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5 Ways Right-Wing Media Make Their Fans Fear Science

A new study shows five ways conservative media decrease trust in scientists, leading their audience to doubt climate change.


A new  study shows five ways conservative media decrease trust in scientists, leading their audience to  doubt climate change.

Former Fox News host Glenn Beck once  declared "Do I believe scientists? No. They've lied to us about global warming." But the study, by the  Yale Project on Climate Communication, concludes that it's actually the other way around: conservative media consumers don't believe in scientists,  therefore they don't believe in global warming.

The study suggests that watching and listening to outlets like Fox News and  The Rush Limbaugh Show may be one reason that only  19 percent of Republicans agree that human activity is causing global warming, despite the  consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists. The Yale researchers depicted five tactics used by conservative media to erode trust in scientists, which  Media Matters illustrates with examples.

1. Present ContrarianAs "Objective" Experts

Conservative media typically turn to a  roster of professional climate change contrarians and  portray them as "experts" on the issue. What they don't mention is that most of these climate "experts" don't have a background in  climate science and are often on the  bankroll of the fossil fuel industry.

Media Matters study detailed how certain climate contrarians have been given a large platform by the media, particularly Fox News.

For instance, Fox News cut away from President Barack Obama's recent climate change speech to host Chris Horner of the  industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute -- giving approximately equal time to Horner and the president.

2. Denigrate Peer-Reviewed Science And Scientific Institutions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) brings together thousands of the top climate scientists to review and summarize the mainstream scientific understanding of global climate change. Yet conservative media often portray this UN agency as non-credible -- or even akin to  terrorists. Fox News once tried to  dismiss the work of over 1250 authors who contributed to the 2007 IPCC assessment report because one of the authors was a graduate student.

Fox News host Sean Hannity similarly claimed the IPCC has "stopped at nothing to sell its agenda":

3. Equate Science With Simply A Liberal Opinion

A leaked email  obtained by Media Matters in 2010 showed that a managing editor  ordered Fox News journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." This directive is consistent with conservative media coverage that treats even the basic fact that the earth has warmed as merely an opinion up for debate.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, for example,  asked if Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was "too liberal" because he says "global warming is real and it's manmade." On  The O'Reilly Factor, Juan Williams and Bernie Goldberg  argued that reporting on the global warming without  false balance is "liberal" "global warming propaganda." And  Rush Limbaugh believes that "manmade global warming ... it's an ideological issue," and that scientists who accept the consensus on global warming are " political advocates" spreading "misinformation."

4Claim That Scientists Distort Data In Order To Obtain Funding

In 2009, conservative media distorted hacked emails from climate scientists to suggest that they were falsifying data to show a warming trend. In the end, every investigation into the so-called  "climategate"controversy cleared the scientists involved, and a study funded in part by the conservative Koch brothers confirmed the accuracy of the temperature record. But that didn't prevent conservative news pundits from seizing on this "scandal" and claiming that it  debunked the science behind global warming, and  revealed scientists' intent to "hide the real inconvenient truth that the evidence supporting manmade global warming is far from conclusive."

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