On September 6, The New York Times reported on a new campaign by the Murdochs' media outlets in Australia to advocate for a “carbon-neutral future.” The article suggests that the campaign to support climate action in Australia could “also put pressure on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets in the United States and Britain that have been hostile to climate science.”
The tactic by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch in Australia is akin to what the fossil fuel industry has done everywhere: In the face of unequivocal evidence that climate change is happening and with political action inevitable, make conspicuous public commitments to climate action that keep your social capital — and, ultimately, your bottom line — intact.
It is a tactic Rupert Murdoch knows well, because he’s used it before. In 2007, Murdoch announced that News Corp. would be “carbon neutral” by 2010. The initiative also included weaving positive climate messaging into its entertainment media programming, while not making any explicit adjustments to how its news outlets denied climate change.
Even if the Australian media properties do start advocating for climate measures, the devil will be in the details. If News Corp. starts pushing out content promoting far-off technologies like carbon capture that continue to allow for the burning of fossil fuels, then the type of denial it espouses will look different, but its outcome will be the same.
And for the U.S. Murdoch media holdings, even a veneer of support for climate action is unlikely. Instead, Fox News personalities will continue their attacks on any and all efforts to address the global climate crisis, just as they’ve done in the past.
Climate denial is part of Fox News’ brand -- and that’s not likely to change
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. That effort includes deliberately downplaying the crisis, denying that it’s happening, and claiming climate isn’t playing a role in increasingly extreme weather events.
For instance, the network spent far less time covering the recent United Nations climate report -- declaring a climate emergency with limited time to act -- than other national networks, which widely reported on it and gave the news the urgency it demanded. Characteristically, a number of Fox programs brought on climate deniers to downplay the report. Fox coverage even included Gerry Baker, editor at large at The Wall Street Journal (whose editorial board, like Fox News, has been pushing climate denial nonsense for years), who appeared on the August 10 edition of America’s Newsroom to lambaste the media for supposedly being too alarmist on the report’s findings.
The recent megastorm that left 49 dead, devastating Louisiana and parts of Mississippi before leaving sections of the Northeast underwater, has been widely characterized by climate scientists as a climate event — but Fox News has not covered it that way. In fact, one of its news programs, America's Newsroom, even cut away from a news conference on the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in New York, complaining that the commentary had turned “political" after several officials mentioned climate change.
This response by Fox News in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and devastating climate events is par for the course. And it’s 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.
After Murdoch’s announcement in 2007, Fox News did not dial back its climate denial. Sean Hannity even specifically attacked efforts to offset carbon emissions like those proposed by Murdoch. Now, as then, Fox News is at the center of opposition to climate action. This latest public relations move by Rupert Murdoch to shore up his social capital is not going to change that.