US and UK newspapers more likely to include climate skepticism in articles
Newspapers in the US and UK are more likely than publications in other countries to include climate change skepticism in their global warming coverage, according to a new study in Environmental Research Letters.
The researchers categorized climate skeptics as people who denied the planet was warming, accepted warming but doubted whether humans were responsible, or accepted that humans had caused warming but disputed whether the consequences would be severe or whether action needed to be taken. While previous research had explored how climate skeptics organize themselves or affect policy, fewer studies had examined their representation in the media.
The team wanted to find out if coverage of skeptics differed among countries. To investigate, the researchers analyzed more than 3,000 articles about climate change from print news publications in the US, UK, France, Brazil, India, and China. The authors tried to include both left- and right-leaning newspapers; for example, the US publications studied were the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
First, the team focused on articles appearing between November 2009 and February 2010, a period when skeptics alleged that University of East Anglia climate scientists had manipulated data. During that time, 34 percent of US news articles and 19 percent of UK articles included skeptical viewpoints. In contrast, only 7 percent of China’s articles, 6 percent of India and France’s, and 3 percent of Brazil’s did. From February to April 2007, when Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports were published, the US also had the highest percentage of articles with skeptical voices.
The team then tried to determine if the publication’s political leaning made a difference and found that some right-leaning newspapers were less likely to include voices that challenged skeptics on the opinion pages. For example, the New York Times included viewpoints countering the skeptics for all 14 of its opinion articles that contained skeptical voices, whereas the Wall Street Journal did so for only one of its 17 opinion articles. — Roberta Kwok | 5 October 2012
Source: Painter, J. and T. Ashe. 2012. Cross-national comparison of the presence of climate scepticism in the print media in six countries, 2007-10. Environmental Research Letters doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/004005.
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