Denying global warming, Fox News bashes “granola-crunching” media and “doom-and-gloom” messaging — based on yet more misreporting of Berkeley study

The media has the story of UC Berkeley study on climate messaging exactly backwards, as I explained last week.  The study found the best message is also the most science-based:  Doing nothing risks “many devastating consequences” but “much of the technology we need already exists.”  We just need to deploy it already!

Brad Johnson made a similar point in his post, “Winning climate messages combine dire scientific threat with solutions for a just world.”  Now he reports on the predictably wrong take Fox News has on the study:

As the 19th year of international negotiations on climate change begin today in Cancun, Mexico, Fox News continues to deny the civilizational imperative to end global warming pollution. On Saturday, Fox News Watch’s Jon Scott and Greg Gutfield cited last year’s Climategate smear campaign to attack climate scientists and activists. “Maybe it’s time for the granola-crunching press to change its doom-and-gloom message,” Scott argued. Gutfield then read a bowdlerized version of his “racist homophobic globalphobe” blog post distorting the results of a study on global warming messaging:

So climate change experts having finally got the message. And the message is: their message sucks. In fact, their “Scare the hell out of us” screed was so awful, researchers claim, that it actually undermined their mission. Which, I always thought, was to scare the hell out of us. Yep, according to Cal-Berkeley shrinks, dire predictions about global warming can “backfire if presented too negatively.” Of course that raises one question: how do you offer dire predictions, positively? “Hey, were all gunna die. LOL.” Which leads me to a theory: these Berkeley researchers are idiots. Look the fact is, people like me questioned global warming evidence because we’d seen this media hysteria before – with the ice age, the dangers of nuclear power, artificial sweeteners and DDT.

… the study by UC Berkeley’s Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg actually found that effective climate messaging combines hard facts about the dire nature of global warming with optimism about human ingenuity to address it “” which is the honest story that Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Desmond Tutu, and other climate activists have been telling for decades. Their study also found that the parody presented by the right wing “” that those concerned about global warming pollution are hysterical doomsayers “” will effectively drive some people into skepticism about the existence of the threat.

Gutfield’s mention of DDT is telling “” that right-wing historical revisionism designed to discredit Rachel Carson is soundly debunked in Merchants of Doubt, the book that describes how propagandists have used the same tactics for decades to block policy from everything to cigarettes to global warming.

To repeat, the UCB study, if it proves anything, finds that the strongest possible science-based messaging is effective.   The message that doesn’t work is that the problem is so hopeless science doesn’t even know where to start.

Climate hawks should feel confident explaining to the public as clearly as possible the dire consequences if we fail to take action to reduce emissions together with the myriad cost-effective solutions available today that make averting catastrophe so damn cheap compared to the alternative.

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15 Responses to Denying global warming, Fox News bashes “granola-crunching” media and “doom-and-gloom” messaging — based on yet more misreporting of Berkeley study

  1. MarkG says:

    You cannot argue with Fox news. They don’t want the truth, they want to attack your argument. And on their shows they control the mics and cameras and the last word.

  2. Ed Hummel says:

    This may all be true, but the window of opportunity is closing fast to avert the worst consequences of a warming climate system. And as Bill McKibben has so eloquently pointed out in his latest book we’re already living on a new EAARTH that won’t be very compatible with modern civilization and 7 billion or more (?) humans all trying to live like Homer Simpson even if we were to suddenly cut emissions this afternoon. But since I don’t see that happening until peak oil and the financial crisis do their dirty work in the next few years (or months!), I remain very pessimistic that we’ll do anything at all in the next few years, especially in this country with a Republican House, and a befuddled Democratic Senate and White House. I think our only hope is a general strike by EVERYONE, but that in itself is a fantasy. So, I guess we’re in for “interesting times” no matter what climate hawks do. Can someone please tell me I’m wrong!!!

  3. I’ve lived with one cloud of doom or another all my life.

    First it was nuclear war (‘duck and cover’)
    Ozone depletion
    acid rain
    population bomb
    climate change

    Maybe my generation has become inured. My 20 something nephew was surprised when I told him these bad things are going to happen in his life time. That’s what’s missing in the message. Stop talking about 2100… and start talking about 2020. Make it in the here and now. Can we do that?

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    The Saudi Prince, The Mosque And Fox News

    Did Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Also Fund the tea bagger rallies???

  5. Wit's End says:

    An interesting report from the Andes, speaking of effects in the here and now:

  6. John Mason says:

    I hear Fox News are contemplating a rebranding exercise. The proposed new name? Pravda!

    Ed, I think you are probably right. A likely prediction is inaction over peak oil leading to price hikes the likes of which will piss a lot of people off. The self-same deniers of AGW invariably deny peak oil too from my experience, and the prediction I make is they will blame peak oil-related difficulties when they start to bite on the environmental movement. It is my observation that, like a well-run rail network, their movements are reasonably predictable. If I had much money I would put some on this being the likely propaganda-sequence.

    No wonder more community-based, genuine (non astroturf) organisations like the Transition Movement have such appeal these days. We are not all greedy, thoughtless selfish short-termists: many of us do recognise that the polluting, consumerist ways of the past decades have greatly weakened communities and made few if any individuals experience a net gain in overall well-being: quite the opposite is often evident. The latter points are well worthy of consideration by – especially – the Indians and the Chinese – don’t make the same mistakes as we have! We have done some fantastic and benevolent things but also some dirty, destructive and frankly stupid things. Think about which parts of the so-called Western lifestyle are good and which ones do no good whatsoever.

    Cheers – John

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Now that Alwaleed has a controlling ownership in News Corp., he is gaining influence over Fox News. In 2005, just months after Alwaleed acquired his first 5.4 percent stake in News Corp., Fox News covered riots in Paris under a banner saying “Muslim riots.” Alwaleed allegedly called Murdoch and had him change the banner to say”Civil riots.” Investigative journalist Joseph Trento also reported that a comment he recently made on a Fox Network morning news show, Fox and Friends, about Saudi Arabian money still financing Al Qaeda, was edited out of the show. Trento also reports that Alwaleed “has personally donated huge amounts of money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.” In a rare interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto in January, AlWaleed explained his personal reasons for seeking influence in American politics: the U.S. buys Saudi Arabia’s oil, and the bulk of his country’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from oil. Fox News reliably broadcasts misinformation on clean energy, and aggressively fights efforts to move America away from being dependent on a fossil fuels

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    Regarding Berkeley, Willer, Feinberg, and Fox

    (No, it’s not the name of a law firm.)

    I’m a big admirer of U.C. Berkeley and went there from 1977 to 1981. Go Bears!

    That said, under the circumstances and given the stakes involved, I think it is now the responsibility of Willer and Feinberg, with the help of other Berkeley resources, to strongly, clearly, and credibly clear up the confusion that some journalists have launched and that Fox is apparently taking to a much larger audience.

    This is especially the case if any ambiguity or miscommunication whatsoever was created by the press release itself. BUT whether or not the press release was part of the problem, and even if it wasn’t, the study’s authors (and the University) do, at this point, have a positive responsibility to do what it takes to clear matters up, in my view. And given the stakes involved, I’m not talking about the normal modest request for a small after-the-fact retraction that nobody sees. Instead, I’m talking about the authors writing something that clarifies and corrects the matter that is then run on EACH and EVERY outlet that originally misunderstood and misreported the matter. In other words, there should be a clarifying post on Dot Earth. And the authors should insist on having time on Fox, on every Fox program that misreported the matter, in order to clarify the matter. The authors should insist on this, and if Fox says ‘no’, the authors should let Climate Progress know. If that becomes the case, this can (and should) become a clear and demonstrable example of how Fox News does not actually want its audiences to get accurate information. And we do need to have more and more documented and provable cases in which that is the clear case.

    So I think that these authors should turn it into their main task over the next couple weeks to clarify the confusion in the media and to INSIST on the opportunities to do so. The stakes are that big. Whether or not the authors or the University were at fault in the initial confusion, the damaging confusion surrounding the study remains, and it now becomes the authors’ responsibility as humans and scholars, and the University’s too, to do everything possible, with utmost effort, to clear things up in a timely manner.

    Let’s get to it, Bears!

    Be Well,


    Jeff Huggins
    U.C. Berkeley, class of 1981

  9. clearscience says:

    I think Fox news makes the world far worse than it should be.

  10. Gord says:

    Re: the population bomb.

    Imagine today’s world with 4 billion people?

    How many of our problems would be manageable in a decent time frame?

  11. Wit's End says:

    Gord, you could wipe out the entire population of the third world and it would hardly make a difference when it comes to climate change, since by far most of the carbon footprint belongs to the US and the developed world – even a lot of the emissions from the third world are from making products for the US, and transporting them.

    Furthermore, other emissions from the same combustion and industrial processes cause a (conservatively IMO) official estimated 10 – 20% reduction in crop yields annually. Imagine how many people that lost yield would feed? And it’s getting worse over time.

  12. Acacia says:

    For a perspective on climate change denialism from the Murcoch bastion ‘The Australian’ see the latest post in Deltoid.

  13. caerbannog says:

    For those who can stand it, here’s another helping of Faux News he-said she-said “journalism” (linky ):

    Some scientists say the warming trend is caused mainly by industrial pollution accumulating in the atmosphere and trapping heat. Negotiations conducted under U.N. auspices have been trying to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperatures from rising to levels likely to have disastrous consequences.

    Others argue that the connection between carbon emissions and climate change remains unproven — and that until the science is settled, public policy and the literally billions of dollars at stake should not be spent.

  14. john atcheson says:

    Can they be sued? Isn’t there some requirement that they not lie? FCC requirements or something?

  15. A face in the clouds says:

    John #14 — The FCC was turned into a ghost ship in large part to allow the likes of Fox “News” to exist. In fact, the last time I filed a complaint some years back, the FCC responded with a form letter suggesting I take it up with the advertisers.

    As for filing a lawsuit, pass the hat my way. Otherwise I would defer to actual lawyers visiting this site for an answer to your question. However, it is probably safe to say that in this day and age, a lawsuit is not a promising route. Experienced, bunko artists like Fox and its backers in Big Business know they have to plan far ahead, and they have.

    Which brings up another point about the mentality of Fox. Of all people, it was a radio evangelist (the late Garner Ted Armstrong) who many years ago drew connections between the emerging news monopolies of the 1980’s and the destruction of the world’s environment. Armstrong was prophetic in his own way. He preached that while Satan could not destroy the world himself, he could use Mankind to do it for him. When Man could not be tricked into all-out nuclear war, Satan moved on to the environment. The key, according to Armstrong, was getting control of the messengers. That meant seeking out the weakest in humanity to sow confusion and in effect replace the Ten Commandments with the Seven Deadly Sins. As they say, I’m not sure there is a God but the Devil is making a pretty good case for himself. But remember that Man didn’t fall for the old nuclear suicide trick. And despite all of the crowing about ratings at Fox “News,” the vast majority of viewers are watching football games and reality shows. The rest don’t even have the television on. More often than not they are likely with friends and loved ones enjoying their lives and looking forward to more of the same.

    All the while, Fox and its fellow travelers are left to lie to the choir. Comedians are in the audience too, but only to make fun of them. That’s having a good deal of impact. Otherwise, there’s no arguing with evil because it doesn’t know or care about the truth. It’s acting naturally, hand to mouth, or hoof to mouth. That’s why Joe and all of you have taken the logical and productive course of confronting news agencies who repeat the lies. All the while, you also educate everyone else. Which leads me to conclude that just because there isn’t a God, it doesn’t mean one couldn’t evolve in places just like this from the spirit of people like you.