Clumsy Media Bias Dwindling, But U.S. Still Behind the U.K.

Fri, 2007-11-09 13:36Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Clumsy Media Bias Dwindling, But U.S. Still Behind the U.K.

A new paper by Oxford Research Fellow Max Boykoff shows that phony media balance has almost disappeared in U.S. climate change coverage.

But Boykoff's paper also shows an embarrassing difference in the extent and quality of climate change coverage in the United States, compared to coverage in the United Kingdom. For example, he found that between 2003 and 2006, UK papers covered the story three times as often as U.S. papers and were significantly more likely to present it accurately.

Boykoff, a James Martin Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, released a landmark paper three years ago with his brother Jules, demonstrating that the “prestige press” in North America was misrepresenting climate science by usually reporting one voice attesting to that science and one voice denying it. While the scientific literature between 1993 and 2003 was unanimous in accepting that human activities were making climate change worse, Boykoff and Boykoff found that newspaper stories between 1988 and 2000 reported in more than half the cases that there was still a scientific dispute.

Max Boykoff has now updated that study and extended it to the U.K.

He surveyed news coverage in four U.S. prestige newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times) and three prestige papers in the UK (The Times, The Independent and The Guardian).

Boykoff's first discovery is that UK papers have been giving the climate change story almost three times as much attention. During the three-year survey period, the three UK papers carried 6,922 stories on climate change, compared to 2543 articles in US newspapers. He also found that in 2003 - at a time when U.S. papers were giving the story “he said/she said” treatment more than 35 per cent of the time - U.K papers were quoting contrarians in only 1.67 per cent of their stories. In the time since, however, contrarian coverage in both countries has dwindled to a level below statistical significance.

In his conclusion, Boykoff speculated on several reasons for the difference in coverage. One was the political split in the U.S.

Also, a 2007 National Journal poll revealed that 95 per cent of Democrats and just 13 per cent of Republicans answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you think that it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?’ (There is an obvious chicken-and-egg problem here: was American media coverage biased by politicians or were Republicans intransigent because they were being misinformed by their newspapers?)

Boykoff also reported on the political manipulation of climate change research by the Bush administration and, especially, the intervention by think tanks and front groups funded by energy interests, particularly Exxon Mobil.

Regardless of the causes, however, Boykoff's research proves what we have suspected: the U.S. media blew this story - seriously letting down the people who rely on American journalists to show leadership - and give accurate information - on issues important to the whole world.

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Previous Comments

How much distribution will this paper receive?
And without any of the good parts left out!

Yes, it might be overlooked. Instead, the media will promote nonsense like the book below. It is a game called hindsight. Had there been no WWII, they could be shouting about the trouble and money wasted on getting ready for Nazis who never fired a single round at Britain, etc., etc. Draw up a list of impeding disease outbreaks, dangerous products, invasive species, murderers on the loose, etc., and then after the fact separate out the ones that didn’t result in losses. The money spent trying to anticipate and reduce the damage looks wasted, but only to the very naive. A lifetime of wearing a seatbelt is not wasted just because you make it through without ever having a head-on collision!

Global warming: Don’t look now
Nov 11, 2007
James Delingpole reviews Scared to Death: from BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth by Christopher Booker and Richard North

Imagine you could travel back to Britain in 1998….

Excellent paper, but what I would have liked to have seen is in what way coverage differs when you have a scientific debate without political implications.

For example, it used to be that coverage of the whole “birds are dinosaurs” debate had a “he said, she said” tone to it. But as the evidence turned towards B.A.D., so too did the coverage change so dissidents got less and less space. Ths same process seems to have occured much more slowly here. It would be interesting to see what role to oil lobby’s creation of “insta-experts” delayed the inevitable.

The whole paper is based on the assumption that someone actually “knows” for sure without a doubt about the weather.

Poppycock, men, very learned men, armed with the most powerful computers made can’t predict where a hurricane will go in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet somehow these other men are supposedly able to predict the climate ten, twenty and a hundred years out.

What’s left of the British empire is locked in a morass of political correctness, if “we” believe it to be so then the “They” must be forced to believe it as well or “They” must be evil. Folks that isn’t how it works. There are always two sides to every story. Sticking your head in the sand will only get you kicked in the arse.

You said, “What’s left of the British empire is locked in a morass of political correctness, if “we” believe it to be so then the “They” must be forced to believe it as well or “They” must be evil. Folks that isn’t how it works. There are always two sides to every story. Sticking your head in the sand will only get you kicked in the arse.”

Makes sense to me…

And the two sides to this one are:
1) The weight of scientific evidence shows that global warming is occurring more quickly than is natural as a result of human activities producing greenhouse gases.
2) Denialists have failed to provide scientific evidence that disproves 1).

“1) The weight of scientific evidence shows that global warming is occurring more quickly than is natural as a result of human activities producing greenhouse gases.”

So tell us – how quickly should the Earth be warming naturally?

Unless you know of an identical Earth, but without the human activity, to compare with, I’d guess you have no idea.

“2) Denialists have failed to provide scientific evidence that disproves 1).”

Now tell us – when was 1) ever proven to begin with? Since 1) has never been proven, then that makes it impossible to ever disprove.

Go read the IPCC report.

“Go read the IPCC report.”

I assume you are referring to the latest report. I have read it. There does not seem to be anything in it which supports your claim that AGW has been conclusively proven.

Perhaps I missed it? If so, can you please direct me to the appropriate section of the most recent IPCC report. Feel free to quote the relevant paragraphs which you say provide conclusive proof of AGW.

Looking forward to your response, VJ!

Prove that AGW is not happening.

In other words, VJ, you finally acknowledge that nowhere in the latest IPCC report does it assert that there is any conclusive proof of AGW, as you had previously claimed.

Thanks for playing. Sorry, no consolation prize.

In fact, I made no such claim. I simply told you to go and read the report. Do not put words into my mouth.

I guess it hasn’t occurred to you, VJ, that all someone has to do is read the previous comments to see you are full of crap. There’s really nothing more I need to add, except: thank you.

Oh, and good to see you’ve finally acknowledged (in your own knuckle-headed way) that there is in fact no conclusive proof of AGW.

Liar. Don’t put words into my mouth.

Okay, so now you are saying there is conclusive proof of AGW? You just previously conceded there wasn’t.

So which is it?

Compare the models that show what warming would be like WITHOUT human burning of fossil fuels with those that show what it is ACTUALLY DOING. Simple.

And BTW, you still haven’t answered my question: your full name & coordinates, please?

“Compare the models that show what warming would be like WITHOUT human burning of fossil fuels with those that show what it is ACTUALLY DOING. Simple.”

Well, that would be great, but unfortunately the Earth we inhabit isn’t a model. So, coming right back to the point, you still have no proven the claim.

“And BTW, you still haven’t answered my question: your full name & coordinates, please?”

Why are you stalking me? This is very weird and creepy behaviour. Just how many cats do you own?

Well, you claimed I was a real estate agent in Idaho. I’ve been open about who I am. Am I not allowed to question your identity? Is there some reason you don’t want anyone to know who you are?

“Well, you claimed I was a real estate agent in Idaho. I’ve been open about who I am.”

No you haven’t:

Who knows why you keep lying about it? But that seems to be a symptom of your deranged state of mind.

“Is there some reason you don’t want anyone to know who you are?”

Yes there is. To avoid becoming victimized by potentially dangerous mentally-ill people like you.

I think Rob should be banned.

… and here I thought you were going to enlighten us as to where we could find this part of the IPCC report which you claim says AGW has been conclusively proven?

Or maybe you can’t find it, either?

Maybe you should stop accusing people of being mentally ill or on drugs simply because they are smarter than you;.

Have you found that part you said was in the IPCC report which you claim provides conclusive proof of AGW?

We’re all still waiting.

VJ, you know you have won the argument many times over when the opposition has to fall back on the lame argument that nothing is ever proven 100% conclusively.

You admit that there is no conclusive proof of AGW, then?

No, I don’t agree with that.

Do you admit there is no conclusive proof that smoking affects health, or that supply and demand affect price?

Please present us with this conclusive proof of AGW, since you believe such proof exists.

I hope you have better luck than VJ.

I’ll jump in, if I may. The failure to see the point is making you look foolish, “Rob”. Think it through. You are saying that 100% conclusive proof is needed for this one thing in science only, AGW. Think about it.

The problem is Rob doesn’t understand the meaning of theory or proof in the scientific sense. I’d challenge him to “prove” the theory behind gravity, which is also quite impossible when one realizes what the scientific method actually does. Theory is the collective body of information and explanation that ties together observations, experimentation and conclusions based on a particular phenomena. Sure you can “prove” that if you drop a rock it will fall, you run 30 trials of dropping a rock and observe the results. You conclude the that a rock will fall if dropped. Excellent, you’ve just shown a rock will fall if dropped but not “proven” the theory of gravity. In essence all you have done is observed the phenomena of gravity but why it happens it something else entirely….

Climate theory is no different, you can easily run experiments and show within 95% confidence that

1) Greenhouse gas concentration has increased in the atmosphere,
2) that humans are largely to blame
3) The suns intensity has not changed significantly in the last 1000 years
4) CO2 is a greenhouse gas
5) The atmosphere and oceans are in general warming

These are all within observations of phenomena, go one step further and try to explain all these phenomena and you build a theory. Tests further phenomena to challenge said theory, and build a stronger theory of explanation. Rinse and repeat, building a stronger body of science. That’s the problem Rob, you really don’t get it and I have a feeling never will, or you are intentionally being slow about it for purposes of self amusement. Either way kinda sad really, because all you end up doing is looking quite clueless.

That’s the clearest explanation I have yet read re: scientific theory. Mind if I write that down?

“Climate theory is no different, you can easily run experiments and show within 95% confidence that

1) Greenhouse gas concentration has increased in the atmosphere,
2) that humans are largely to blame

Okay, I’ll bite.

What experiment can you “easily” run, which shows that human beings are “largely to blame” for Global Warming?

For bonus points, tell us what “easy” experiment tells you human beings can actually reverse it?

You haven’t bothered to check to see whether I might in fact be someone other than this real estate agent, even although I gave you the URL to my listing at the Library & Archives of Canada. You keep telling me that there might be another Rob (not you) running a blog in Bismarck ND who posted an identical comment at sayanythingblog & desmogblog as “Rob” on the same day, but you won’t accept that there might be another Fern Mackenzie outside of Idaho. Enough time has been wasted on this as it is. You are a gadfly, Rob. Irritating, but ultimately pointless.

Rob, you’re acting like a cornered rat.

you owe the lady at an apology. If you want to spit vitriol at someone, Rob, Know Your Enemy. Spit it at me. I for one apologize to this other Fern Mackenzie. You didn’t ask to be dragged into this. I don’t think it’s fair for you, Rob, to go on characterizing this person as deranged. I don’t care that you think that I am deranged. I’ve been called worse by better. But leave the poor lady in Idaho out of it.

FEMACK swore up and down on Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 15:59 –

“I’ve been having my own little battle with Rob over the last few days, and I have come to the conclusion that he should be ignored wherever he pops up. Resist the urge, folks. Let him blether [sic] on. All that happens when we take the bait is that he gets air time.

Exactly as predicted. You couldn’t even control yourself for 26 hours.
“Resist the urge, folks”!

He doesn’t care one way or the other about climate change.
All he’s interested in is antagonizing everybody.
Kind of a weird way of getting attention…even if it’s negative in nature.
You can’t win an argument with a drunk.

you are mistaking weather for climate. Weather is a far far more granular subject than climate, while climate is an observation of long green weather trends. With a misaprensions as fundamental as this it is not surprising you jump to such inaccurate conclusions.

…explains it really well.
Skeptic Argument #34.

do people even realize that there is NO PROOF that humans are the cause of global warming? There is not scientific evidence to back this, and a recent paper by the International climate change group of the UN, only 5 scientists (none with very good credentials) backed the part of the paper that said humans were the main cause.

The reason the US isn’t broadcasting it as much is nobody actually knows whats going on, and have no idea what will happen in 50 years except for a few speculations.

Learn the facts

What you have written is nonsense. Visit some of the links here and learn what the science really says.

…is really feeding you a line!
A statement like yours proves that you could not possibly done any reading of your own!

IPCC WG1 The Physical Basis For Understanding and Attributing Climate Change

Coordinating Lead Authors:
Gabriele C. Hegerl (USA, Germany), Francis W. Zwiers (Canada)

Lead Authors:
Pascale Braconnot (France), Nathan P. Gillett (UK), Yong Luo (China), Jose A. Marengo Orsini (Brazil, Peru), Neville Nicholls (Australia), Joyce E. Penner (USA), Peter A. Stott (UK)

Contributing Authors:
M. Allen (UK), C. Ammann (USA), N. Andronova (USA), R.A. Betts (UK), A. Clement (USA), W.D. Collins (USA), S. Crooks (UK), T.L. Delworth (USA), C. Forest (USA), P. Forster (UK), H. Goosse (Belgium), J.M. Gregory (UK), D. Harvey (Canada), G.S. Jones (UK), F. Joos (Switzerland), J. Kenyon (USA), J. Kettleborough (UK), V. Kharin (Canada), R. Knutti (Switzerland), F.H. Lambert (UK), M. Lavine (USA), T.C.K. Lee (Canada), D. Levinson (USA), V. Masson-Delmotte (France), T. Nozawa (Japan), B. Otto-Bliesner (USA), D. Pierce (USA), S. Power (Australia), D. Rind (USA), L. Rotstayn (Australia), B. D. Santer (USA), C. Senior (UK), D. Sexton (UK), S. Stark (UK), D.A. Stone (UK), S. Tett (UK), P. Thorne (UK), R. van Dorland (The Netherlands), M. Wang (USA), B. Wielicki (USA), T. Wong (USA), L. Xu (USA, China), X. Zhang (Canada), E. Zorita (Germany, Spain)

Review Editors: David J. Karoly (USA, Australia), Laban Ogallo (Kenya), Serge Planton (France)

From Setion 9.7

The widespread change detected in temperature observations
of the surface (Sections 9.4.1, 9.4.2, 9.4.3), free atmosphere (Section 9.4.4) and ocean (Section 9.5.1), together with consistent evidence of change in other parts of the climate system (Section 9.5), strengthens the conclusion that greenhouse gas forcing is the dominant cause of warming during the past several decades. This combined evidence, which is summarised
in Table 9.4, is substantially stronger than the evidence that is available from observed changes in global surface temperature alone (Figure 3.6).

The evidence from surface temperature observations is
strong: The observed warming is highly significant relative to estimates of internal climate variability which, while obtained from models, are consistent with estimates obtained from both instrumental data and palaeoclimate reconstructions. It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that recent global warming is due to internal variability alone

So, as per my own note, thats a serious lists of hacks, PR men, and shills on that list I just provided, no real researchers at all… real seriously

Spook is right under some conditions… there is no proof… but only if we ignore physics, chemistry, atmospheric measurements, experiments, models (yes, including computer models, the kind the Friends of NRSP fear), and anything else that requires a bit of study. If we take the approach of examples like Ball, who claimed that CFC molecules are too heavy to move up into the atmosphere, then we wouldn’t need proof. Working the crowd would be enough.

I found some aspects of this article to be…disturbing - but even more disturbing was what you implied but didn’t explicitly state.

I’m a big fan of Dr Suzuki, and I’ve been living a minimalist lifestyle for over 30 years. I’m a lifelong bicycle commuter who has never driven a gas-powered vehicle or purchased even a litre of gasoline. I have always believed that human-generated air pollution constitutes a serious threat to our global ecosystem.

However…there are explicit and implicit concepts in your article, and the linked studies, that I can’t accept and that I find more than a little disturbing.

Both you and Boykoff appear to be of the opinion that traditional journalistic norms and values of “balanced” reporting ought to be dispensed with when the news involves pronouncements by “the managerial scientific community”. In fact, you both seem to be blaming adherence to standards of balanced reporting for the failure of the American government to take decisive action on global warming. Boykoff is quite explicit about this:

“In the end,adherence to the norm of balanced reporting leads to informationally biased coverage of global warming. This bias,hidden behind the veil of journalistic balance, creates both discursive and real political space for the US government to shirk responsibility and delay action regarding global warming”.

This implies that journalists are to blame for global warming - which is witch-hunting behaviour and should not be acceptable to any Real Progressive.

It is furthermore implied that journalists are somehow interfering with a “discourse” between “the managerial scientific community” and the public, and that this interference itself is a threat to planetary wellbeing. You seem to be saying that journalists ought to just print/broadcast whatever these managerial scientists tell them to print or broadcast - in fact you imply this to be there social duty. Why bother having journalists at all, if that is the case? “Managerial scientists” could simply fax their pronouncements to media outlets and have them published verbatim without comment. Right?

Why not really cut to the chase and dispense with the “discourse with the public” altogether? It’s hard to imagine a threat greater than ecological collapse and eventual extinction - this situation is so dire that even elected “decision-makers” shouldn’t be allowed to slow down our response time by being a part of the process. We should just appoint the IPCC as a temporary world government and have them direct all public policy themselves. Right?

Wrong. Scientists are a critically important social asset, but specialists in any area are inherently tunnel-visioned by their speciality. Cancer researchers naturally see cancer prevention as society’s most urgent priority, police officers naturally see law enforcement as society’s most urgent priority, virologists naturally see communicable disease eradication as society’s most urgent priority, and so on.

Balanced perspectives are essential to preventing fanaticism and social hysteria, and scientists working in any area of speciality may be too close to the subject matter to acheive that kind of objectivity. That’s why journalistic norms and values should not be abandoned and elected decision-makers should not be replaced by councils of technocrats.

…coming from an avowed fan of Dr Suzuki.
Dr Suzuki has many times openly declared that the debate is over, climate change is real, we are the cause of it, and it’s time to solve the problem.
Journalists have been a part of the problem by trying present balanced reporting where there is no balance. Political correctness gone very wrong in my opinion. This “balanced reporting” has merely given the very small number of professional “deniers” the ability to sow doubt and confusion.
Journalists are no more to blame for global warming than you or I, but they are guilty of failing in their social duty to inform us of the dangers that will affect us, and our planet’s well being. Mind you…not all of them are guilty of this “sin” and as Max Boykoff points out, things have improved.
They should print/broadcast releases from the scientists if they are correct and they should be in terms that the public can understand.
And yes…our elected “decision-makers” shouldn’t be allowed to slow down our response time to climate change.
That’s what journalists are best at…revealing the truth and if need be, embarass our leaders into positve action!
The IPCC was created, with the aid of world governments, to eliminate the tunnel-vision you seem so concerned about. All different fields of expertise are involved to present as broad a picture as possible of the rate and extent of climate change.
You’re right…”journalistic norms and values should not be abandoned” and it’s time they return, before the situation becomes so dire that our elected decision-makers, as inept as some of them are… have to be replaced by those councils of technocrats just to save our butts!

It has not been conclusively proven that some people will not be swayed by the facts. Neither has it been conclusively proven that statements which adopt the form of reason are therefor reasonable.

“It has not been conclusively proven that some people will not be swayed by the facts.”

So if the “facts” don’t happen to fully support your claims, you blame the people who don’t accept your argument. Nice.

Maybe you need some better facts?

“Facts?! Pfft. You can prove almost anything with facts that’s even remotely true.” – Homer Simpson.

Rob, why don’t you do the reading regarding the philosophy of science that I’ve recommended to you so many times before? Just go to wikipedia or some source you think is credible. And to stop making false claims such as it being impossible to disprove something that was never proven in the first place, please do others the favour of consulting a dictionary (hint: look up “disprove”).

Thanks for pointing this out, Richard. I’ve noticed America’s leading Sunday talk show host has a remarkable record of avoiding the topic of global warming …

Funny, how none of the worshippers in the House of Global Warming ever acknowledge that solar activity has been quite excessive for some time. Well over a decade, in fact.

So, keep spreading the “humans did it!” lies of global warming. But the truth is, the SUN is mostly responsible for the state of the climate. Blame the SUV all you like - and I’m not defending them, mind you - but the fact is that even if every anti-capitalist item in the global socialist agenda were enacted tomorrow, it wouldn’t change anything. Human activity simply isn’t the true culprit here. It’s like saying that a person on fire needs to be concerned about a sniffles. We could be cleaner and greener as a society and as a species, but that’s not going to fix anything, because we aren’t the ones “breaking” it.

No, the true culprit is that big hot yellow thing in the sky. But saying that serves nobody’s political or socio-economic agenda, so instead we have to put up with all this “humans did it!” garbage.

To reapeat: the S.U.N.- not the S.U.V.- is the cause of the climate change. All the eco-wankers need to go do some unbiased research.


Fracking for natural gas

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This statement was made by Haewon McJeon, the lead author on a new study published last week by Nature magazine, which concluded that...

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