Saturday, November 12, 2011

Climate skepticism: An Anglo-Saxon phenomena?

To date, the bulk of research on media coverage of climate skeptics has centered has been done by Max Boycoff and looked at the US media. The recently released Poles Apart: The International Reporting of Climate Skepticism provides global take on the issue. The Guardian has an interesting post about the report.

Significantly, the report distinguishes among a variety of different types of skeptics
  • "trend sceptics" (who deny the warming trend)
  • "attribution sceptics" (who accept the trend, but attribute it to natural causes)
  • "impact sceptics" (who accept human causation, but claim the impacts will be beneficial or benign)
  • "policy sceptics" (who, for a variety of often political or ideological reasons, disagree with the regulatory policies being promoted to tackle climate change)
  • "science sceptics" (who – again, for a variety of reasons - believe climate science not to be trustworthy)
The report analyzed newspapers in six countries and found that the so-called "Climategate" affair received much more attention in the UK and the US than in Brazil, China, France or India and that "significantly more" sceptics are mentioned in the UK and US media than in the other four countries.

The report mentions a variety of factors relevant to the differential coverage:
Outcomes are usually determined by the interaction between internal processes or factors within newspapers (such as journalistic practices, editorial culture, or the influence of editors and proprietors as well as political ideology) and external societal forces (such as the power or presence of sceptical lobbying groups, sceptical scientists, sceptical political parties, or sceptical readers who are simply fearful of higher taxes or energy bills). An array of other factors, such as a country's energy profile, the presence of web-based scepticism, and a country's direct experience of a changing climate also play a role.

For comparison, Boycoff's recent work, which deals with primarily with the extent of climate change coverage by various media outlets around the world, is available here and in the lecture below.

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