Climate deniers get more media play than scientists: study

By Marlowe HOOD
Climate deniers have garnered far more media attention than prominent climate scientists over the years, fuelling public confusion and a slow response to global warming Photo: AFP/File

Climate deniers have garnered far more media attention than prominent climate scientists over the years, fuelling public confusion and slowing the response to global warming, researchers reported Tuesday.

From 2000 through 2016, hundreds of academics, business people and politicians who doubted global warming or attributed rising temperatures to "natural" causes got 50 percent more ink than an equal number of top scientists, according to a study in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed journal.

Even in a more select group of mainstream English language news outlets with high standards of evidence -- from the New York Times and The Guardian to The Wall Street Journal and the Daily Telegraph -- skeptics were still cited slightly more often.

In reality, there has long been overwhelming agreement among climate scientists that global warming -- caused mainly by burning fossil fuels -- poses a major threat to civilization and much of life on Earth.

An increase of only one degree Celsius had triggered rising seas and a crescendo of deadly extreme weather, and Earth is on track to heat up another three degrees by century's end.

"Climate change contrarians have successfully organized a strong voice within politics and science communication," noted the authors, led by Alexander Petersen at the University of California at Merced.

"Such disproportionate media visibility of contrarian arguments and actors misrepresents the distribution of expert-based beliefs," they continued. "It also undermines the credible authority of career climate change scientists and reinforces the trend of climate change contrarians presiding over public scientific discourse."

Over the last year, public concern over global warming has grown dramatically, sparked in part by an October U.N. report warning that only a wholesale overhaul of the global economy and consumption patterns can forestall climate chaos.

In Europe, green parties running on a platform of climate action gaining nearly two dozen seats in EU parliamentary elections. Climate protesters drawing from the civil disobedience playbook of Marin Luther King and Gandhi, meanwhile, have spilled into the streets.

In the United States, a call for climate action has become a litmus test among Democratic candidates for president, and many young people have rallied around the legislative initiative known as the Green New Deal.

A handful of Western governments have pledged to slash carbon emissions to "net zero" by mid-century.

But even today, established media continue to provide platforms for dubious or discredited assertions about global warming.

Last week, for example, U.S. business magazine Forbes published an article on its website entitled "Global Warming? An Israeli Astrophysicist Provides Alternative View That is Not Easy To Reject".

The "alternative view" -- that warming is caused by the Sun and not CO2 emissions -- is thoroughly discredited, and the magazine was compelled within hours to remove the piece.

In testimony last month before the U.S. Senate that took on confessional tones, long-time Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz revealed a key moment nearly 20 years ago in the campaign to blunt action against global warming.

"You need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate," he told party operatives in a memo during George W. Bush's first term in office.

The disquieting term "global warming", he further suggested, should be replaced with "climate change".

"I'm here before you to say that I was wrong in 2001," he told a Senate committee.

In the new study, Petersen and colleagues scanned 100,000 news items published from 2000 through 2016 for bylines, citations and mentions of 386 scientists, and 386 "contrarians".

"Tallying across all media sources we find climate change contrarian media visibility to be 49 percent greater than climate change visibility," they wrote.

The imbalance was made worse by the amplifying effect of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, they added.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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"Balance" in the media is a joke, to be honest. What really matters is how much power is behind any position. In the case of climate change denial, it has been a huge amount of power behind something that is inaccurate science. 97% vs. 3% of don't knows and the odd opponent is not balance.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

We are running out of time to turn around global warming. The people behind Big Oil and Coal, or at least their descendants, will suffer the same fate as the rest of us if nothing is done, and soon.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Climate has been changing naturally for centuries, CO2 only makes up 400 parts per million there's no way that's a threat, its what plants breath relax everyone the worlds not gonna fall to pieces.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

 CO2 only makes up 400 parts per million there's no way that's a threat

As you're repeating your claims, I might as well repeat my response:

0.04 percent may sound small, but the key question is what is the likelihood of infrared radiation leaving the earth encountering a CO2 molecule. If you consider that if all the CO2 in the atmosphere were in a single layer, that layer would be over a meter thick, I think we can say that's a lot of CO2.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

The Kochs and other climate change deniers have spent upwards of half a billion dollars since 2002 in an effort to undermine science and scientists that empirically show the burning of fossil fuels to be the primary driver of human-induced climate change, and the greatest threat to the Earth . Anyone interested in knowing the backstory should read Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The man made climate change is a SCAM.

Even if it wasn't no amount of Spin/lip service and handing governments money will make any difference anyway.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It has been long obvious to any with real scientific background that the entire climate change farce has been another attempt by liberal and fantasy based media pundits to create another power base by skewing and over dramatizing some rather basic natural shifts and trends that have been part of the planet's long history. I don't even bother reading any of the doom saying coverage and like the LGBT farce, just marvel that modern media has become so much the tool of rather amazingly gullible and ignorant junk.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

And what's your "real scientific background"?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The sky is falling. ....

Now gimmie all yar money. ..quick !

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Largely capitalism, specifically industry, only makes a profit because it passes on the full costs of doing the business to society, the rest of us, and the environment.

It's just been the way of capitalism since it was perverted in the C19th to exclude what are called "externalities" or external costs. Very read costs but ones that don't appear on the spreadsheet.

I've always thought that the "global warming or not" debate missed the point and was engaged in merely as it was a distraction from the great problem.

Stopping all and any non-renewable, non-sustainable, non-biodegradeable industrial products entering the ecosystem.

Industry's waste, by-products and, ultimately, garbage.

We need to be working towards a point where NOTHING that is not renewable, sustainable or quickly and easily biodegradeable should be entering the ecosystem ... and then to focus on remedial action removing the 150 plus years of industrial era pollution.

Your corporation makes smoke or gas? You pay to remove it or pay to stop it entering the eco-system. It's your - not society's, not the environment's, not some other species - problem.

Your corporation rips up a tree or some other natural resource you did not actually make, you pay to replace it and make it good after.

Funnily enough, this kind of full cost, circular economy was what Adam Smith conceived of as capitalism, not the theft, vandalism and short termist despoilation that passes for it today ... getting rich by dumping responsibility for it all on to future generations.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

CO2 only makes up 400 parts per million there's no way that's a threat

And ozone only comprises 0.000004% of the atmosphere, even much less than the 0.0360% CO2

But oh, what's 0.000004% ozone gonna do? It's so small percentage - surely there's no way the loss of ozone in the atmosphere is a threat. Heheh, get ready for SPF 1,000,000

It's not the percentage that matters - it's what the substances do

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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