Fox News Sheds Balance
in Climate Change Special
Network links global warming to
everything from diseases to shark sightings in one-sided
By Dan Gainor
The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow
Nov. 14, 2005
It began with all the hype of a Hollywood movie trailer. Flickering
scenes of smokestacks, trucks and cars whizzing down the highway and
dead fish in a stream were overlain with this ominous message: "The
earth is sending out a desperate alarm."
That's how Fox News began its self-described "special on climate
change and global warming." "The Heat Is On" went downhill from
there, piling on a steady stream of left-wing activists, Hollywood
celebrities, inaccuracies and exaggerations to paint a picture of a
global climate apocalypse.
The broadcast showed terrifying images of Hurricane Katrina with a
voiceover by reporter Rick Folbaum, who hosted the documentary. "And
this past summer, a preview of another threat of global warming," he
said ominously. However, a statement on the FoxNews.com Web Site by
Folbaum made it clear he didn't even believe that was true. "Did
global warming cause Hurricane Katrina? We wanted to know, since we
were working on this report at the same time the Gulf Coast was
devastated. The answer we got was no," said Folbaum's statement.
Fox News Live's Jamie Colby introduced the special by saying that a
Fox poll found "77 percent of Americans believe global warming is
happening." She told viewers, "You'll hear primarily from those
experts and citizens who believe that global warming is a crisis."
Colby added that "Many people disagree with that statement," but
none of them was cited in the hour-long documentary. She vowed that
"We will continue to investigate the science and hear from others in
future Fox programming."
"The Heat is On" was a quite a departure for Fox. A Nov. 8, 2004,
Free Market Project (FMP) study found Fox News the best of all five
major TV networks in its news stories about global warming and the
Kyoto Protocol. FMP analyzed news coverage from Jan. 20, 2001, until
Sept. 30, 2004, and found "The Fox News Channel delivered better and
more balanced reporting on global warming."
The heat has
actually been on Fox News for several days as climate change critics
heard about the impending broadcast. According to a
Cybercast News Service story
by Randy Hall and Marc Morano, Competitive Enterprise Institute
senior fellow Chris Horner "is also criticizing Fox News Channel,
not only for its decision to air the documentary, but for featuring
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a prominent agenda-driven environmentalist
and registered lobbyist for green causes ... as a 'special
correspondent' for the show."
Folbaum made it clear on the Web site that he had made up his mind
ahead of time: "I've learned this simple fact: the earth is heating
up," or as he put it in the broadcast, "Now for the bad news. The
heat is on."
Folbaum didn't stop there. He talked about assigning blame: "Is this
our fault? There are scientists out there who argue that none of
this is human-related. But those experts appear to be in the
minority." So much so that he left them out of the entire report.
However, Folbaum started off his broadcast with this vow: "And here
at Fox News Channel, we like to examine the big issues facing
Americans: terrorism, crime, health care, just to name a few.
Tonight, we make a commitment to shed light, not heat, on one of the
biggest issues looming on the horizon."
The only thing Folbaum shed was balance. In all, the "Fair &
Balanced" network included nearly 30 people in the broadcast and
nearly all were strong believers in climate change. The only other
people represented were a few environmentally friendly speakers who
took no public position on the issue. Folbaum went so far as to
describe the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change as the place "where policy makers turn for the last word on
global warming." What he left out is that the only policy makers who
do that are the ones with a global warming agenda.
The Realities of Global Warming
There are three major issues involving climate change: 1) Is it
happening?; 2) If so, who is to blame?; and 3) What might we do
about it? The Fox special left no doubt about the first two. Yes,
Folbaum said it is happening, although scientists dispute how much
warming has really occurred. The Fox report claimed the earth has
warmed two degrees in the last hundred years. Many other scientists
claim the change is just one degree, and there are strong questions
about the accuracy of the measurements.
In answer to the second question, Folbaum was quick to let the
Sierra Club place blame on corporate America. "So who is to blame
for global warming?" he asked and then let Dan Becker, the club's
Global Warming and Energy Program director, answer. According to
Becker, industry was clearly at fault and he was trying to stop
"corporate polluters claiming to solve the problem."
The special was light on what really could be done about climate
change. While it included some possible choices including ethanol,
bio-diesel and hydrogen energy sources, it also undermined those
options. "While ethanol has plenty of fans already,
environmentalists argue ethanol production and even corn farming is
very polluting," said Folbaum. He went on to point out other
problems with various alternatives, including the million-dollar
cost for a hydrogen-powered car.
A Hollywood Production
The Fox program was a quintessential Hollywood production - complete
with celebrities from Alan Alda to NASCAR driver Paul Dana and
filled with songs from "The Electric Slide" to the theme from the
cartoon "Speed Racer."
It wouldn't be a climate change report without clips from the
left-wing propaganda film "The Day After Tomorrow," and this
broadcast was no exception. Not only did Folbaum use clips from the
movie, he interviewed Jeffrey Nachmanoff, a "co-screenwriter" of the
movie. Folbaum even included the major life changes Nachmanoff was
making to stop climate change. "I changed out light bulbs in my
house to make them high-efficiency light bulbs," explained the
Much of the broadcast focused on the efforts of Laurie David, the
wife of TV writer/actor Larry David, the creator of "Seinfeld." The
November edition of Outside magazine claimed she had managed to
convince Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes to do the special. David had
been on Fox's "On the Record" where she admitted "I'm not a
That didn't matter for a program that made its point with numerous
scary scenarios that included sharks, numerous horrific diseases,
widespread floods and "death and destruction" as one graduate
student Folbaum interviewed put it.
Some Errors That Slipped Into the Broadcast
In addition to the one-sided propaganda of the Fox broadcast, there
were several factual errors:
- Folbaum claimed that "Eight years ago, the Kyoto Protocol was
pushed as a solution. The agreement required the U.S. to cut
emissions by 7 percent" by 2012. That is incorrect. The U.S.
received the strongest sanction and was required to cut emissions 7
percent below 1990 levels - nearly 20 percent below 2004 estimates.
- He quoted former President Bill Clinton advocating for Kyoto. "But
the Bush White House said Kyoto would cost companies and the
American taxpayers too much money," he added. Actually, the massive
cost and job loss figures for Kyoto don't come from the Bush White
House. They come from the government's Energy Information
Administration and were calculated during the Clinton
administration. According to EIA, Kyoto would cost the United States
between $225 billion to more than $400 billion per year. The agency
also predicted signing the treaty would cause widespread employment
loss nationwide ranging from 1.1 million to 4.9 million jobs. And it
wasn't only the Bush White House that rejected the treaty, either -
that was a 95-0 Senate vote.
- The report quoted Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, who
claimed, "It's become too late for the U.S. to realistically meet
its Kyoto goals." Since the U.S. never signed on to the treaty, that
is irrelevant. But what the report left out is that other nations
won't meet Kyoto goals, either. For example, even the Sierra Club of
Canada admitted in its 2004 report card that Canada "has made little
progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Aftenposten reported
in September that Norway's "greenhouse gases" had actually