There is a 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming. Of the 7 largest peer-reviewed studies by reputable climate scientist there is between a 90%- 100% agreement that humans are the main factor responsible for climate change (Cook 2016).
Furthermore, it was found that “the higher the expertise in climate science, the higher the agreement that humans were causing global warming” (Cook 2016).
Even with this consensus, studies have shown that across the board there are still a large portion of skeptics and public unaware that there is a consensus.
Firstly, how did this happen?
This study conducted by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism found that “one third of articles in Australia’s major newspapers do not accept the consensus position that human beings are contributing to climate change” (Bacon 2013).
The study analysed the content of ten major Aussie newspaper between February and April 2011-12, totalling 601 climate change articles. Measurement was segmented into 4 view-points: accepted, rejected, suggested doubt and unable to discern (only a couple couldn’t be deciphered). Articles deemed sceptical were found to “reject” or “suggest doubt” about the 97% consensus. Our two biggest newspapers, News Corp’s Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph “were more than 60% sceptical about anthropogenic climate change”, with the Herald Sun recording a whopping 67% rejection of the consensus (Bacon 2013).
Five News Corporation publications, The Australian (48% of coverage was sceptical) , Daily Telegraph (63%), Herald Sun (67%), Adelaide Advertiser (28%) and the NT News (42%) accounted for most of the scepticism.
News Corp produced a much higher proportion (51%) of comment articles on climate science than Fairfax (27%). In the Herald Sun 97% of comment articles were sceptical. This is largely due to Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, who wrote over half of all the words on climate science in the paper. Bolt plays a significant and strategic role in the production of climate scepticism in Australia and is syndicated in metropolitan and regional publications around Australia.
Alas, inaccurate climate change reporting is not just Australia’s problem. This report found that 93% of Fox News stories on climate change were determined to be misleading (Adler & Huerta 2012). No wonder this US Representative Sample found that majority of people believe that only 50% of scientist agree we caused climate change (Cook, 2010).
Secondly, why does it matter what the public thinks? As John Oliver puts it, “the debate on climate change should not be whether or not it exists, it should be what should we do about it.”
Simply put, correlation has been found between belief in the consensus and support of climate policy. A 2011 study discovered that “people who believe that scientists disagree on global warming tend to feel less certain that global warming is occurring, and show less support for climate policy”.
Thus mass media publishing inaccurate and skepticism-fostering articles are empirically damaging to climate change efforts that need the acceptance and backing of the public to make any real change. Going forward, I will be exploring the importance of correcting these climate change misconceptions including policies & procedures in place to combat this example within imbalanced media. I will also be exploring both ends of the censorship spectrum, where it could be considered unethical to quash the voice of the other 3%.
Part of Malcolm Turnbull and the LNPs’ environmental policy.
Cook, J 2010, Consensus confirmed: over 90% of climate scientists believe we’re causing global warming, The Conversation, weblog post, April 2016, viewed 5th August 2016, <http://theconversation.com/consensus-confirmed-over-90-of-climate-scientists-believe-were-causing-global-warming-57654>.
Ding, D, Maibach, E, Zhao, X, Roser-Renouf, C & Leiserowitz, L 2011, ‘Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement’, Nature Climate Change, vol. 1, pp. 462–466.
University of Colorado at Boulder, 2010, ‘Role of mass media in climate change skepticism’, ScienceDaily, viewed 5th August 2016, <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100222140619.htm>.
Adler, D & Huerta, A 2012, ‘Is News Corp. Failing Science?’, Union of Concerned Scientists, viewed 6th August 2016, <http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/global_warming/Is-News-Corp-Failing-Science.pdf>.