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UK tabloids contributing to climate complacency

As scientific consensus around human contributions to climate change has grown, it has been misrepresented in our most widely-read UK tabloid newspapers, according to an Institute of Physics Environmental Research Letters’ journal paper, released today, Monday, 28 April.

The new findings arouse concern as action to reduce man-made green-house gas (GHG) emissions becomes increasingly urgent.

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute have trawled through nearly 1,000 tabloid articles from the Daily Mail, The Sun, the Express and the Mirror, analysing tone, framing techniques, terminology, the labelling of those quoted and relationships between messages and found that many readers are being misinformed.

From the G8 meeting at Gleneagles, the release of the Stern Review and Al Gore’s film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, onwards, there has been a surge in tabloid coverage of ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’.

By analysing the content of these articles, the researchers found that about a quarter of coverage in the four UK tabloids from 2000 through 2006 misrepresented wide scientific agreement that man-made GHG emissions have ‘very likely’ had a role to play in global warming.

Dr. Max Boykoff, James Martin Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, said, “These newspapers have very high circulation and influence in the UK. We hope these findings help tabloid reporters and editors reflect further on the accuracy of their climate change reporting.

“To the extent that balanced reporting and contrarian commentary have misrepresented scientific consensus on the issue of human contributions to climate change, there is a problem.”

Newspaper coverage of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations and the recent ‘banish the plastic bag’ campaign illustrates how successfully newspapers can engage the public.

Commentators like The Sun’s Jeremy Clarkson are contradicting scientific thought with unfounded authority when Clarkson, for example, says, “This confirms what I’ve been saying for years – cars do not cause global warming. Now we learn that all along it was bloody sheeps and cows.”

Boykoff continued, “Misreporting on human contributions to climate change can contribute to skewed views among these papers’ many readers. We’re all involved in the fight against climate change and it’s in all of our interest to widen, rather than restrict, the spectrum of possibility for appropriate policy action.”

Joseph Winters | alfa
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