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Fox News, CNN, MSBNC Get Graded on Climate Science Coverage

Apr 09, 2014 01:49 PM EDT
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US cable news channels are regularly subject to ridicule, but a new study offers a bit of validation for doing so. An analysis of three major US cable news networks' climate science coverage revealed that misleading or inaccurate climate information is being spread by all of them, with Fox News being the biggest offender.

Regarding its 2013 climate science coverage, Fox News was "misleading most of the time," reporting misleading or inaccurate information 72 percent of the time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

About one-third of CNN's climate science-related segments contained misleading statements, and MSNBC produced the most accurate coverage of climate science, with only 8 percent of its content contained misleading information, the UCS said.

"Established climate science should always be portrayed accurately in the media and every cable news network has the opportunity to empower its viewers with accurate scientific information, even as its hosts, guests, and audiences express varying attitudes, beliefs, and values around questions of climate policy," the UCS said in a statement.

In 2013, Fox News covered climate science 50 times, the UCS reported, noting that 28 percent of the climate news segments were entirely accurate, and 72 percent included misleading portrayals of the science.

More than half of the misleading content came from one program, "The Five", where the UCS said "hosts often instigated misleading debates about established climate science."

The researchers noted that Fox's record of reporting the facts has improved slightly. A similar analysis in 2012 found the network's climate science coverage to be entirely accurate only 7 percent of the time.

The USC found MSNBC's climate science reporting to be "mostly accurate, with some overstatements."

Of the network's 132 climate reports, 92 percent were completely accurate.

The inaccuracies in 8 percent of MSNBC's reporting were attributed to overstatements in the effects of climate change, particularly the link between climate change and specific types of extreme weather, such as tornadoes.

CNN produced the least climate science news coverage in 2013, with 43 segments reported. The network was 70-percent accurate in its reporting. The 30 percent of inaccuracies stemmed from debates promoting a false bias, with some panelists accepting established climate science and other guests disputing it.

"This format suggests that established climate science is still widely debated among scientists, which it is not, and also allows opponents of climate policy to convey inaccurate statements about climate science," the UCS said. "The biggest step that CNN could take to increase accuracy is to stop hosting debates about established climate science and instead focus debates on whether and how to respond to climate change through climate policy."

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