Today's (August 3) edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends included a remarkable exchange on the issue of SpongeBob Squarepants, climate change science, and the state of science education in the U.S. Apparently, using cartoons to teach children about important science issues of the day raises hackles at Fox, especially when those issues are at odds with their political perspectives. In particular, Fox & Friends attacked SpongeBob for an episode in which the role of human emissions (or at least SpongeBob and Mr. Krab's emissions) of carbon dioxide in global warming is made clear -- a scientific fact well understood for over a century.
Fox's Steve Doocy acknowledges that the planet is warming; but doesn't understand why. He says "the big question is, 'is it manmade, or is it just one of those gigantic climatic phases that we're going through.'" A colleague says "It's unproven science."
But for Gretchen Carlson, it isn't enough that the show tackled an issue of public concern, she just doesn't understand SpongeBob at all. She said "it's hard to even follow sometimes," while another commentator is heard saying "I don't get it."
[Thanks to Media Matters for pointing this out]:
Of course, the idea that humans are largely responsible for the growing changes in climate that we are observing around the world is not scientifically controversial -- just politically controversial at places like Fox & Friends. Every single professional scientific organization in the geosciences and every single national academy of sciences acknowledges the major contribution of humans to climate change -- here is just a partial list. There is still controversy, especially over how policymakers should tackle the problem, but the "scientific controversy" is only evident in the right-wing media among commentators, bloggers, and editorial boards.
What is particularly ironic about this Fox & Friends episode is that after misrepresenting the science themselves, they lament the state of science education in the U.S. and call for improvement. Perhaps we could start with the commentators at Fox & Friends.
Follow Peter H. Gleick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PeterGleick