Feeds

US trounces UK in climate scepticism jibber-jabber

Surprise! Conservative opinion pieces less balanced than liberal ones

Remote control for virtualized desktops

A pair of UK researchers have surveyed international coverage of climate scepticism, both during the months following the IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report and during the late-2009 "Climategate" contretemps, and have discovered that among the six countries' publications they examined, the UK and US had by far the most "articles containing sceptical voices."

The survey results are discussed in an article presented in IOPscience's Environmental Research Letters entitled "Cross-national comparison of the presence of climate scepticism in the print media in six countries, 2007–10" by UK researchers James Painter and Teresa Ashe, of the Universities of Oxford and London, respectively.

Painter and Ashe concluded that "news coverage of scepticism is mostly limited to the USA and the UK; that there is a strong correspondence between the political leaning of a newspaper and its willingness to quote or use uncontested sceptical voices in opinion pieces; and that the type of sceptics who question whether global temperatures are warming are almost exclusively found in the US and UK newspapers."

The pair define "climate scepticism" and "climate denial" as "discourse [that] challenges the views of mainstream climate scientists and environmental policy advocates, contending that parts, or all, of the scientific treatment and political interpretation of climate change are unreliable."

As examples of this discourse, Painter and Ashe cite mathemetician and mining consultant Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit and meteorologist Anthony Watts' Watts Up With That? websites, along with three books by UK authors: accountant Andrew Montford's The Hockey Stick Illusion, journalist Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster, and former energy secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson's An Appeal to Reason. They also note the seminal climate-scepticism book by the American reporter Ross Gelbspan, The Heat Is On.

The article details the increasing efforts by researchers to determine the patterns of "uncontested scepticism" in the media. One such study, Painter and Ashe report, determined that "of the three main [US] cable channels (CNN, MSNBC and Fox News), Fox was the most likely to be dismissive of climate change science."

The authors also note that although there have been a number of studies of the "organizational links between climate scepticism and conservative think tanks/business communities" that have "resulted in a tendency to view it as a discourse with conservative affinities," those studies' conclusion have not been tested outside the US.

To begin their research on climate scepticism outside the US, Painter and Ashe first defined three type of sceptics:

  • Type 1: "those who deny the global warming trend"
  • Type 2: "those who accept the trend, but either question the anthropogenic contribution saying it is overstated, negligent or non-existent compared to other factors like natural variation, or say it is not known with sufficient certainty what the main causes are"
  • Type 3: "those who accept human causation, but claim impacts may be benign or beneficial, or that the models are not robust enough, and/or question the need for strong regulatory policies or interventions"

To survey coverage outside the US, Painter and Ashe chose both a left-leaning and right-leaning newspaper in six countries: the UK, US, France, India, Brazil, and China – although the left-right balance broke down in that last country. "For obvious reasons," they write, "this was not possible in the case of China."

They then combed through these papers for climate coverage during two periods, the first being mid-November 2009 through mid-February 2010, during which the University of East Anglia "Climategate" story broke, the Copenhagen climate summit took place, errors were alleged in the IPPC's Fourth Assessment, the UK's sceptical lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation was formed, and there was "a cold winter in many parts of the northern hemisphere."

Chart displaying finding from 'Cross-national comparison of the presence of climate scepticism in the print media in six countries, 2007'

Articles containing sceptical voices as a percentage of the all articles covering climate change or global warming,
mid-November 2009 through mid-February 2010

The second – although earlier – period included the months of February through April 2007, which saw the launch of two IPCC reports. This time frame was chosen, Painter and Ashe write, to provide "a sense of whether climate change stories generally involved the reporting of sceptical voices, even when scepticism was not at the centre of the story."

Chart displaying finding from 'Cross-national comparison of the presence of climate scepticism in the print media in six countries, 2007'

Articles containing sceptical voices as a percentage of the all articles covering climate change or global warming,
February through April 2007

Due to the different sizes of the space each newspaper devoted to news-coverage, Painter and Ashe reasoned, the most accurate way to compare country coverage was to determine the percentage of articles that contained any of the three types of scepticism among all articles found that focused on climate change or global warming.

When the data was reviewed in this way, the US carried a far higher percentage of climate-change articles that contained a sceptical voice than did any other country studied during the 2009-to-2010 period. The UK's percentage was also markedly higher than that of any of the other four countries surveyed – understandable due the regional interest in "Climategate" and the series of what Painter and Ashe characterized as the "in-depth features" in the Guardian written by Fred Pearce and covering that controversy.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.