Amid record heat waves, early hurricanes, and wildlife die-offs that look like mass extinction events, Rupert Murdoch has decided to double down on the ‘climate change isn’t real’ stance in the worst possible way: launching a full-time weather channel called Fox Weather. That’s right, blatant climate denialism, fossil fuel propaganda, and conspiracy theories about scientists wanting to shrink children will soon be broadcasting across America 24/7.
It’s safe to say that Fox News has never been a beacon of truthful climate reporting. Fox has ranged from simply casting doubt as to humans’ impact on the global climate to flat-out denying the existence of climate change altogether.
According to a 2019 analysis by Public Citizen, 86% of all climate-related segments aired on Fox were climate denial claims. If you regularly watch Fox News then you know climate change is bad, but not the way scientists say it is: it’s about “controlling people”, infringing on the American way of life, destroying the economy, and “exploiting children” to push a liberal agenda. Climate change is that thing that annoying “mentally ill” girl from Europe won’t stop protesting about; it’s a hoax, a conspiracy theory – as fake as systemic racism.
Fox News commentators like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham are notorious for their blatant climate-denialism and disseminating of conspiracy theories. Laura Ingraham has referred to climate change as a “lie” and in 2019 claimed that “liberals want to use this global crisis to perpetuate a massive confiscation of wealth.” In a 2019 segment Sean Hannity equated supporting climate reform to giving “up your liberty and your freedom and a lot of your tax money.”
Tucker Carlson has equally bad views on climate change, but at least he is entertaining. In a segment on June 22, the notoriously tactless commentator pulled a clip of Matthew Liao, a bioethicist at New York University, speaking at the 2016 World Science Festival with the intention that this fringe scientist would appear representative of all climate activists. Carlson – mind you, has the most watched show on cable – proceeded to go on a 12-minute rant about how climate activists want to create “a race of dwarfs” to curb carbon emissions and how “experiment[ing] on human children” is the key to solving climate change. During last year’s west-coast wildfires, while demonstrating his ignorance as to how climate change could result in such deadly wildfires – “How did climate change do that?” is the exact quote – Carlson claimed that Democrats sought to blame climate change on the American middle class.
Even more damaging, Fox News also acted the prime mouthpiece for Donald Trump during his presidency. Trump’s history of climate denialism is long, but he is perhaps best known for constantly referring to climate change as a Chinese hoax and pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
While Fox launching a weather channel may seem like a conservative news network’s desperate last attempt to push its narrative on a country becoming increasingly aware of the effects of climate change, Fox seems to know what it’s doing. Fox is already poaching meteorologists from major markets around the country. With the increase in notable natural disasters, Americans are hungrier than usual for weather reporting. According to The New York Times, viewership for The Weather Channel was up 7 percent in the first half of 2021. Given that Fox has a frighteningly large viewership, this weather channel would be more than just another conservative voice spewing its conspiracies and climate denialism into the endless void of the internet, rather an extremely poisonous presence in the minds of a large percentage of Americans. The last thing this country needs is a major news network spewing climate denialism to its already heavily manipulated base.
Considering Fox’s track record, it can only be assumed that this new weather channel will adopt a similar tone in regard to the climate crisis. Fox Weather will most likely omit the context while reporting on weather patterns and disasters. Tucker Carlson going on a rant about scientists wanting to shrink children to prevent climate change is objectively hilarious, but a news channel that will likely be specifically to encourage climate denialism is the farthest thing from funny.
Graphic via Media Matters / Melissa Joskow