Saturday, May 21, 2016

Here’s One Way the Media Confuses the Public About Climate Change - by Joe Romm

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — some 97 percent — have concluded that humans are the primary cause of climate change, as many studies have shown.  And every major nation in the world accepted that scientific conclusion back in 2013.

The "Consensus Gap" (Credit: Skeptical Science) Click to Enlarge.
Yet the public has the impression there is considerable scientific debate on a subject where there isn’t, as polling has found:


The multi-decade disinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry is certainly a key source of their confusion.  And that confusion is amplified whenever the media disproportionately favors scientists who reject the basic scientific consensus on climate change.  A 2014 study makes clear this false balance remains commonplace.

But there is another more insidious source of confusion for the public, and that’s when the media’s language on climate science is itself ridiculously watered-down.

A good (which is to say bad) example is the Reuters piece on Donald Trump’s dangerous gibberish on the Paris climate agreement, which I deciphered and debunked on Wednesday.  One of the paragraphs was widely cited on the internet:
Trump said he did not believe China, the world’s top emitter of the carbon dioxide gas that many scientists believe is contributing to global climate change, would adhere to its pledge under the Paris deal.
Reuters has watered down our scientific understanding with not one, not two, but three different hedges (and other media outlets, like Forbes, also routinely do this).

First, it isn’t merely “many scientists” — it is virtually all of the ones who publish in the field. Second, it isn’t merely something they “believe” — it is something they have proven and confirmed using the scientific method, and then subjected to review by the world’s leading scientists, and then subjected to review by all of the world’s major governments. Third, CO2 does a whole lot more than “contribute” to climate change — it is the primary cause.

Read more at Here’s One Way the Media Confuses the Public About Climate Change

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