Revealed: 1 in 3 GB News Hosts Spread Climate Denial On Air in 2022
MP calls for ‘urgent’ Ofcom action as GB News deploys the ‘Fox News playbook’ on climate change.
By Adam Barnett on May 26, 2023 @ 04:04 PDT
A majority of GB News hosts attacked climate action on the channel in 2022, while one in three spread climate science denial, a DeSmog analysis can reveal.
Opponents of green policies have seized on the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to denounce the UK’s net zero target and push for new, environmentally-damaging fossil fuel extraction.
Broadcaster GB News has faced criticism for spreading anti-green messages to millions of viewers since its launch in June 2021. GB News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos has previously defended the platform by claiming that it presents “multiple sides of the climate debate”.
However, an in-depth DeSmog analysis of GB News’s output from 2022 reveals a pattern of hostility to climate action, including outright climate science denial.
DeSmog reviewed dozens of YouTube video clips of 31 GB News hosts over a 12 month period. Our analysis found that at least 16 hosts (52 percent) attacked on air the UK’s climate policies, including its net zero target.
Presenters claimed that net zero will cause “death by poverty and starvation”, “poses an existential threat to the free world”, and called for the UK to “drill, baby, drill” for more fossil fuels.
The analysis also showed that ten hosts (32 percent) broadcast views in 2022 that challenged or rejected the scientific consensus on climate change. Presenters dismissed the role of climate change in extreme weather, such as the UK’s record 2022 heatwave, claiming “the polar bears are doing fine” and that “the ice in Antarctica is getting thicker every day”.
The world’s leading climate science group, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2022 that efforts to tackle climate change were being delayed by “rhetoric and misinformation that undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency”.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) MP John Nicolson – who sits on Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee – called DeSmog’s analysis “damning” and urged Ofcom to take “urgent” action, while US-based media and climate expert Allison Fisher said that GB News was using “a similar playbook as Fox News”.
At least four GB News hosts have ties to right-wing political parties that are hostile to climate action, while its ranks include well-known anti-green MPs from the Conservative benches. The channel also frequently platforms activists from climate science denial groups such as the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
All but two of the hosts who spread climate delay and denial in 2022 are still working at GB News. And, in recent months, GB News has hired two more anti-green MPs as presenters: former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, and current Conservative Party Deputy Chair Lee Anderson.
A GB News spokesperson told DeSmog: “GB News embraces a wide range of voices on all major issues such as climate change and policy.” They claimed that DeSmog’s research excluded “other hosts, guests, politicians, and commentators on GB News who have robustly and resoundingly argued different views on climate policy and science”.
Adapted image. Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0), Lee Goddard (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) / Infogram
‘Polluting Public Discourse’
Communications regulator Ofcom has repeatedly found GB News to have broken broadcasting rules with false claims about Covid vaccines, and is probing the channel’s use of MPs as hosts. But, until now, GB News’s climate coverage has largely evaded scrutiny.
“GB News prioritises polemicists over journalists,” Nicolson told DeSmog. “Many of GB News’s broadcasts pollute public discourse with right-wing propaganda.
“There is an urgent need for Ofcom now to act. We do not want to go further down the American Fox News route of unchallenged, often scientifically illiterate, culture war propaganda spewing into our homes.”
An Ofcom spokesperson told DeSmog: “In line with freedom of expression, broadcasters are free to broadcast programmes about climate change from a range of different perspectives.
“Under our rules, however, any scientifically unsubstantiated claims must be handled with care and put properly into context – for example, by receiving adequate challenge – to ensure audiences are not misled.”
‘Net Zero Must Die’
In 2022, GB News frequently aired claims about climate policy that run counter to the scientific consensus, DeSmog’s findings show.
Net zero targets were a favourite topic. The UK’s 2050 net zero target is legally binding and backed by the world’s top climate scientists. Rapidly cutting carbon emissions is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including drought, famine, and ill health, according to the IPCC.
Yet, net zero was the subject of attacks from GB News hosts last year, with the presenters often veering into conspiracy theories.
For example on 5 November, host Neil Oliver used his show to attack “net zero [and] the green agenda”, which he claimed was part of “a hellish potpourri of policies guaranteed to condemn hundreds of millions to death by poverty, death by starvation”.
Mark Steyn claimed on an 18 May episode of The Steyn Line that climate policy was part of a conspiracy to bring about “a controlled demolition of the western world” by “sinister globalist[s]”. Steyn parted ways with GB News this year after Ofcom ruled that his false claims about the safety of Covid vaccines had broken its standards over potentially harmful content.
Flagship host Dan Wootton argued on 10 March that the war in Ukraine meant “for now the rush to net zero must die”. He urged the government to “frack, frack, frack” for shale gas. In a 2 November show, Wootton attacked Rishi Sunak for agreeing to attend the “eco doomfest” COP27 climate summit, while a graphic on the screen referred to “the deranged march to net zero”.
Mark Dolan, in a 22 September episode of Mark Dolan Tonight, said: “Blindly pursuing net zero threatens to hasten the decline of the west, and therefore poses an existential threat to the free world.”
In a 9 December show, Dolan praised plans to open a new coal mine in Cumbria, saying the UK should “drill, baby, drill” for coal, oil and gas, and adding: “I think the push for net zero here is another element of liberal progressivism which is infecting the west.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that any new fossil fuel projects would be incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. Coal emits the most CO2 of any fossil fuel.
In July, star host Nigel Farage – who has a long record of opposing climate action – used his GB News platform to launch a campaign for a Brexit-style referendum on net zero.
On 6 December, GB News host and Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox argued for scrapping “those woke billions” that “we are spending each year to appease the sun monster with offerings of net zero”.
Fellow host Nana Akua claimed on 16 July that net zero was “a money-spinning, extreme and impossible goal” that “only relates to the zero sum you will have in your bank account by the time they’re done with you.”
View the GB News climate disinformation profile
‘Man-Made Climate Change – I Don’t Buy It’
GB News hosts also frequently challenged or rejected the scientific consensus on climate change in 2022.
On 16 July, during the UK’s record-breaking summer heatwave, host Calvin Robinson accused the Met Office of “alarmism”, adding: “Man-made climate change, I don’t buy it, because how much of an impact do we really make if we’re talking about carbon levels?”
On her 16 July show, Akua accused the print media of “climate alarmism” over warnings about the heatwave, which she said “really isn’t that bad,” adding of such warnings that “in any case, most of the time, they’re wrong”.
Six days later, Akua said: “If we [humans] only generate 3.5 percent of CO2 and the rest of it is natural, then surely the CO2 is not the reason for the climate changing because it’s such a small proportion?”
A day earlier, host Beverley Turner called heatwave warnings “fear mongering” in order to “facilitate state control over your life”. Turner also spread baseless claims warning viewers to “be aware of green issue propaganda which will serve large corporate interests”, which is “part of a plan to register us all to a Biometric ID and a social credit score system that’ll tell you when you can and can’t leave the house for the sake of the planet”.
On 8 August, Farage questioned the link between extreme weather and climate change, saying: “Which is it? Is climate change giving us floods in the [US] midwest or drought in southern England? I’m confused.”
These claims about the heatwave contradict the IPCC, the Met Office, and a study by the World Weather Attribution service that said the heatwave was made “at least 10 times more likely” by human-caused climate change.
In a 22 September segment, Mark Dolan cast doubt on climate science, saying: “When it comes to global warming, my mind is open, but after two and a half years of, in my view anti-scientific Covid policies, and junk modelling in relation to the virus, forgive me for having questions and not slavishly following ‘the science’.”
In a 10 December show, Neil Oliver asserted that “the polar bears are doing fine” and “the ice in Antarctica is getting thicker every day” – claims not supported by the scientific evidence.
Professor J. Timmons Roberts, co-author of an influential paper on the “discourses of climate delay”, told DeSmog that GB News presenters were “casting doubt on the urgency of meaningful action on climate change and the viability of solutions we now have to this urgent problem.
“These are classic discourses of delay, honed by the fossil fuel industry and its allies, building on the decades of experience of the tobacco PR machine,” he said.
“GB News appears to be utilising a similar playbook as Fox News to push climate misinformation and throw sand in the gears of climate action,” said Allison Fisher, Climate and Energy Program Director for the US-based media watchdog Media Matters.
“Attempting to discredit climate science, denying the link between our warming planet and ever-increasing extreme weather, all while keeping up a steady drumbeat of attacks on climate solutions and policies intended to address the climate crisis, are tactics Fox News has used for years to misinform its audiences and delay action on climate change.”
All of the hosts cited in this article have been approached for comment.
At least four GB News hosts have ties to political parties with a record of climate science denial: Nigel Farage, former leader of the Brexit Party (now Reform UK) who also heads up the anti-green group Vote Power Not Poverty; Calvin Robinson, who was a Brexit Party parliamentary candidate in 2019 and a former Reclaim Party advisor; Arlene Foster, former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party; and Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox.
Another host, Philip Davies, was one of five MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Davies, Anderson, and Esther McVey – who is also a GB News presenter – are all members of the anti-climate action Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbench Conservative MPs.
Owned by the Dubai-based investment firm Legatum Group, GB News reached 2.87 million viewers in December alone, reportedly beating rival station TalkTV in key time slots. Despite this, the broadcaster lost £30 million in its first year on air.
The Legatum Institute think tank, which is run by the Legatum Group, has previously received donations from a foundation linked to the US-based Koch Industries oil dynasty. Three of the five parties with significant control of GB News’s parent company, All Perspectives Limited, are executives at Legatum.
GB News last year appointed a new chair, Alan McCormick, who is a partner at Legatum and previously shared articles online which dismissed the threat from climate change.
Legatum Group did not respond when contacted for comment.
GB News not only gives a voice to climate denial and delay via its hosts; it also platforms guests who are hostile to climate science and net zero policies.
Frequent guests include Lois Perry of the climate science denial group CAR26, as well as figures from the GWPF, the UK’s principal climate denial group, which campaigns as Net Zero Watch. On 30 April this year, GB News hosted the GWPF’s head of policy Harry Wilkinson in a segment on net zero.
GB News has also promoted GWPF material under its own banner. In May 2022, GB News published an online story criticising government subsidies for wind farms which, although it was based on a Net Zero Watch analysis, did not reveal the group as its source.
GB News’s online story carried quotes from Conservative MPs Steve Baker and Craig Mackinlay, both of whom are Net Zero Watch allies. These quotes were identical to the statements featured in the Net Zero Watch press release.
The on-air version of the story featured an interview with Andrew Montford, deputy director of Net Zero Watch, while the story was also cited in a new report by the influential Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank that called for a “phase out” of renewable energy subsidies.
Richard Wilson, board member of the Stop Funding Heat campaign, said GB News was pushing “biased messaging on climate change and net zero.”
Wilson urged advertisers to pull support for the channel, saying: “Any company that cares about climate change, and the future of humanity, should be steering well clear of GB News.”
Fisher at Media Matters added: “At a time when the window to act on global warming is rapidly closing, the last thing the world needs is another Fox News.”
For a full breakdown of GB News’s record on climate, visit its new profile in DeSmog’s climate disinformation database.
Additional research by Joey Grostern
Using online video footage of GB News segments, mainly on YouTube, DeSmog analysed the comments made on air in 2022 by the presenters listed on the GB News website.
We excluded six of these 37 listed hosts – Mark Longhurst, Rosie Wright, Darren McCaffrey, Mark White, Ellie Costello and royal correspondent Cameron Walker – as they were news anchors or reporters who did not regularly express opinions.
DeSmog’s analysis found that, of the 31 GB News hosts, 16 (52 percent) attacked climate action on air, while 10 (32 percent) challenged or rejected basic climate science.
We defined “attacks on climate action” as hosts attacking “net zero” and efforts to cut CO2 emissions, or supporting a major increase in fossil fuel extraction, e.g. overturning the UK’s fracking ban or opening a new coal mine. We excluded specific calls for more North Sea oil and gas extraction because, while this still contradicts the IPCC and IEA, it is a more mainstream position, held for example by the current UK government.
We defined “climate science denial” as hosts rejecting or casting doubt on the role of human-caused CO2 emissions on global warming, and on its role in extreme weather events such as last year’s record heatwave in the UK.
The analysis did not include the regular attacks on climate protesters by GB News, or contestable claims about the UK being a “world leader” on climate action.
In drawing up these definitions DeSmog was guided by the peer-reviewed 2020 “discourses of climate delay” paper published by Cambridge University.
We were not able to review all of GB News’s 2022 output, as not all of it is currently publicly available after live broadcast, so there may be more examples that were not captured in this analysis. We also found that several hosts made delay or denial statements in 2021 or 2023 which fell outside the time frame and so were not included in this analysis. A full dataset is available upon request.