On a near-daily basis, Fox News hosts, anchors, and guests spew misinformation and false narratives aimed at tanking efforts to address the climate crisis. These tactics to delay climate action or downplay the seriousness of our warming planet have often been referred to as the new climate denial -- since the actual denial of the scientific consensus that climate change is happening has mostly been pushed to the fringes of both politics and the traditional media landscape.
Fox deploys the new denial so often, it’s easy to forget that the network is one of the few highly influential media outlets that still promote one of the most dangerous lies of our time: Human activity is not overheating our climate.
This lie has existed for over five decades and for five decades has been repeatedly debunked. Its origins and merchants have been exposed; those who have continued to perpetuate it have been discredited; and our own experience during each unprecedented storm, historical heat wave, and apocalyptic wildfire has proven again and again what science has told us to expect from a warming world.
But in 2021, you can turn on Fox News and watch prime-time host Tucker Carlson quip that “not even climate experts understand the climate” or watch Fox contributor Dagen MacDowell suggest that climate change is a hoax because it is cold in April.
And in 2021, there is still no federal response to the climate crisis on the books, despite decades of warnings from scientists and with mounting support for climate action even among the largest companies and businesses in the U.S.
Fox is still fueling the lie that our planet is not warming
From insisting the science on climate change is not settled to deliberately misconstruing weather with climate, Fox News is still pushing the idea that human-made climate change is not real, despite overwhelming evidence and consensus in the scientific community.
In a segment on the April 28 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson and Fox News contributor Sean Duffy discussed how the “critical environmental movement has infiltrated” schools and colleges, is scaring children about the climate crisis, and is convincing them to not have children. At the end of the segment, Duffy claimed that climate change is a “political movement, not a scientific movement” and that it is wrong to assume “the science is settled in climate”.
The segment aired just a week after Carlson and ultra-conservative political commentator and Fox contributor Mark Steyn mocked comments made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) linking climate change and racism. (For the record, experts say the two are “inexorably” linked.) Steyn, not satisfied with mocking the relationship between climate and racism, went on to attack the scientific consensus that warming is human-made, by invoking a defamation suit filed against him by climate scientist Michael Mann:
MARK STEYN (GUEST): This is supposed to be science. I've been in a 10-year lawsuit in Washington, D.C., up against the guy who invented the climate change hockey stick, and he is a scientist and his position is that in the last millennium -- nothing happened for nine centuries and then you, Tucker, got into your SUV and fried the planet. And that is a completely idiotic theory. But at least he's not trying to sell the world on the idea that somehow climate change correlates to racism.
Not to be outdone, the following night, prime-time host Laura Ingraham focused her April 22 monologue on “the big climate con.” Ingraham’s “climate con” list included misleading arguments against the benefits of climate action like job creation; attempts to discredit the role of -- and the need for -- global cooperation in dealing with the crisis; and false claims that the scientific warnings on climate are not sound or well understood. For good measure, Ingraham closed her monologue by mocking and attacking young climate activists.
In back-to-back shows on April 29 and April 30, Ingraham suggested that the climate crisis along with other pressing issues have been manufactured to “justify the left’s brazen efforts to take more of our money and more of our liberty” and they “only exist in the minds of leftists ideologues who hate America anyway.”
Denial paired with fear-mongering about the “left’s radical agenda” exemplifies the brand of climate denial Fox has peddled for years, and some network figures disingenuously equate weather with climate to push that narrative.
On the April 21 edition of The Five, Fox News contributor Dagen McDowell ended a rant against the Paris Climate Agreement by suggesting that abnormally cold April weather from Texas to the Great Lakes somehow disproves that global warming is occurring.
DAGEN MCDOWELL (CO-HOST): Here is your forecast today and why they stopped calling it global warming. April 21, 2021: Freeze warnings from Texas to the Great Lakes. Record low temperatures engulfing the heartland. Oh, and Indians/White Sox game in Cleveland had to be postponed for snow and cold.
This bit by MacDowell is both painfully stupid and reminiscent of a body of tweets by then-President Donald Trump, who conflated weather with global warming while suggesting that the term “climate change” was adopted by scientists and advocates to hide the incongruity between major winter storms and the idea of warming. Interestingly, the term “climate change” was promoted by the Republican strategist Frank Luntz as part of the infamous 2002 memo advising the GOP on how to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that human activity was warming the planet.
Fox Nation host Lara Logan made the same inane claim on the February 19 edition of Outnumbered, in a segment about the winter storm that caused the deadly power failure in Texas:
“It's time for us to have an honest conversation about renewable energy and about global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it,” said Logan. “This is the first time in Texas’ history that it has had a winter storm warning. So this is — this means that it is not getting warmer and warmer and warmer, simply.”
Fox has long been a platform for climate deniers
Fox News hosts and contributors not only push climate denial but regularly feature discredited deniers on their programs. Notorious climate denier Marc Morano -- who has no scientific background -- and Bjorn Lomborg -- whose spiel is dangerously claiming that climate change is happening, but not a big deal -- have both appeared on Fox for more than a decade. Just this year, both have appeared across Fox programming at least six times from January through April. Notably, Fox hosted both the day after President Joe Biden took office to attack his agenda on climate change.
Larry Kudlow, a long-time climate denier who formerly served as economic adviser to Trump and now hosts a show on Fox Business, has also been one of Fox’s go-to commentators on policies related to climate change across both the network’s so-called “news” and “opinion” programs.
But Morano, Lomborg, and Kudlow are far from the only climate deniers and contrarians on Fox’s roster. Over the past several years Rush Limbaugh, Joe Bastardi, Steve Milloy, and Patrick Moore all appeared regularly on Fox to push climate denial and misinformation. (In 2019, Moore said on Fox & Friends that “the climate crisis ... is not only fake news, it’s fake science”, and the line was picked up by Trump and tweeted to his millions of followers.)
Importantly, like Morano and Lomborg, none of these commentators are climate scientists, many have strong financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, and all have made a living out of obstructing efforts to address the climate crisis. With the exception of the late Rush Limbaugh, none would have had a megaphone to spread their lies absent Fox News.
Supported by advertisers, Fox runs cover for climate inaction
Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that if immediate and bold actions are not taken, then we will face dire climate disruption -- ever-increasing extreme and abnormal weather that threatens our homes, our food, our livelihoods, our economy, and our lives.
The stakes could not be higher.
The purpose of Fox hosts’ and contributors’ climate denial is to maintain an air of doubt about the existence and reality of our dangerously changing climate to provide cover for Republicans, who actively work to do nothing to stop the climate crisis, and the Big Polluters that bankroll their campaigns. This climate denial is also the foundation of the network’s persistent attacks -- across “opinion” and “straight news” programming -- on any proposed actions to reduce our carbon emissions and transition to a clean-energy economy. By extension, companies that advertise on Fox are party to climate inaction.
Publicly, many of these companies that run ads on Fox, including big insurers Allstate and Liberty Mutual have acknowledged the severe threat of the climate crisis. While others like General Motors, which is also among the network’s biggest advertisers, are actively calling for significant reduction in climate pollution. On the same day Dagen McDowell mocked global warming because it was cold in Texas, General Motors, along with 407 other corporations and businesses, issued a press release for an open letter to Biden supporting his goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. By continuing to sponsor Fox, these brands expose the cavern between their words and actions and associate themselves with a dangerous hostility to facts and science.
To be sure, Fox News is an accomplice to the impending climate emergency we face as a country and as part of the global community -- and so are those that support its programming with ads.