Media "balance" on global climate change reinterpreted

Thu, 2006-03-09 11:43Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

Media "balance" on global climate change reinterpreted

EMagazine recently interviewed Eugene Linden, author of The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather and the Destruction of Civilizations.

Linden does a nice job of explaining one of the most critical problems in sorting out the PR bias of climate change. The boldface question is from eMagazine. Linden's intelligent answer follows:

You describe the standard climate change template for the national media. How the newspapers, radio and TV put together stories including quotes from the naysayers, without saying that those naysayers represent about 100th of one percent of scientific consensus. So the “take away,” as you call it, is that climate is complex, it won't be a problem that will affect anyone's life for a long time, and there's nothing we can do about it. Yes, and “scientists disagree.” I think that's the brilliance of their winning game, not to take it head on. Mostly they say, “Lets let the scientists sort it out,” ignoring the fact that the scientists have already sorted it out. Lots of people think that climate change is still open to debate. In the last couple of years, the press did an abysmal job of conveying scientific alarm. It's doing a better job now. As an analogy, I don't know if I say it in the book but I'll say it now, when somebody does a story on the dangers of smoking they don't feel obligated to find scientists who work for Philip Morris to say that the dangers are minimal.

There is the same level of consensus in the scientific community that climate change is a threat as you have on smoking being a danger to your health. Yet it's been only very recently that the issue has been on the public agenda. During the Carter administration, there was a report that said that unless we take action to control greenhouse gas emissions, we will see changes in climate by the end of the century. That meant 2000, and they were right on the money.

For the whole interview, click here.