Clumsy Media Bias Dwindling, But U.S. Still Behind the U.K.

Fri, 2007-11-09 13:36Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Clumsy Media Bias Dwindling, But U.S. Still Behind the U.K.

A new paper by Oxford Research Fellow Max Boykoff shows that phony media balance has almost disappeared in U.S. climate change coverage.

But Boykoff's paper also shows an embarrassing difference in the extent and quality of climate change coverage in the United States, compared to coverage in the United Kingdom. For example, he found that between 2003 and 2006, UK papers covered the story three times as often as U.S. papers and were significantly more likely to present it accurately.

Boykoff, a James Martin Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, released a landmark paper three years ago with his brother Jules, demonstrating that the “prestige press” in North America was misrepresenting climate science by usually reporting one voice attesting to that science and one voice denying it. While the scientific literature between 1993 and 2003 was unanimous in accepting that human activities were making climate change worse, Boykoff and Boykoff found that newspaper stories between 1988 and 2000 reported in more than half the cases that there was still a scientific dispute.

Max Boykoff has now updated that study and extended it to the U.K.

He surveyed news coverage in four U.S. prestige newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times) and three prestige papers in the UK (The Times, The Independent and The Guardian).

Boykoff's first discovery is that UK papers have been giving the climate change story almost three times as much attention. During the three-year survey period, the three UK papers carried 6,922 stories on climate change, compared to 2543 articles in US newspapers. He also found that in 2003 - at a time when U.S. papers were giving the story “he said/she said” treatment more than 35 per cent of the time - U.K papers were quoting contrarians in only 1.67 per cent of their stories. In the time since, however, contrarian coverage in both countries has dwindled to a level below statistical significance.

In his conclusion, Boykoff speculated on several reasons for the difference in coverage. One was the political split in the U.S.

Also, a 2007 National Journal poll revealed that 95 per cent of Democrats and just 13 per cent of Republicans answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you think that it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?’ (There is an obvious chicken-and-egg problem here: was American media coverage biased by politicians or were Republicans intransigent because they were being misinformed by their newspapers?)

Boykoff also reported on the political manipulation of climate change research by the Bush administration and, especially, the intervention by think tanks and front groups funded by energy interests, particularly Exxon Mobil.

Regardless of the causes, however, Boykoff's research proves what we have suspected: the U.S. media blew this story - seriously letting down the people who rely on American journalists to show leadership - and give accurate information - on issues important to the whole world.

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In fact the scientists say that recent solar activity has not been excessive and thus cannot be the cause of recent global warming.

Where is your scientific evidence that it has been excessive? psychic powers, and providing me a strong feeling, a vision if you will....his source is a blog or media report that isnt based on any science at all but some garbage put out by a think tank.....just the feeling I have.

Now that I believe. :) But I like the phrase Doonesbury came up with: "belief tanks"

Solar activity has been at a steady level for the last 60 years and has had nothing to do with the global temperature increase since 1975.
This is from the "Usoskin 2005" studies by a group of scientists from Finland and Germany.
The Max Planck Institute has found that irradience has been steady since 1950.
Direct satellite measurements have found no rising trend since 1978.
We, the human species, are most definitely "breaking" it.
All the information is out there proving it and it's not coming from "eco-wankers" as you so quaintly put it.

I am always amazed that people continue to think that climate scientists would NOT have considered, first and foremost, what impact solar variability and orbit etc would have on climate change. The whole point of the growing concern and focus on man-made GHG emissions is that when taken together, natural forces (solar, orbital, volcanic, forest fires -- whatever) are insufficient to explain the current rapid & accelerating rise in GHGs or the recent rise in temperature. They've considered it. They've moved on. WE ARE PAST THAT NOW. If there was any doubt, it has been laid to rest by a conclusive paper published (peer reviewed) earlier this year. It analysed recent solar activity and demonstrated that, as VJ & Tom have pointed out, solar activity has been stable for 60 years.

It isn't an "anti-capitalist, global socialist" cabal that has been doing the science.

Frankly, I'm amazed that some of the keener capitalists/multi-nationals aren't all over this announcing huge R&D initiatives to develop alternative clean power sources so they can clean up in the new market for ways to keep muscle cars on the road.

People who write things like "ecowankers" and "anti-capitalism" when discussing science should not lecture anyone on bias. If the discussion was regarding policy, then those phrases would be slightly less objectionable. But John, let's get away from those phrases entirely -- show us your source of unbiased research.

The very idea that journalists are supposed to show leadership is disgusting. They are supposed to report facts not lead movements. They are there to tell people what is being said and done and who is saying it or doing it. They are not there to give us their ideas or agendas or push specific policies.

I hope nobody minds if I repost Carl's comment -- it should be easier to read like this:

"The problem is Rob doesn't understand the meaning of theory or proof in the scientific sense. I'd challenge him to "prove" the theory behind gravity, which is also quite impossible when one realizes what the scientific method actually does. Theory is the collective body of information and explanation that ties together observations, experimentation and conclusions based on a particular phenomena. Sure you can "prove" that if you drop a rock it will fall, you run 30 trials of dropping a rock and observe the results. You conclude the that a rock will fall if dropped. Excellent, you've just shown a rock will fall if dropped but not "proven" the theory of gravity. In essence all you have done is observed the phenomena of gravity but why it happens it something else entirely....

Climate theory is no different, you can easily run experiments and show within 95% confidence that

1) Greenhouse gas concentration has increased in the atmosphere,
2) that humans are largely to blame
3) The suns intensity has not changed significantly in the last 1000 years
4) CO2 is a greenhouse gas
5) The atmosphere and oceans are in general warming

These are all within observations of phenomena, go one step further and try to explain all these phenomena and you build a theory. Tests further phenomena to challenge said theory, and build a stronger theory of explanation. Rinse and repeat, building a stronger body of science. That's the problem Rob, you really don't get it and I have a feeling never will, or you are intentionally being slow about it for purposes of self amusement. Either way kinda sad really, because all you end up doing is looking quite clueless."

I'll also quote a small snipit from wikipedia's entry from a man who knows entirely more than me.

According to Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time, "a theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model which contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations". He goes on to state, "any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation which disagrees with the predictions of the theory".

"On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation which disagrees with the predictions of the theory".


And that is precisely where the theory of anthropogenic global warming falls apart. Repeatedly.

You used to think that something that wasn't proven couldn't be disproved. Did you look up "disprove" in the dictionary like I suggested? Great. Now please post the evidence that the theory of AGW falls apart. Seriously. You say it falls apart repeatedly, so this shouldn't be hard. Explain this:

"Climate theory is no different, you can easily run experiments and show within 95% confidence that

1) Greenhouse gas concentration has increased in the atmosphere,
2) that humans are largely to blame"

Okay, I'll bite.

What experiment can you "easily" run, which shows that human beings are "largely to blame" for Global Warming?

For bonus points, tell us what "easy" experiment tells you human beings can actually reverse it?

Look at Carl's #2 and how it follows #1. Now notice that #1 referred to GHGs increasing in the atmosphere. It requires different experiments to demonstrate that humans are responsible for increases in GHGs than is does to demonstrate that humans are responsible for global warming. If you ask precise questions you are more likely to get adequate answers.

Should be connected as in humans are largely responsible for the increase in greenhouse gas concentration; I'll admit I didn’t quite write it well enough I was in a hurry. But really I am disappointed that you have completely missed the point of my post. Your "prove me a theory" business makes you at best look scientifically misinformed, and at worst, intentionally deceptive. As for what experiment to know humans largely responsible for "global warming", I'll refer you to my previous post, attributing human influences in climate is based on theory and experimentation and likely there is no one experiment that can show much of anything. To point you in the right direction a combination of experiments in a quick and rough answer might include:

Exp 1) Are greenhouse gases increasing, answer yes.
Exp 2) Are human responsible for these increases in greenhouse gases, answer largely.
Exp 3) What is the heat potential of these greenhouse gases, answer varies but it is known.
Exp 4) Is the planet warming up and are these increases following expected modeled increases based on understanding of theory, answer most regions of the planet are, and an average increase over the surface is observed, some areas are warming faster than modeled, some are not
Exp 5) Are any other possible factors responsible for warming, answer, not with sufficient ability to cause the magnitude of the current warming.

For a better more scientific description see understanding and attributing climate change at the following link. It’s filled with science; conclusions based on experimentation and a presentation of accepted theory.....enjoy.

I don’t need an experiment to know that changes in human activity can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.....will those changes happen or how much will a particular change reduce them are different questions though...

Carl, first you arrogantly proclaimed:

"you can easily run experiments and show within 95% confidence that
1) Greenhouse gas concentration has increased in the atmosphere,
2) that humans are largely to blame"

So where are these "easily run experiments" you were just boasting about? Or have you finally accepted the fact that such experiments simply don't exist?

I doubt you have accepted that fact. No, you'll just continue pompously denouncing anyone who pokes holes in your ideology, as being simply more ignorant than you, and schooling us with your "brilliance".

"I don’t need an experiment to know that changes in human activity can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere....."

Ah, so now we finally have the true essence of your contempt for inconvenient scientific rigour. No, you don't need an experiment -- you've already cast your ideological lot, and no damn experiment is going to dissuade you of your cherished faith.

You know Carl, you talk a lot of crap, playing at the pretense of being the one, true champion of science, and sanctimoniously imagining how "stupid" you make anyone look who happens to call your beliefs into question.

When it comes right down to it, you've simply deluded yourself worse than any "deniaralists" at whom you sneer.

First, the act of controlled measurements in testing an hypothesis is an experiment. Want to know some of the ways that carbon dioxide concentrations are measured? LOOK IT UP. The experiments are easy and repeatable. We know that measurements of carbon isotopes show the source of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Want to know how those controlled measurements are made? LOOK IT UP. Now, since numerous experiments have shown that burning organic materials produces increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and since those same experiments show that when you stop burning organic material, organic carbon is not converted to CO2, then Carl is relying on science not ideology.

I recommended above that you ask a precise question. Of which component that I've written above are you most skeptical? Ask a precise question and you might get an answer.

Thanks for the reply; we are of the same mind though I did provide some useful references below. As for the actual ease of measurements, CO2 can be measured with an Infrared Gas Analyzer; it takes about 1 min to calibrate and 30 seconds to take a measurement no more. As for carbon ratios, my thoughts are a mass spec will get it done, but not everyone carries one of those around in their pockets. Enjoy Rob, and I can tell you've never taken a botany class; students get to play with the IRGA's in second year making CO2 measurements. To bad for you, yes indeed, that easy......a second year undergrad can do it.....I tend think even a trained animal could take CO2 measurements over time. No insults intended to any current undergrads.

Increase in CO2 concentration over time (direct air measurement, not ice core) just one greenhouse gas, ill let you look up the rest.

C.D. Keeling and T.P. Whorf (2004). Atmospheric CO2 from Continuous Air Samples at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, U.S.A.. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Evidence for fossil fuel origin of increasing CO2 and not things like Volcano's

Gerlach, T.M., 1992, Present-day CO2 emissions from volcanoes: Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, Vol. 72, No. 23, June 4, 1991, pp. 249, and 254 – 255

An article that touches on the increase in CO2 due to human sources, talking about isotope ratios

Olsen, A., et al. (2006), Magnitude and origin of the anthropogenic CO2 increase and 13C Suess effect in the Nordic seas since 1981, Global Biogeochem Cycles, 20, GB3027, doi:10.1029/2005GB002669.

but the best articles are here

Stuiver, M., Burk, R. L. and Quay, P. D. 1984. 13C/12C ratios and the transfer of biospheric carbon to the atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 1731–1748.

Francey, R.J., Allison, C.E., Etheridge, D.M., Trudinger, C.M., Enting, I.G., Leuenberger, M., Langenfelds, R.L., Michel, E., Steele, L.P., 1999. A 1000-year high precision record of d13Cin atmospheric CO2. Tellus 51B, 170–193.

Quay, P.D., B. Tilbrook, C.S. Wong. Oceanic uptake of fossil fuel CO2: carbon-13 evidence. Science 256 (1992), 74-79

I fail to see what fact I am not accepting, the evidence is in those papers. Read them, and get back to us. Hey it’s not my ideology; I just accept science based on what it is. Like, gravity, evolution etc, the theories behind them are the best level of understanding available (refer to my previous post for explanation of theory), and thus I accept them for that they are and will accept any science that can modify and improve any theory.

I do think you'll understand that once you accept the science that shows an increase in greenhouse gases, and that its origin is mainly from human activities, that to change it requires no experimentation at all. Its not lack of scientific rigor. Really, consider if humans are increasing the greenhouse gases, then human activities can clearly be changed. That is why no experimentation is needed; it’s a logical thought process that indicates you are either not thinking, intentionally being obtuse, or are simply not very bright. You pick. I only sneer at your ignorance of science, some people post misguided nonsense like volcano’s relase more CO2 than humans…but considering the posts you make I think you should ask for a refund on your education

You are a very patient person, Carl. I am glad to hear that you teach.



A study published by Geophysical Research Letters sheds new light on the connection between California's epic drought and human-induced climate change.

The study carries the decidedly wonky title, “Probable causes of the abnormal ridge accompanying the 2013-14 California drought: ENSO precursor and anthropogenic warming footprint.”

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