We already know that Fox News viewers are much more likely to be misinformed about the science of climate change. Now, a new study from Media Matters (h/t Kate Sheppard) provides some numbers about the kind of biased coverage that produces this type of result.
Media Matters didn’t look directly at scientific statements–instead they looked at the number of guests, across TV news, who were either for or against EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. Still, presuming that the anti-regulation guests also made misleading scientific statements (no big assumption, given the way this debate tends to go), the result is closely related. And even if they did not, the strong bias with respect to policy vies hints at the likely bias with respect to science:
Media Matters analyzed television news guests who discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from December 2009 through April 2011. Driven largely by Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, results show that in 76 percent of those appearances, the guest was opposed to EPA regulations while 18 percent were in favor.
Drilling down on Fox in particular:
81% Of Fox Guests And 83% of Fox Business Guests Opposed GHG Regulation. Fox News hosted 52 guests who criticized the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gases. In that same period they featured only 10 supporters and two guests who took a neutral stance. Fox Business hosted opponents 65 times, compared to seven appearances by supporters. MSNBC hosted four times more supporters of EPA’s action than opponents, but had far fewer guests commenting on the issue than did Fox.
Fox swayed the total so much because the other channels studied were less likely to feature opinionated guests.
Full study here.
Taeggan Goddard over at Political Wire sent over this interesting piece on research out of The University of Michigan. A new study found that the language used to describe our warming planet may influence listeners’ reactions.
According to research by Schuldt, Konrath, and Schwarz, Republicans are less likely to say that global climate change is real when it’s referred to as “global warming” (44.0%) instead of “climate change” (60.2%). Meanwhile, word choice does not seem to matter for Democrats. The investigators observed the partisan divide dropped from 42.9 percentage points when they used “global warming” to 26.2 percentage points when they used “climate change.”
In other words, language matters tremendously and the outcome of polls can be highly dependent upon it.
..okay not exactly. But anyone who reads The Intersection regularly likely knows I have an affinity for the sea cucumber–the charismatic little critter I studied in graduate school up at UMaine. What I haven’t shared previously is that because I worked on them for years, I also became extremely sensitive to the toxin they produce–as many researchers working with different echinoderms do. In fact, I am now severely allergic to cucumaria frondosa. Needless to say, you don’t want to mess with them.
So I’m not surprised to learn that unlike many species at risk from ocean acidification–already adversely affecting marine organisms like clown fish–echinoderms seem to be less vulnerable. From the BBC:
When the animals, known as echinoderms, were exposed to water high in carbon dioxide early in their lives, there were no adverse effects.
Echinoderms are a diverse group that includes sea cucumbers and starfish.
Their natural resilience could represent a competitive advantage under some climate change scenarios.
Now there’s data–actual data–showing how few climate scientists doubt the existence of climate change. From Science Daily:
The small number of scientists who are unconvinced that human beings have contributed significantly to climate change have far less expertise and prominence in climate research compared with scientists who are convinced, according to a study led by Stanford researchers. Read More
The latest episode of Point of Inquiry just went up, with Bill McKibben, the author most recently of Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, a truly intense read (as I say on the show). You can download it here, and stream it here. Here’s the show’s description:
Global warming, we’re often told, is an issue we must address for the sake of our grandchildren. We need to cut carbon because of our moral obligation to future generations.
But according to Bill McKibben, that’s a 1980s view. As McKibben writes in his new book Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, the increasingly open secret is that global warming happened already. We’ve passed the threshold, and the planet isn’t at all the same. It’s less climatically stable. Its weather is haywire. It has less ice, more drought, higher seas, heavier storms. It even appears different from space.
And that’s just the beginning of the earth-shattering changes in store—a small sampling of what it’s like to trade a familiar planet (Earth) for one that’s new and strange (Eaarth). We’ll survive on this sci-fi world, this terra incognita—but we may not like it very much. And we may have to change some fundamental habits along the way.
Eaarth, argues McKibben, is our greatest failure.
Here’s the report that (I understand) airs tonight:
Climate scientist Michael Mann has received hundreds of them — threatening e-mails and phone calls calling him a criminal, a communist or worse.
“6 feet under, with the roots, is were you should be,” one e-mail reads. “How know 1 one has been the livin p*ss out of you yet, i was hopin i would see the news that you commited suicide, Do it.”
“I’ve been called just about everything in the book,” Mann, who runs of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told ABC News. “It’s an attempt to chill the discourse, and I think that’s what’s most disconcerting.”
Mann is not the only one. Read More
In my talks, I often discuss the different groups who came to meet with me when I worked on Capitol Hill with regard to who was most effective. On science related issues, the general breakdown fell into two categories (with exceptions):
Both types introduced themselves as the “honest broker” of scientific information, but the latter often made the stronger impression with staffers. Now removed from the Hill for several years, this invitation recently landed in my inbox:
Last night I was at a bar with my new friend Adam discussing emo music and whether it emerged out of Seattle grunge or something else altogether. Personally I can appreciate Bright Eyes once in a while, but on the whole I just don’t get it. After shifting to 70s punk–which I can really get into–it happened…
“So I googled you. Science, eh?” Adam grins.
Here we go again. “Uh, yeah.”
“I gotta ask. Climate change. Prove yourself. Make me believe.”
And it starts… You see, I’m used to this challenge. Climate change might as well be the Yankees vs the Sox. It’s a pub conversation about who’s ‘winning’ when everyone is really loses unless we act. And I can already tell Adam’s a bright guy. He’s a skeptical thinker who doesn’t have access to journal articles, but does hear the news media fallout. He’s got a lot of questions about so-called email conspiracies, but at least he’s interested in a discussion.
So we have another drink and I tell him a little more about what’s going on in oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere. He listens politely, and soon we’re back to Kurt Cobain.
At the AAAS meeting in San Diego last month, I spoke with EarthSky’s Lindsay Patterson, and the resultant podcast just went up. You can listen here, or by playing the embedded audio below, and I’ve also pasted some transcribed sections below:
And now, the write-up: Read More
A new website by NASA features videos, images, and articles about climate change. A Warming World has been designed to help all of us understand what warming means and how it impacts our world. Here’s a sample:
Each year, scientists at NASA’S Goddard Institute for Space Studies analyze global temperature data. The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year since global instrumental temperature records began 130 years ago. Worldwide, the mean temperature was 0.57°C (1.03°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. And January 2000 to December 2009 came out as the warmest decade on record.