How the Media Shapes Public Response to Climate Change

Windmill ribbon cutting

Climate change stories that give local information and emphasize positive achievements are more likely to encourage people to become active participants in climate change action than stories of political failures, a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found .

Researchers worked with focus groups made up of 53 people from the Metro Vancouver area who were concerned about climate change, but had little involvement with climate politics, causes or organizations. After reviewing news stories with the groups, researchers found that the overwhelming response to news about climate politics was cynicism.

While there was a strong desire for more aggressive political action to address climate change, virtually all expressed considerable skepticism that governments, corporations or their fellow citizens could be convinced of the need to address the problem,” the paper says.

Media Coverage of Climate Science Is Stunting Climate Action, Especially in US

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change plays an enormous role in shaping how climate science gets translated into policy in countries around the world, but so does the media.

A new report finds that, while the IPCC could have managed the rollout of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) better, lack of compelling coverage, especially in US media, is leading to less public demand for action and hence political will to adopt policies to deal with climate change.

The report, published in Nature Climate Change, examines how the IPCC’s release strategy around AR5 contributed to diminishing returns in terms of media coverage, as well as the ways media outlets chose to frame the issue and how that impacts public perception of climate issues.

Researchers with the University of Exeter studied print, broadcast, and online media in both the US and the UK and found that the biggest difference was that there is simply more climate coverage in the UK. A lot more: three times as many articles and five times as many broadcasts were dedicated to climate change in the UK as in the US.

Obama’s Secret Anti-Environmental Agenda: Ring Of Fire Features DeSmog On Obama Policies That Fly In The Face Of Climate Legacy

The new Republican majority in the Senate was just a few hours old when Mitch McConnell vowed to pass legislation that would greenlight the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, despite President Obama’s veto threat.

That’s just one of the many domestic actions that would undermine efforts by the Obama Administration to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy. But the thing is, Obama himself regularly supports policies that are at odds with his purported climate legacy, like the recent news that his administration is quietly allowing oil companies to skirt the crude oil export ban.

An all-star cast of DeSmog experts—including DeSmog Canada managing editor Carol Linnitt, DeSmogBlog executive director Brendan DeMelle and DeSmog contributor Justin Mikulka—recently joined Farron Cousins on Ring of Fire Radio to discuss “Obama’s Secret Anti-Environmental Agenda.” Watch it here:

New Senate Majority Puts Keystone XL At The Top Of To-Do List

The Republican Party now controls the legislative branch of the U.S. government, but even before they were sworn in, they had made their priorities for the country clear. They want the Keystone XL Pipeline to become a reality.

Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming appeared on Meet The Press to push the pipeline by quoting misleading and dishonest industry talking points: “[Obama’s] own State Department said it’s 42,000 new jobs…He’s going to have to decide between jobs and the extreme supporters of not having the pipeline.”

Barrasso is playing fast and loose with the facts here. As we pointed out years ago, the job numbers used to sell the pipeline are completely fabricated. For example, his claim that the State Department estimates 42,000 jobs from the pipeline has no basis in reality. The State Department has said that the pipeline will only create about 35 permanent U.S. jobs.

The 42,000 number that Barrasso is throwing around is based on the total number of direct and indirect permanent and temporary jobs that are estimated to be created by the pipeline. Almost all of these jobs would disappear within the span of 2 years.

But even if the 42,000 figure were accurate, it isn’t a substantial gain for the United States. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. economy adds an average of 50,000 new jobs every single week, so an $8 billion pipeline that traverses some of the most delicate environmental areas of the country is hardly worth the economic and environmental costs.

Newspapers Complicit In Selling Phony “War On Coal”

U.S. newspapers are helping conservatives push their misleading “war on coal” narrative, according to a new report.

There are a number of reasons why the tide has turned against the coal industry around the globe. Mining and burning coal for energy poses huge risks for human health and the environment, for instance, mainly due to the vast amounts of air and water pollution created throughout coal’s lifecycle.

Then of course there’s the fact that coal is the single largest source of global warming pollution—while coal-fired power represents only 39% of all electricity generated in the U.S, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is responsible for 75% of carbon emissions.

And of course the health of coal miners and the safety of mining operations is a cause for concern, as well. The indictment of coal baron Don Blankenship is proof enough of that—a U.S. attorney recently pressed conspiracy charges against Blankenship for violating federal mine safety and health standards and impeding federal mine safety officials, among other offenses committed before and after the explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010 that took the lives of 29 workers.

If you need more proof, there was a study conducted this year that found a severe form of black lung is affecting miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia at levels not seen in four decades.

But it’s not just the dangers of the job that are driving coal miners out of work: greater automation in coal mining operations and the rise of cheap, abundant natural gas thanks to fracking have also taken a heavy toll on the coal industry.

Yet a Media Matters analysis of the 233 articles published in major U.S. newspapers this year that mentioned the phrase “war on coal” found that more than half ignored all of these underlying causes of the coal industry’s decline.

BBC Pulls The Plug On Climate Change Deniers

Corporate-controlled media outlets have figured out that debate, or more appropriately heated debate and confrontation, can generate larger audiences than a bunch of people sitting around a table agreeing with one another.  And this can work for some topics, such as the best way to tackle immigration reform or how to reduce the federal budget deficit. 

But when faced with an issue that clearly only has one side, the corporate media continues to parade anti-reality talking heads into their studios, hoping that they can help boost ratings.  That is what has happened with the issue of climate change.

The American media have not been the only guilty parties. Media outlets in other parts of the world have been just as willing to put climate change deniers on television to spread misinformation about an issue that will effect the lives of all of earth’s inhabitants. 

But unlike the American media, outlets in the rest of the world have realized that the issue of climate change is far too important to allow deniers on their networks to attack the scientific consensus with no actual evidence.

This month, the BBC instructed its reporters to stop giving credence to climate change deniers on the air.  The network said that they do want to remain neutral on scientific issues, but that there is a very real distinction between neutrality and false balance.  Think Progress explains the difference between the two:

Misinformation Is Winning – Doubt In Climate Change Climbing

Climate change-related disasters have been rising for decades; yearly temperatures are rising in a nearly consistent pattern; extreme weather events are costing economies across the globe hundreds of billions of dollars.  Despite the mounting evidence that climate change is both real and a major threat to our security, more people are buying into the idea that climate change is a myth.

A new poll from Yale University and George Mason shows that the percentage of Americans who don’t believe in climate change rose 7% in 2013 to 23% of the entire population.  While 63% of the general public believes that climate change is occurring, only 47% believe that human activities are to blame.  The poll also revealed that less than 50% of Americans believe that climate change will affect their lives, but 65% say that it could harm future generations. 

This shift in public opinion in 2013 happened during another record-breaking temperature year, with 2013 being the seventh warmest year on record. 

All of the evidence points to the fact that climate change is real and that human beings are making it worse.  Scientists agree that it is happening, and the physical evidence is all around us, so the big question is: why is the number of climate change deniers increasing?

The answer is that the misinformation machine has kicked into high gear, and 2013 saw a massive increase in the amount of climate change denial being given a microphone throughout various forms of media.

Exxon Pressures Government To Lift Oil Export Restrictions

It wasn’t long ago that the dirty energy industry and their friends in Congress and the media were screaming that we needed to open up every corner of America to oil and gas drilling in order to lower energy costs and help protect our country from oil-rich countries who don’t like the United States. 

We were promised that increased domestic production would lower our fuel costs, strengthen our national security, and help ensure our economic prosperity.  And even after the Obama Administration agreed to open up even more federal lands to drilling, the American public has yet to see any of these benefits materialize. 

But the oil industry isn’t complaining.  They’ve been given everything that they asked for over the last few years, and while we’re still paying, on average, $3.22 a gallon at the pump, the industry is pulling in profits of $375 million a day between the top 5 companies.

You would think that Big Oil would have little to complain about at this point, but you’d be wrong.  Apparently, they feel like their record profits should be even higher, so they’ve now decided that it's time to ease restrictions on oil exports so they can go take advantage of more lucrative overseas markets. Here at home, however, expect your pain at the pump to continue. You're not their priority, despite the fancy advertising.

ExxonMobil, the most profitable oil company in America, has called on the federal government to ease the rules regarding how much domestically-produced oil can be shipped out of the United States.  They are backed in this call by their friends in the conservative media, including the Wall Street Journal

To reiterate, they want to take the oil that we finally agreed to let them “drill, baby drill” out of our national parks and public lands – the oil that was supposed to lower our prices to take the burden off of U.S. families, but never did – and ship it to markets that are paying more for oil. Why? So they can make profits that make $375 million per day look like minimum wage by comparison.

Media Ignores Damaged Oil And Gas Tanks In Colorado Floods

This is a guest post by Alisha Mims, cross-posted from Ring of Fire.
As the devastating flooding in Colorado continues, some Colorado residents are wondering why no one is talking about flooded oil and gas wells from fracking. According to several reports and photographs from Coloradans, oil and gas tanks are tilted and, in some cases, overturned. Residents are deeply concerned about potential contamination.

Residents have been posting photos of the flooded condensate tanks, which hold fracking wastewater, on Facebook, as well as sending testimonies and pictures to the drilling reform-awareness blog, Bluedaze, created by TXsharon. One Colorado resident sent this e-mail to Bluedaze:

I see you’ve noticed the underwater wells in Weld County, Colorado. Amazing; we’ve emailed the Denver TV stations, other media, and state and local politicians. We’ve sent pictures that our members have taken. It’s like the media and politicians have been TOLD not to say anything about it. There has been no mention of the gas wells on the Denver newscasts either last night or this evening although all stations have had extensive and extended flood coverage. You can see underwater wells in the background of some of the newscast videos, and yet the reporters say absolutely nothing.

Here’s a picture one of our members took yesterday in Weld County, Colorado. We’ve got tons more on our website. Check it out. The tanks are tipping and, in some cases, have fallen over. They have to be leaking toxins into the flood waters. There have to be hundreds if not thousands of underwater well pads in Weld County as a result of the flooding.

Flooded tank - Colorado

Source: East Boulder County United via Facebook

Louisiana Governor Jindal Not Buying BP Spin on Gulf Coast Impacts

Have environmental priorities finally trumped extreme right wing politics in the deep south? 

Louisiana's Republican governor Bobby Jindal has heard enough from oil giant BP, taking them to task recently for destroying sensitive coastal areas during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

For those of us who live along the Gulf Coast, it's good to see that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is fed up with BP’s ongoing ad campaign. Designed to greenwash their performance as compassionate and caring, BP's ads instead suggest that the families impacted by the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill are greedy and corrupt - it's the mirror opposite of reality. 

At a recent gathering of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Jindal said, “Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money – I want you to hear this – they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.”

Mother Jones quotes Jindal to the Council:  “BP needs to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their public relations campaign telling us how great they are and start proving it by addressing their Clean Water Act and Natural Resources Damage liabilities now.”


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