Fox News is glossing over the near-unanimous consensus* on climate change by citing a fringe study that claims the phenomenon is minor and "not dangerous." But the network did not mention the latter's industry ties or dubious pedigree -- or that a major report is expected to undercut it later this month.
Happening Now first mentioned the questionable study Wednesday, in a segment on a hearing in the House of Representatives. Host Gregg Jarrett and Fox News reporter Doug McKelway suggested that two new pieces of evidence weaken testimony offered in support of the science behind climate change: a leaked draft of the forthcoming U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report, which McKelway claimed "will acknowledge temperatures have remained stable for the last 15 years or so," and a just-released study from a similarly-named front group, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which concludes that warming will likely be "modest and cause no net harm." Based on these, McKelway concluded, "evidence of global warming is coming under increased scrutiny and increased doubt."
However, Fox News omitted what is expected to be the signature finding of the IPCC, an unpaid group that works to summarize the state of climate science and has been called "inherently conservative" in its approach -- that "the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause" of climate change (short-term trends do not undermine this verdict).
The NIPCC report, meanwhile, was compiled by paid contributors and did not go through rigorous peer review. Furthermore, the body that published it is a joint project of three fossil-fuel-backed groups, including the Heartland Institute, which earned its bona fides as "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change" through stunts like associating "belief" in the issue with the Unabomber. Previous editions of the NIPCC report have been called "dishonest" and "not a credible scientific undertaking." Fox News mentioned none of this.
In emails to Media Matters, major climate scientists criticized the network for citing the NIPCC in the same breath as the IPCC.
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research:
The NIPCC has no standing whatsoever. It is not a reviewed document, it is not open for review at any point and it contains demonstrable garbage and falsehoods. In contrast the IPCC process is rigorous, open and there are 2 major reviews. This is irresponsible journalism.
Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University:
The NIPCC statement run by Fox is flat out wrong. Media who cite both IPCC and NIPCC in the same breath (or in close proximity) are clearly either uninformed or attempting to confuse the public, unless of course, they are attempting to clear up any confusion about the two organizations by making clear that NIPCC does not represent the expert consensus on climate change. If NIPCC is ever cited, it should be within the latter context.
Unfortunately, Fox News' latest flub is not particularly surprising. Indeed, it is characteristic of the way many outlets have utterly fouled up their reporting leading up to the release of the IPCC assessment later this month.
*Language has been updated for clarity.