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By Max Greenberg
The same week a major report found that global warming is both unequivocal and “extremely likely” to be manmade, Fox News announced that it has hired longtime Washington Post columnist George Will, who has helped cultivate a “climate of doubt” about the issue, as a commentator and analyst.
Will is expected to be a featured analyst on programs including Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday after more than 30 years as a regular panelist on ABC’s This Week. This provides another prominent platform for a man whose opinions already appear in The Washington Post and hundreds of other newspapers.
Will has often used these platforms to regurgitate common misleading claims from those who deny climate change and grossly distort climate data. In a 2009 column, Will claimed that global sea ice levels were unchanged from 1979, citing the Arctic Climate Research Center. That center responded that this was a “disturbing” misstatement, as its data showed a decline in sea ice “roughly equal to the area of Texas, California and Oklahoma combined.” The Post‘s ombudsman eventually criticized the fact-checking process that had led to the error.
Recently, Will cherry-picked a year with record wildfires in an attempt to deny the trend toward larger and longer-duration U.S. wildfires. That claim found its way to Fox News within days despite the extensive research showing that, as the U.S. Global Change Research Program has explained, “wildfires in the U.S. are already increasing due to warming.”
Will’s repeated promotion of climate misinformation has led the late Los Angeles Times editorial writer Dan Turner to pronounce the columnist’s misunderstanding of some elements of climate change “mystifying,” and a Discover Magazine columnist to write that Will is “helping to muddle our collective scientific literacy.”
This climate misinformation will likely find a welcome home at Fox News, which has frequently come under fire for sowing doubt about the veracity of climate change and focusing on purported “scandals” rather than the scientific consensus. One study found that Fox News viewers were “significantly more likely” to be misinformed about the scientific consensus on climate change due to such coverage, which often creates confusion under the guise of “balance.” Similarly, a 2012 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that coverage of climate science by Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, has been “overwhelmingly misleading,” despite Murdoch’s 2007 pledge that his media outlets would treat manmade climate change as “a fact.”
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