Climate Change Reporting and Bias

By
Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

The British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that the BBC has adopted new editorial guidelines that expressly call for its reporters to be impartial on science issues, suggesting that the new rules are a response to criticism that the storied news agency was not giving adequate coverage to climate change skeptics.

The Telegraph story is thin on details, and it doesn’t appear that the new guidelines reference climate change specifically, but the story raises a broader question about how reporters should cover global warming skeptics.

In the United States, there is no doubt that many Americans are skeptical of climate change. An Oct. 10 Rasmussen poll shows that while 59 percent of Americans see global warming as a “serious issue,” just 39 percent think climate change is caused by human activity. About 42 percent think global warming is caused by “long-term planetary trends” and 7 percent think other causes lead to climate change.

At the same time, some Republicans in Congress (see Inhofe, James) have raised questions about climate change. And Think Progress has identified a slew of Senate races and 14 key House races in the upcoming midterm elections in which the Republican candidate has raised questions about the science behind climate change and/or made clear his or her opposition to comprehensive climate legislation. It has also identified four gubernatorial races with Republicans who have raised similar questions.

And yet the science tells a different story. Scientists have warned that we must reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or risk the effects of catastrophic climate change, including drought, desertification and sea-level rise.

In the end, it appears to come down to politics versus science. In the world of Washington, facts are often secondary (see panels, death) and conflict gets top billing. Scientific findings and reports rarely take center stage, and when they do it’s often through the lens of politics (Politician A loved the report, Politician B slammed the report).

Over the next couple months, I’m going to make an effort to report more on the science behind climate change. We’ll see how that goes…

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22 Comments

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mememine
Comment posted October 14, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

I am a progressive and a liberal, a former CO2 Theory believer and now a progressive GREEN CO2 FEAR DENIER.

I suggest you remaining believers do the same. This is our Iraq War of WMD’s and it is not sustainable with voter support anyways. Let it go.

Preserve, protect and respect the planet, not save and rescue it from a neocon-like false war of lies and fear mongering. Are we the new neocons now? Voters think believers WANT this misery to be real. They see right through this CO2 false enemy.

We need to stop spreading fear like Bush Jr. babies and start facing the future with courage, not fear. At least for our children’s sake?

Lets’ be real liberals again: SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE.

The sooner we back off of the CO2 mistake, the better. If you think voters are still with us on the CO2 issue, you are the new denier. Get ahead of the curve folks.


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Trackback posted October 14, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

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Jamie Friedland
Comment posted October 16, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

Oy. First commenter: assuming you are what you claim to be, if you think progressives are pursuing a climate agenda because the votes are or aren't there, you're really missing the point. It's a serious problem, so we need to and will continue to try to address it.

In regard to this article, however, I am a somewhat recent Duke graduate and completed an honors thesis on this topic. I conducted a media analysis investigating “balance as bias” in the print media coverage of climate change.

Today's media have embraced balance as the premiere journalistic value, unseating objective accuracy. In political coverage, a pure contest of opinion, 50-50 coverage is a good way to minimize bias. However, this is an inappropriate model to apply to coverage of established science; when you artificially balance what 99% of climate scientists say with equal coverage of industry funded hacks, that balance is its own form of bias.

A brief summary of my results are available at the link below, in a column I wrote for the Duke newspaper and I would be happy to provide the full data/thesis to anyone who is interested.
http://politicalclimate.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/balancing-act/

-Jamie


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