The 15 most ridiculous things media figures said about climate change in 2020

Climate EOY 2020

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

1. CNBC’s Joe Kernan suggests that climate science is discredited, acts more insufferable than an actual fossil fuel executive on his panel

Reporting live from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on the January 23 edition of CNBC’s Squawk Box, co-host Joe Kernan suggested that Greta Thunberg’s prominence was driven in part by “climate alarmism” and that climate science was discredited. He stated, “The prophets of doom that have been proven wrong again and again in the past. … The Malthusian bets have never paid off.” Kernan’s framing was used by Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was on the panel, as a springboard to downplay the seriousness of the climate crisis and greenwash the Trump administration’s record on climate change.

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Citation From the January 23, 2020, edition of CNBC's Squawk Box

The day before, he acted insufferably with then-BP CEO Bob Dudley on his panel. Kernan listed off climate contrarians such as Judith Curry and John Christy, questioned why BP wants to reduce carbon emissions in the first place, and downplayed climate change by claiming that carbon levels in the atmosphere have been higher in the past. Kernan’s climate denial goes way back; he once compared climate change to witchcraft and just last year shared an absurd chart by the Heartland Institute disputing the scientific consensus on global warming.

2. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: There is no global warming. Greatest scam of all time.

During the Democratic presidential primary debate on February 19, Fitton tweeted:

Fitton is a Trump administration ally who often appears as a guest on Fox News shows. In the past, he’s described climate change as “political propaganda” and part of the “totalitarian ideologies.”

3. Power the Future’s Daniel Turner: “Coronavirus is a glimpse of the long-term pain a Green New Deal and environmental radicalism would inflict on America.”

In addition to downplaying the seriousness of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, right-wing commentators also used the pandemic to attack climate change activists and fearmonger about climate policies. One deranged example comes from Daniel Turner, a Koch-alum who runs the dark money advocacy group Power the Future. On March 13, Turner wrote in The Federalist that “coronavirus is a glimpse of the long-term pain a Green New Deal and environmental radicalism would inflict on America” and that “coronavirus is accomplishing the same ends as the Green New Deal.” He expressed a number of false claims about the Green New Deal, including that it would end travel, and claimed that a Green New Deal would lead to “abandoned main streets. Institutional poverty. Despair.”

The Green New Deal is actually a massive job-creation proposal that, if implemented, would help stave off the worst effects of climate change. Compared to the economic and planetary devastation that unchecked climate change will bring, a Green New Deal does not seem that radical at all.

Daniel Turner often tweets climate denial and attacks the Green New Deal. He’s appeared numerous times across Fox News and Fox Business and has written op-eds for Fox’s website.

4. The New York Post’s Miranda Devine claims that the coronavirus is “a dream come true” for “climate alarmists”

Columnist Miranda Devine offered her own inane comparisons between coronavirus and climate change. On the April 24 edition of Fox & Friends, she stated that “for the climate alarmists and the left, this is a dream come true. We’ve always known that they’re not fond of human beings.” She claimed that the pandemic is a great opportunity for climate activists to “cripple our economies and reshape the way we live.”

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Citation From the April 24, 2020, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

Devine’s appearance followed her column in the New York Post, in which she made the same repugnant claims.

There is zero evidence that “climate activists” are celebrating the awful impacts of coronavirus; on the contrary, there is also recognition that the reduction in carbon emissions during the pandemic is only temporary and will shoot back up again. Nonetheless, Devine will continue to lodge ridiculous attacks on climate activists, as she has a history of doing.

5. Candace Owens: “Climate doom predictions have always been about scaring citizens into more taxation and regulation.” 

On May 11, conservative author Candace Owens tweeted: “Climate doom predictions have always been about scaring citizens into more taxation and regulation. … It is an ever-moving target and the costliest lie of every generation.”

Climate predictions have actually been remarkably consistent; one recent study found that “even 50-year-old climate models correctly predicted global warming.” 

Owens is remarkably uninformed on the climate change issue; she was once shut down for her denial during an appearance, of all places, on The Joe Rogan Experience.

6. Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins falsely states: “The extent of warming caused by rising CO2 is highly uncertain.”

In a June 5 column, longtime Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member Holman Jenkins reviewed Michael Moore’s controversial environmental documentary Planet of the Humans stating that Moore “finds green energy a capitalist scam but learns nothing about climate science.” He further stated, “The extent of warming caused by rising CO2 is highly uncertain. This is what the science actually tells us. It’s a more-or-less problem, not an end-of-the-world problem."

Climate scientists are very certain about how much CO2 affects global warming -- in fact, 100% of global warming right now is due to human activity. By stating it’s a “more-or-less problem,” Jenkins is peddling the newest and perhaps most dangerous form of climate denial -- that climate change is happening, but it’s not really that bad.

Again, the Earth is on pace for about 3 degrees Celsius of warming, which is catastrophic for the planet. But Jenkins has always been obtuse in his writing about climate change -- he has little understanding of the issue, similar to the Wall Street Journal editorial board in general, which itself has a long history of climate denial.

7. Frequent right-wing media contributor Jason Issac co-authors an op-ed claiming that “‘climate justice’ spending” is “counterproductive” and actually harms communities of color

According to members of the Koch-backed, fossil-fuel promoting Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), plans to address climate change hurt minority communities. Jason Isaac and Richard Johnson of the Texas Public Policy Foundation made this case in a June 25 op-ed in the Washington Examiner, writing, “If black lives really matter, activists should focus their efforts on mitigating economic disparities and providing the opportunity for all people to prosper, not on counterproductive ‘climate justice’ spending.” The op-ed trashed the Green New Deal, and hand-waves pollution in major cities by stating that “overall, the U.S. is a world leader in clean air.”

Communities of color are disproportionately affected by issues such as climate change, air pollution, and toxic waste. The issues of climate change and racism are intertwined, and the climate justice movement does great work in seeking to address and remedy these issues. Isaac and Johnson's Washington Examiner op-ed did not address that work, the awful tactics that are used to manipulate communities of color, or the continued usage of fossil fuels that is killing Black Americans.

TPPF has a history of climate denial, and many of its former employees worked in the Trump administration. It’s no surprise that they write off climate justice or that they found a receptive outlet in the Washington Examiner, which regularly platforms climate deniers and obstructionists.

8. On Newsmax’s website, Larry Bell praises climate downplayers Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Shellenberger, saying they have exposed the “alarmist climate agenda.”

In a piece for Newsmax, Larry Bell embraced climate contrarians Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Shellenberger, who within weeks of each other this summer released books that downplay the seriousness of climate change. Bell’s piece was titled “Prominent Eco-Activists Expose Alarmist Climate Dogma.”

Bell praised Shellenberger and Lomborg’s books, highlighting Shellenberger’s claims that climate change is not making natural disasters worse,and that renewable energy is suspect. He also highlighted that Lomborg’s book claims climate change is “not the apocalyptic threat so widely advertised” and quoted Lomborg as saying that climate change is now “politicized panic.”

Neither Lomborg nor Shellenberger are climate scientists; their views are outside of the consensus of the climate science community. Both books were criticized heavily; Climate Feedback stated that Shellenberger had mixed “accurate and inaccurate claims in support of a misleading and overly simplistic argumentation about climate change.” The Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick called his book “bad science and bad arguments.” Lomborg has long been exposed as a serial liar when it comes to his climate change claims; his book was given a scathing review by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

Both authors represent an insidious form of climate denial, one that right-wing media are increasingly turning to. By claiming that climate change is real but not that much of a problem, they continue to give cover to fossil fuel and polluting industries wrecking the planet.

9. Rush Limbaugh claims “there is no man-made global warming” and lambasts BBC for rightly calling him part of the climate denial problem.

On his August 3 radio program, host Rush Limbaugh mused over his inclusion in BBC Radio’s How They Made Us Doubt Everything, a podcast about the origins of climate denial. Rush then stated:

But if people on this program came up with the idea that global warming was a left-wing hoax, it was because of me, not some silly, stupid ad. Because global warming, man-made global warming is part of the Democrat, left-wing, Marxist agenda. I hope you people at the BBC are getting this, because you are participating in a hoax, in a fraud. There is no man-made global warming. We don’t have the ability, we don’t have the power because if we did we could have stopped it. But we can’t.

Nobody’s saying climate change isn’t happening ’cause it happens every day. The earth is not static. The earth is changing constantly. Ice age, steaming age, Sahara dust age. We have no control over it. The best we can do is adapt, which is what we do. But causing it is intellectually absurd to believe this.

Rush is one of the most notorious climate deniers in the U.S.

10. Fox’s Mark Levin claims that “carbon dioxide is not pollution."

On the August 20 edition of Hannity, Mark Levin went on an unhinged, climate misinformation-laden rant about recommendations from the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force. He falsely stated that “carbon dioxide is not pollution”; falsely linked “regulation of fossil fuels” to California energy blackouts; and called greenhouse gas emissions “the atmosphere.” While it’s true that greenhouse gas emissions are indeed in the atmosphere, the Environmental Protection Agency states, “Greenhouse gases from human activities are the most significant driver of observed climate change since the mid-20th century.”

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Citation From the August 20, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

This isn’t the first time Levin said something foolish about climate change. He once described it as a “religion” that is “all BS,” and in October, he said that the Democrats’ climate plan is “impossible unless we all commit suicide.”

11. Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “In the hands of Democratic politicians, climate change is like systemic racism in the sky. You can't see it, but rest assured it's everywhere and it's deadly.”

In a segment on the destructive western wildfires on the September 11 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Tucker Carlson mocked climate change, stating, “You can’t see it, but rest assured it’s everywhere and it’s deadly. And, like systemic racism, it is your fault.”

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Citation From the September 11, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

This isn’t really a surprise coming from Carlson, whose show is rife with racism and nods to white nationalism. He also pushed climate denial several times during reporting on the western wildfires -- for example, he falsely claimed that “there’s no evidence” on climate change’s links to the wildfires. Tucker’s comments on climate change are dangerous because they show outright denial. And in the past, he has used his race-baiting and bigotry to promote eco-fascism.

12. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: “When it comes to climate change, there are no obvious and actual solutions that are available.

Ben Shapiro, who once suggested that people living in low-lying areas just sell their homes and move when faced with rising sea levels, again took a stab at discussing climate change on the September 15 edition of his show. He made the case for not doing anything on climate change by essentially stating that even if the U.S. and other countries cut emissions today, global temperatures will not decrease much. He suggested that Democrats care more about calling Trump a climate denier than addressing climate change or the wildfires and topped it off by claiming, “When it comes to climate change, there are no obvious and actual solutions that are available.”

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Citation From the September 15, 2020, edition of The Ben Shapiro Show

There are many obvious solutions to climate change; they deal with small, incremental policy changes to large, systemic wide shifts. All of them revolve around what the science says, that we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But Shapiro isn’t interested in a serious debate about climate change; it’s much easier to just accuse the left of over-amplifying the problem.

13. Marc Morano says that coverage of fires in California is “climate ambulance chasing” and “weaponizing weather events” for a political agenda

On the September 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, notorious climate denier Marc Morano did his usual schtick of denying climate change's role in extreme weather events while discussing the California wildfires. He stated, “This is climate ambulance-chasing at its core, weaponizing weather events to say, ‘Look, there's a bad weather event here. We need a green new deal.’ They are using science to lobby for politics: ‘Vote for me and I will make the weather better.’”

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Citation From the September 15, 2020, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

Morano is paid handsomely to deny climate change, even though he doesn’t have any background in climate science. He keeps saying dumb things on Fox each year, and the network figures keep bringing him back.

14. Fox News’ Pete Hegseth: “The left has converted to the religion of climate change … [and are] tied to radical environmentalism.”

On the October 26 edition of Outnumbered, Fox News commentator Pete Hegseth stated that “The left has converted to the religion of climate change and because they are so tied to radical environmentalism, they’ve rejected the working men and women in the industries that have built this country.” Hegseth was speaking about Donald Trump’s false claims that a Joe Biden presidency would supposedly mean the end of American oil industry, including fracking. (Fox News relentlessly pushed a similar pro-fracking narrative in the days leading up to the election.)

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Citation From the October 26, 2020, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

Last year, Hegseth stated that climate change “is all about control,” and in January, he again compared climate change to religion.

15. Rupert Murdoch tells his shareholders that his media empire does not have climate deniers.

During a virtual meeting with News Corp. shareholders in November, Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch stated, “We do not deny climate change. We’re not deniers.” In reality, his Fox News network is at the forefront of climate denial in the United States. Just this year, Fox has aired coverage that engaged in climate denial in relation to the western wildfires and continued its toxic rhetoric while discussing President-elect Joe Biden’s climate plan. And it's not just in the U.S. -- News Corp.-owned outlets generally denied climate change's role in the devastating Australian wildfires in early 2020.

In 2019, Murdoch also said the same thing in a meeting with shareholders, stating that “there are no climate change deniers around” his organization. News Corp.’s climate denial is so bad that even Murdoch’s son, James, has distanced himself from it.