as no one talks about their environmental impact or suggests any other lifestyle changes.
“If you’re a billionaire and you want to buy a private jet, it makes your life easier, then great — go do it.” Earhardt concluded. “But don’t stand at the podium and lecture everybody else and tell them they have to buy electric cars.”
“I don't care about the private jet if you're not a hypocrite telling me not to eat meat,” Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity said on his January 20 radio show. “I eat paleo, all I eat is meat,” he added, before calling presidential climate envoy John Kerry “a liar” for saying he flew commercial.
This line of attack framing the threat of climate change as an overblown example of elite hypocrisy came up frequently in Fox’s Davos coverage.
“What’s the carbon footprint, by the way, of all these global elitist liberals flying in their private jets to Davos to tell you to change your lifestyle,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Sunday Morning Futures. “They want to kill the oil and gas industry. By the way, did they have solar panels on the wings of their airplanes?”
On the January 19 edition of America’s Newsroom, conservative radio host Jimmy Failla said that “the reason we keep highlighting this hypocrisy” is that climate change is a “grift.”
“That’s all climate change is,” he continued. “It’s the greatest Democrat fundraising mechanism ever, so Al Gore has to get on TV once a year and tell you you’re all going to die, just like he did the year before and the year before. It’s a scam.”
“The amount of private jets used up the same as 350,000 gas-powered vehicles in the same time frame, and these are the ones that are lecturing us every day, and screaming in our faces,” said Outnumbered co-host Emily Compagno on January 19, citing Greenpeace’s report on Davos travel emissions. “Practice what you preach, hold it on Zoom.”
Other right-wing media outlets also put an emphasis on covering Davos. Far-right Canadian outlet Rebel News has a long history of hiring white nationalist figures and even publishing blatant Holocaust denial. According to its website, Rebel News sent seven crew members to Switzerland for this year’s conference, including co-founder Ezra Levant and correspondent Avi Yemini, who appeared on Fox News last year to discuss the Canadian trucker convoy and mask resistance in Australia, respectively.
Right-wing pundit Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA sent three reporters to cover the event this year, promising “on the ground coverage” of the “globalist class.” In 2022, the group sent far-right commentator Jack Posobiec to Davos for a two-part series titled The Great Global Reset, which in part promoted the false claim that Posobiec was arrested or detained at the event by Swiss police for his reporting. This global reset paranoia also carried over to conservative media coverage of Davos in 2023.
Right-wing media conjured one-world government paranoia in their coverage
Right-wing influencers repeatedly claimed that Davos is an avenue for global elites to police peoples’ movement and ultimately end basic freedoms, force people to eat bugs instead of meat, and enforce a COVID-like lockdown in the name of climate change. Conservative media figures pushed similar narratives around COP27 and COP26, the United Nations annual global climate change conferences held in 2021 and 2022, respectively. These baseless claims often function as dog whistles for the Great Reset conspiracy theory.
“If you want to push climate schemes and more control, you have to peddle the idea that it is utter chaos throughout the world,” Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth said on January 22. “And what a great example this week at the World Economic Forum, where all the elites gathered in private jets in Davos, where Al Gore and John Kerry peddled that kind of fear.”
On Twitter, right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly called the World Economic Forum a “genocidal climate communism movement” that is “the deadliest movement in the history of man and the people at that event are influencing entire nations to wipe out their prosperity.”
Appearing on The Sean Hannity Show, notorious climate change denier and conspiracy theorist Marc Morano used Davos to plug his new book, called The Great Reset: Global Elites and the Permanent Lockdown.
“They're fusing now climate to the public health issue, and that's what Davos is all about,” Morano said. “The head of it, Klaus Schwab, has actually said it's time for a great reset, this time in the name of climate change following the COVID lockdowns.”
“All of the conspiracy theories that they claimed were conspiracy theories turned out to be true,” Shellenberger said on the January 19 edition of America’s Newsroom. “They really do want people to move from eating meat to eating bugs, and they want us all to live a poorer, low-energy life.” He also insisted that Davos is spreading misinformation about the threat of well-documented climate impacts and silencing those who know the supposed truth that a warming world is not a big deal.
“They want to stamp out people that disagree with their agenda, that's why they're doing it,” said Shellenberger on the January 17 edition of Hannity. “They want an open mic to be able to spread their own misinformation, including the idea that climate change threatens human civilization, including the idea that you can power the world on preindustrial renewable technologies.”
Other right-wing media figures went even further in their Davos coverage, explicitly mocking and dismissing the realities of climate change.
Right-wing media doubled down on climate change denial
Right-wing media focused many of their Davos attacks on former Vice President Al Gore and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, who were both at the convening, using coverage of their speeches to push climate change denial and misinformation about renewable energy.
After Gore pointed out in a panel discussion that renewable energy is the cheapest form of power, Fox host Sean Hannity claimed on January 19 that “there are dark corners of the internet with more believable conspiracy theories than his.”
“Never trust an angry rich guy,” Fox News host Jesse Watters said during a January 18 segment of Jesse Watters Primetime. “And what's a rain bomb? Meteorologists are supposed to coin terms like that to scare viewers for ratings. What's next, snow nukes? Every ocean I have ever swam in has been freezing.”
Gore’s word choice aside, scientists agree that our oceans have undoubtedly been warming, altering ecosystems and contributing to heat waves and floods.
On One Nation with Brian Kilmeade, in response to Gore and Kerry’s comments on the urgency of climate action, Kilmeade said on January 22 that climate change “seems to be fake, and it seems to be really borderline criminal to get a whole generation that radicalized, feeling that they have no choice, that they feel they're doing something laudable, is really detestable.”
Discussing the WEF on The Ingraham Angle on January 17, host Laura Ingraham said “we're not experiencing a planetary emergency, they’re experiencing a power emergency — meaning, theirs is in jeopardy.” Her guest, conservative activist and climate change denier Ned Ryun, said, “We have to accept the World Economic Forum is a fanatical, political organization that uses fear and manipulation, like COVID hysteria, like the hoax of global warming. … They want to create feudalism 2.0, in which we are serfs and they are the lords ruling over us.”
On Twitter, climate change deniers are also using Davos as an opportunity to push cherry-picked climate misinformation. This includes Matthew Wielicki, a University of Alabama professor who was also a top source of the “#climatescam” hashtag on Twitter.
Climate denier and far-right Twitter influencer Catturd also chimed in:
Right-wing news sites expanded Davos coverage to focus on climate denial and conspiracy theories
Right-wing culture warriors are increasingly using their platforms to discuss climate change when it had not been their main focus before. One such recent example is online misogynist Andrew Tate, whose interactions with Greta Thunberg went viral at the end of December 2022.
At this year’s Davos conference, right-wing media influencers saw another opportunity to expand their culture war coverage to include more climate-related grievances and conspiracy theories.
Turning Point USA journalist Savanah Hernandez, who was banned from Twitter in 2020 and had her account reinstated by new CEO Elon Musk, went on The Charlie Kirk Show and Steve Bannon’s War Room to discuss Davos on January 17.
“Climate change is a distraction, that climate change is essentially fear propaganda,” she told Bannon. “If you look at Gen Z and millennials, as a direct result of this mental health crisis and climate change, they are not having kids, they’re not procreating. They’re afraid of farming, they are afraid of the very fossil fuels that keep this entire world running. They are afraid of eating meat for crying out loud. And if you look at all of this, to be quite honest, it looks like a very anti-human and depopulation-type agenda directly tied to the WEF.”
Turning Point USA contributor and right-wing journalist Drew Hernandez promised an entire “Davos Watch” series covering each day of the event on his Real America’s Voice show, The Frontlines with Drew Hernandez, to “keep an eye on the global cabal as we expose them and their globalist plans.”
On January 18, Hernandez hosted Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to discuss the Great Reset, where the host said that John Kerry has “the spirit of the Antichrist” because he wants to “save humanity” by taking climate action “on a global scale.”
On January 20, Rebel News posted a video of Ezra Levant following Greta Thunberg around and harassing her for 20 minutes, including asking whether she is really “a child actor.” Other right-wing media influencers promoted the video.
The right’s dismissive and denialist coverage of climate talks at Davos erases widespread public concerns
Long allied with the fossil fuel industry, right-wing media have actively pursued their goal of falsely framing climate change as a bogus concern hyped up by out-of-touch global elites. In reality, polls have consistently shown that everyday people care about climate change, and it’s not because they attended the World Economic Forum — unfortunately, the facts on the ground prove the real dangers of the climate crisis are too dire to ignore.