A new study confirming the accuracy of existing global temperature records has been ignored by the all the major television news outlets, except for one mention in a CNN news brief. But the omission is most conspicuous at Fox News, which routinely casts doubt on the temperature data, accuses climate scientists of doctoring research to exaggerate global warming, and often just makes up its own temperature facts.
The new research from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project indicates that land surface temperature has risen about 0.9°C in the last 50 years, which is consistent with the findings of the major climate data centers in the U.S. and the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU), the group at the center of the "Climategate" story.
The study was set up by physicist Richard Muller to investigate criticisms of the prevailing global temperature records by using a different methodology and more raw data. Writing about his results, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, Muller said:
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn't know what we'd find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.
In late 2009, the hacked "Climategate" emails from CRU sparked a media frenzy despite "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice," as multiple inquiries later confirmed. Mainstream media outlets including NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN uncritically reported unfounded allegations of data manipulation, and conservative media like Fox News have declared the temperature records fraudulent ever since.
Fox's Eric Bolling recently asserted that the "Climategate" emails showed scientists admitting that "we don't have the data, the data is flawed. We can't prove global warming." Fox has also promoted Anthony Watts' contention that poor station siting renders the temperature records unreliable - a claim specifically refuted by the Berkeley Earth study. And an internal email uncovered in 2010 showed a Fox News executive instructing the network's journalists to cast doubt on temperature data.
The Berkeley Earth study -- which was funded in part by the Koch family -- was initially supported by vocal climate change skeptics like Watts, who vowed to "accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong." (He is now criticizing the study.)
Conservative media previously declared victory when a Rasmussen poll found that a majority of Americans believe some climate scientists have likely "falsified research data" to support "their own theories and beliefs about global warming."
UPDATE: CBS News covered Muller's study on October 31, and NBC News covered it on November 1.