Respectable scientists almost unanimously agree that climate change is a direct response to human activity, providing a fairly mighty consensus of the academic world, but only 19% of Republicans seem to actually agree with their claims. Most Democrats and even independents have agreed with the science behind these phenomenons, but there has always been a massive gap between liberals and conservatives on this issue, sparking the question of how come the topic has become so partisan at the moment. At the end of the day, with the relevance that Fox News and other conservative outlets occupy in many Fepublican circles, the difference between the sides seems to focus mainly on a matter of media.
A recent study conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Communication has pointed to five ways in particular that conservative media has been able to decrease Republican trust in the words of scientists. While Glenn Beck once said, "Do I believe scientists? No. They've lied to us about global warming," the new report has concluded that instead of dismissing scientists because they believe in climate change, most Republicans simply don't believe scientists, thereby dismissing global warming simultaneously. While it may also be premature to blame all of the conservative doubts on global warming due to the media considering that sociologist Gordon Gauchat has recorded the decline of Republican belief in scientists dating back to 1974, 22 years before Fox News was even created, media is just as relevant now as it has ever been. The Yale report does a great job at highlighting many tactics currently present in broadcasting.
1. Using Contrarians As "Objective" Experts
Fox News certainly has a massive roster of pundits who disagree with the issue of climate change and its origins, but many of these figures (who are used quite frequently) don't even have degrees in climate science and in many cases these "experts" are on the bankroll of fossil fuels companies. These contrarians are often labeled as objective authorities on climate change, but the only commentary they provide is usually factually incorrect and their credibility is next to none. In the above clip, Chris Horner, of the fossil fuel industry-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute, receives just as much air time during President Obama during the latter's recent climate change speech.
2. Belittling Peer-Reviewed Scientific Institutions
Fox News has always had a knack for picking on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an institution that brings together thousands of respectable scientists from across the world to discuss the topic of understanding climate change fully. Conservative media outlets have repeatedly described the committee as non-credible, with certain individuals, such as Rush Limbaugh, going on record as calling them akin to terrorists. Not only does Fox believe that nothing the IPCC has ever stated has been true, but the news network dismissed the ICPP's 2007 report because one of its over 1,250 authors happened to be a grad student. To the conservative media, the IPCC is simply selling out to other institutions like the UN and the Obama administration in order to receive funding and help propel their campaigns.
3. Identifying Science As a Liberal Idea
Conservatives often claim that believing in climate change is more of a liberal stance, best shown when Fox Sunday host Chris Wallace asked then-presidential-candidate Herman Cain if Chris Christie was too liberal for the GOP based on his views on the climate among other topics. On top of that, Juan Williams and Bernie Goldberg discussed on the O'Reilly Factor how liberals have tried to propel climate change arguments in order to boost Obama's energy initiatives by way of "liberal propaganda." At this point conservative media has practically established to its audience that to believe in global warming or climate change is essentially the same thing as being liberal. That just leaves the issue of sorting out the 44% of self-proclaiming republicans who do actually believe in global warming's existence.
4. Claiming That Scientists Misreport Data for Increased Funding
In 2009, the famous "Climategate" erupted into the media attention as over 1,000 emails between scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the UK's University of East Anglia were leaked to the internet by an anonymous hacker and interpreted by climate skeptics (including many at Fox News) as proof that research was being manipulated by the scientists. It turned out eventually that the emails were mostly taken out of context and that all claims by right-wing pundits who claimed the data was falsified were exaggerations blown way out of proportion. However this was the perfect opportunity for Fox News to expose climate scientists as dishonorable researchers purposefully manipulating their findings in order to obtain funding. As Sean Hannity so brazenly announced on one episode, scientists have turned "global warming hysteria into a multi-billion dollar industry."
5. Portraying Climate Science As a "Religion"
Contrarians like to describe themselves, according to the Yale study, as "brave dissidents against an oppressive set of beliefs," meaning that they view the ideas of global warming experts as nothing more than opinions rather than fact-based material. Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax" and has portrayed Al Gore as something of a religious zealot whose intentions are to brainwash the country into believing that climate change exists. The words religion and cult get thrown around a lot by the right-wing media, exclusively in a negative context of course, essentially describing believers in climate change as nothing more than irrational disciples. Fox has even gone to the extent of calling the IPCC's report a "Climate Bible," with the obvious implication that nothing provided in this research is based off of actual fact in the slightest.