The Bias in Environmental Reporting

By Keith Kloor | June 7, 2012 2:28 am

When reports are issued by environmental advocacy groups, they are invariably taken at face value by environmental journalists. Oftentimes the report’s methodology and claims aren’t subject to any critical examination. What usually results are one-sided stories that treat the advocacy group’s report as gospel.

A glaring example I’ve pointed to in the past is this article by the Guardian’s environment editor. It’s a textbook case of biased reporting.

Last week, similar sub-standard journalism was on display after the Union of Concerned Scientists released this analysis that concluded “many U.S. companies” were using their influence to cast “unwarranted doubt on [climate] science, adding confusion to the policy discussion, and holding back or slowing down action on solutions.”

Again the Guardian (along with others) was content to merely parrot highlights and talking points from the report. Ron Bailey at Reason, however, did some digging and found the analysis to have “severe shortcomings that do not inspire much confidence in the overall accuracy” of its claims. Now I’m not holding up Reason magazine as a neutral, disinterested party, but go ahead and read Bailey’s piece and decide for yourself whether he’s made the case for those “severe shortcomings.”

He also notes that

the Union of Concerned Scientists asserts in this study that a hallmark of misrepresenting science is “emphasizing unknowns” while simultaneously “ignoring what is known.” Yet this seems to be precisely the strategy that the UCS [Union of Concerned Scientists] pursues in its campaign against biotech crops.

Ah yes, that double standard on the science when it comes to genetically modified crops. I think groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists are going to have to eventually sort that out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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