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Signed, Stamped, and Delivered: Nearly 20,000 Postcards Call on News Corporation to Stop Misleading on Climate Science

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A mother cradles her baby while she juggles a large stamp loaded with fresh red ink to press “Not Science” over misleading climate science claims in a larger-than-life size Wall Street Journal Opinion piece. This symbolic act occurred soon after the Union of Concerned Scientists released a new snapshot analysis of Fox News Channel’s prime time shows and the Wall Street Journal opinion pages — an analysis that revealed a staggering proportion of misrepresentation of climate science.

Nearly 4 million viewers and readers are being misled on climate science

Dr. Karen Holmberg holds her baby, Montserrat, and stamps Wall Street Journal opinion section piece with a “Not Science” stamp.

Dena Adler, co-author of the analysis, looks on as Dr. Karen Holmberg holds her baby, Montserrat, and stamps a six-foot tall Wall Street Journal opinion section piece with a “Not Science” stamp in New York City’s Bryant Park in the neighborhood of the News Corporation Building. Photo by Desdemona Burgin.

Fox News Channel was the most popular cable news channel in the United States in 2011, with a median viewership of some 1.9 million people during evening prime time. The Wall Street Journal is the largest American newspaper, with a total circulation of more than 2 million.

Anecdotal overviews and peer-reviewed assessments to date have asserted that some of News Corporation’s prominent media outlets — including Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal — have presented biased and misleading information about the vast scientific evidence for human-induced climate change.

My colleagues Aaron Huertas and Dena Adler took a systematic look and reviewed the way climate science was presented on Fox News Channel and in the Wall Street Journal opinion section. They analyzed every occurrence when the words “climate change” or “global warming” were used over a recent six-month period during Fox News prime time shows and over the past year in the Wall Street Journal opinion section.

Here’s what they found:

  • Fox News Channel prime-time occurrences of climate science content were misleading 93 percent of the time.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s representations of climate science in the opinion section were misleading 81 percent of the time. (The accurate occurrences were primarily letters to the editor in response to misleading editorials or letters.)

Top findings of analysis featured in the report: “Is News Corp. Failing Science?”

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but NOT to their own facts”

As a scientists who has worked closely with so many of my colleagues to discover and share the findings of the overwhelming evidence of human-induced recent warming of the planet, I am deeply disheartened to see how many viewers and readers are being misled about this reality.

In Bryant Park I had the opportunity to mark up the six-foot-tall Wall Street Journal opinion piece published January 27, 2012: “No Need to Panic About Global Warming – There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.”

As an example of a misleading statement that I circled and labeled with “cherry picking” is – “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.” This is misleading because it cherry picks the last 10 years and fails to mention that it was the hottest decade on record for global average temperature. I then taped the graph of the complete record since 1880 on the over-sized opinion piece so others could see for themselves.

Another misleading example from Fox News Channel on March 23, 2012 is: “The green energy stuff—I mean, that’s—that’s all a hoax and a fraud based on another hoax and fraud, global warming.”  Other examples are in the analysis overview.

UCS calls upon News Corporation to undertake a thorough examination of how its media outlets portray climate science and to develop standards and practices for communicating the subject to its audiences–as other news organizations have done.

As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, famously put it, “Everyone is entitled to [their] own opinion, but NOT to [their] own facts.”

Signed, Stamped, and Delivered Moments Captured on Camera

News Corporation Event September 21, 2012

A noontime panel with TIME magazine senior writer, Bryan Walsh (left), and Harvard University professor and Union of Concerned Scientists Board Chair, Dr. James McCarthy (right), discussed the state of climate science and its coverage in the media, moderated by Angela Anderson. Photo by Desdemona Burgin.

Wall Street Journal Opinion Markup with "Not Science" Stamp. September 21, 2012

Harvard Professor and UCS Board Chair, James McCarthy stamps “Not Science” on the misleading Wall Street Journal opinion section piece. Photo by Desdemona Burgin.

News Corporation Post Card Signing September 21, 2012

Supporter signs postcard demanding better climate science content from News Corporation. Photo by Desdemona Burgin.

Letters and post cards hand delivered to News Corporation Sept 21, 2012.

In letters to News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes, and Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, UCS board chair James McCarthy discussed the science and directed them to the flash drives enclosed with the nearly 20,000 signed post cards. Ten percent of these were printed out and hand delivered in a box to News Corporation in New York City. Photo by Desdemona Burgin.

 


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About the author: Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist and assistant director of climate research and analysis at UCS. She has expertise on many aspects of climate variability including Arctic Ocean and sea ice, wildfires, groundwater, and coastal erosion. She holds a Ph.D. in isotope geochemistry from Columbia University (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). See Brenda's full bio.

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