For a company that seems to believe human-caused climate change is a hoax, Fox News sure covers climate change news a lot…
Perhaps that is why the climate change tag on right-wing news outlet Fox News’ website exists at all — because the company grasps onto any shreds of purported evidence suggesting that the climate crisis has nothing to do with humanity. This supports the conservative ideologies that Fox News works to spread, which tend to align with those of the fossil fuel industry, a major supporter of conservative politicians.
Between its cable news channel and news website, Fox News is known for helping spread misinformation about climate change — but can the outlet’s climate coverage ever be trusted?
Is Fox News’ climate change coverage credible?
In February 2022, Statista surveyed 2,210 Americans 18 and older about their perceived credibility of Fox News. 25 percent of respondents found the outlet to be “not at all credible,” while 21 percent found it “very credible.” Pew Research Center also found a near-even split between the number of Americans who trust Fox News and those who do not.
The Guardian has called the climate change skepticism displayed by Fox News “infamous” and unmatched. And media scholars have gone so far as to call Fox News propaganda.
For instance, Tom Rosenstiel, author of media ethics book The Elements of Journalism, told Vox in 2019 that “there are parts of Fox News that are now a propaganda arm of the government.” He stated this during the Trump administration, in which Fox News was Trump’s go-to news source. The former POTUS would often tweet out information he saw while watching Fox News, and the cable news channel would simultaneously report on the president’s doings.
Even with Trump out of office, this relationship between Fox News and conservative political leaders and industries is still apparent. After all, the Fox News Channel was founded in 1996 (by Rupert Murdoch along with Roger Ailes) to serve as a “conservative competitor” to already established news outlets, and attract a crowd of right-wing viewers, according to The New York Times. In recent decades, conservative U.S. politics has become synonymous with climate change skepticism, to varying degrees.
Fox News’ climate change coverage ranges from straightforward to straight-up misinformation.
When writing short news reports of climate-related events, Fox News articles are sometimes fairly straightforward, simply reporting on the event, and not adding any editorialization.
For instance, the March 26 article “Activists march through DC demanding Biden declare a climate emergency,” as well as the accompanying video, reports on the protest pretty simply, describing the protest and including quotes from a few protestors.
However, those examples are few and far between when it comes to climate coverage.
A June 2021 Fox News article titled “Physicist to Tucker Carlson: Climate change is ‘fiction of the media’” elevates the opinions of a known climate denier who believes human activity has nothing to do with climate change, which goes against all scientific evidence. The physicist in question is Steven Koonin, former Chief Scientist for BP, one of the world's largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
And when the UN’s IPCC released its alarming climate change report in August 2021, a Fox News headline read “Scientists challenge 'alarm bells' in IPCC climate change report: 'Not the end of the world.'” The article included quotes from Bjorn Lomborg, an author known for speaking out against “climate change panic” and pointing out purported positive side effects of climate change. Fox News does briefly acknowledge Lomborg’s view that anthropogenic climate change is real, but instead focuses on his view that it is not such an urgent matter.
Also in response to the climate change report, Fox News published an opinion piece titled “Greg Gutfeld: Climate change is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.” Enough said.
And as for the Fox News Channel, viewers are even more likely to find climate misinformation on there, as the cable news station's live broadcasts are less filtered than edited news articles. For example, a June 2018 segment between Tucker Carlson and author Steve Hayward explored "Why climate change has run its course." Hayward completely bashed the climate justice movement as having "jumped the shark," and Carlson declared climate justice as "a boutique idea for rich people." Again, enough said.
These are just a few of many examples of Fox News spreading misinformation about the climate crisis. While Fox News may not be quite as propagandistic as fake news companies like Breitbart, Fox News is certainly not a reliable source of information when it comes to the nuances of climate science and politics.