Fox News Sheds Balance in Climate Change Special

     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 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, Business & Media Institute (BMI) study found Fox News the best of all five major TV networks in its news stories about global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. BMI 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 screenwriter.

     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 scientist."

     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 increased.