Climate Change Awareness Deficit? Blame the Media

I often hear that the reason we’re doing only the bare minimum on climate action is that too many people around the planet are unaware of the dire situation humankind is up against. Deniers say that not all the science is in – we need more studies. Many world leaders and politicians do not want a carbon tax because it will damage the world economy. Or global warming has happened before man was around to cause it. And the list of lame excuses goes on.

Climate Change Awareness Deficit? Blame the Media

Climate Central CO2 Milestone

Even if you believe that Climate Change is real, and I think about it every single day, then what are your thoughts on how the mainstream media reports on these issues: climate change, global warming, ocean acidification, species extinction, ecocide, oil spills, putting a price on carbon.

Climate Change Awareness Deficit? Blame the Media

In their misguided view of editorial balance, major media outlets – newspapers, television networks and cable news – may have done more harm than good in raising awareness about the climate change crisis facing humankind.  At the BBC, staff have been told “not to insert false balance into stories when issues were non-contentious” and to stop airing “marginal views”. This applies to the science of climate change where 97 percent of experts agree on the causes and the severity of the crisis.

The BBC Trust on Thursday (July 4) published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues. The Trust wishes to emphasize the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences…..Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.

Lately, I’m been wondering about a fairer way of doing this. And I think that John Oliver of Last Week Tonight has found the answer to the imbalanced reporting of the media on climate change. His parody on the climate change debate is both entertaining and, well let’s say,  more or less pragmatic. Watch the video.

Last Week Tonight. John Oliver


Published on Jun 6, 2014
Standard YouTube License

“We journalists are to blame for not properly communicating the scientific evidence of global warming to the public,” says Josia M. Hesse who quotes Maxwell Boykoff (CU-Boulder professor and author of Who Speaks for the Climate?: Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change) and Adriana Bailey, who with Boykoff, just co-authored a recent study published in Environmental Communication.

How a reporter chooses to interpret scientific evidence has a big impact on what people think about climate change. Because the IPCC uses the scientific method of going back and forth with new data, there’s a tendency in the US media to frame climate change as a ‘debate’.

Laura Sabransky, who is a friend living in Chicago, posted the BBC article in Facebook with this comment:

LA Times have done the same. Any other “news” organizations in the U.S. want to follow suit? On the other hand, I don’t really care, because the truth is the truth is the truth, and in the not too distant future, this argument will not even be a “thing.”

_____

Rolly Montpellier, founder of BoomerWarriorRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s also a  Climate Reality leader (Climate Reality Leadership Corps), a blogger, an activist and a Climate Change presenter.
He has been a contributor to the Climate Change Guide, The Canadian, ClimateMama, The Hill Times, World Daily, Georgian Bay News, The Elephant, CounterCurrents, 350Ottawa and MyEarth360.

30 Responses to Climate Change Awareness Deficit? Blame the Media

  1. The main media has in general has been much more responsible in reporting climate change since 2009 (as I see it). The continued dangerous climate change denial is mainly to blame for the continued public uncertainty about dangerous climate change (DAI). A big problem for the media and public is that next to nothing is being done about global climate change – it is a dead loss as a good story. It is predictable that no good news will come from the continued UN negotiations. Heavily industrialized nation governments are to blame for that- the crime of all time. The IPCC AR4 and AR5 provided more than enough evidence to compel governments to act on an emergency basis. The public can take very bad news, but it is hard if the public sees no solution on it. ‘Uncertainty’ is a source of public confusion. The public hears routinely about climate science uncertainly, but this only refers to the large range of model projections, that the public cannot understand. This is not helped by the fact that the IPCC will not comment on DAI and will not make recommendations. Civil society NGOs are not campaigning for an emergency emissions decline by 2020, even though the pivotal Lima UN COP 20 is this December (2014). The Climate Action Network International June 2014 climate response position is excellent, but it is not being put out there. Next year will be too late as the key decisions will be made this year at Lima. The IPCC AR5 has informed us that the only way to avoid going over 2C is for emissions to decline rapidly from 2020 (RCP2.6). If emissions do not decline from 2020 at the latest, w e go over the catastrophic (all crops declining, multiple amplifying feedbacks) 2C. It is practically certain what will happen if we do not decline emissions by 2020. That is the ‘unthinkable’ ‘end of the world’ scenario. We need to form a united global climate planetary emergency response alert team right now to work on communication getting outside of the net to the regular democratic channels and media for Lima Dec 2014.

    • I’m in agreement with your observations Peter – heading for the unthinkable. “We need to form a united global climate planetary emergency response alert team right now to work on communication getting outside of the net to the regular democratic channels and media for Lima Dec 2014.” So what are your thoughts then on the united global emergency response? And how can one help to make this happen? I’m interested in hearing more about this.

      I’ve just checked the Overview for the Lima Conference and I must say that it looks familiar. It sounds like just another conference with no mention of the urgency of Paris 2015. Should the world hold out much hope that this time it will be different?

      • Rolly, I think the united global emergency response needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that the Lima climate conference IS different, that national leaders and negotiators hear millions of us calling for RCP2.6+. We have to let people know that the IPCC scenario RCP (Really Cool Plan?) 2.6, plus some excellent points from CAN International’s latest position statement, provides us a glimmer of hope in hell. RCP2.6+ needs to become a household term. People all over the world need to ask/request/beg/beseech/demand/order that their government’s climate negotiators support RCP2.6+ as the path and the goal in the Paris COP21 agreement.

        RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+ RCP2.6+

        Julie

        • Thank you Julie. I couldn’t agree with you more. My sense is that there is a subtle shift in the US for climate change action. Obama is changing the dialogue. We can hear more about pricing carbon and a revenue-neutral tax. Now this is all good. But as you say, “People all over the world need to ask/request/beg/beseech/demand/order that their government’s climate negotiators support RCP2.6+ as the path and the goal in the Paris COP21 agreement.over the world”.

          I know that you and Peter are quite active with the Climate Emergency Countdown. Tell me more about that and how I can help with that project. I also need to get more familiar with the RCP2.6+. Any links you can provide would be helpful.

          Thanks for your interest and support.

          By the way, I like your recent blog article. Could I feature it on BoomerWarrior?

  2. Yeah you know it really comes down to degrees of depth and severity. I don;t find a report on climate change much use if it doesn’t spell out our exact situation as told by the consenting science. So ,yes I agree with you Rolly when you say the media “may have done more harm than good in raising awareness” only I’d take out that ‘may’ in the may have. It’s no question, to me anyway, that the media has done more harm than good. They have gotten it out there, I mean there are not many souls left on the planet who have not heard about climate change a plenty. But it’s the lack of depth I get concerned with, the light dusting over of the subject and of most of all the lack of true information about what actual danger we are in.as if to say, “don’t worry, we’ll handle it”. And we’re not.

    • Danny – thank you for the response.

      Lately the media has started to carry more articles about pricing carbon from Republicans and right wing elements. I believe that we are seeing an interesting trend in the US. And usually as the US does, so the world goes. Obama is succeeding in placing climate change on the political radar and in fact on the American population radar. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The 2016 election will be interesting. By then, no candidate (in my view) will be able to avoid climate change as an election issue.

  3. Here are several great stories about young kids making a difference … on their own. http://www.youngvoicesonclimatechange.com … My favorites are Olivia, Felix, Anya and Alec — but all these kids are bold and courageous by our standards (by “our” I mean us adults).

    In my climate presentations, I suggest adults “find a kid to work for” … that is not my original idea, but the suggestion of a 11-year old girl from Detroit on a radio program in conversation with Alec Loorz back in 2008. The interviewer asked Alec and her what advice they had for the listeners, and she told her peers that they could go to City Hall and meet their mayor (they won’t kick you out), write to the President using a crayon, get their parents to help them with a crazy idea that might make a difference … “find a adult to work for you and make it happen.”

    I tell adults to find a kid with good ideas and work for her or him, make those ideas reality.

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  5. I want to agree and blame the media but here’s another angle. They are a business and thus in competition with each other all the time. Due to that, they cut costs by ‘cutting/pasting’ what the major environmental websites (the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, etc) are saying.

    Mistakenly, in my view, these web sites are ‘preaching to the choir’ and concentrate on the solutions to climate change that they deem acceptable. They definitely ignore population as the root cause (and their use of resources obviously follows). They rarely talk about the causes at all. Therefore the media don’t tell the , well -basically the lazy masses – what’s what, FROM the beginning.

    IE that human populations have tripled in my lifetime (due to a longer life and better lifestyle) and the accompanying civilization has not focused on the problems that relate to that. IE what was fair and legal (and ethical) 100 years ago – no longer is necessarily so.

    So without understanding this, it’s no wonder that the complex charts and graphs needed aren’t enough. It’s no wonder then that the media don’t follow through.

  6. Hello Bill

    I agree with your observations about human populations/overpopulation spiraling out of control. And yet there is very little discussion about the relationship of overpopulation and climate change. The conversation on climate change focuses more on the effects of global warming but not enough on the principal causes.

    If you want to reduce emissions, you need to manufacture fewer products, you need fewer people eating meat, you need fewer cars on the roads, fewer people flying around all over the planet. I’m sure you get the idea. And yet never a word, or very little on population growth.

    I will be writing on this topic in the coming months. You might want to read this recent post on BoomerWarrior – “There are too many of Us” – http://bit.ly/1olIRJs

    Thanks for your comments

  7. Agree 100%. In my experience here among people who vote for Ted Cruz and love James Inhofe (people who’re in power and putting the brakes on anything environmental) – among those voters – the principal causes are what’s missing. In missing this entire paradigm they dismiss actively all the other clues that science shows them.

    My tribe (so to speak – the environmentalists) don’t understand why the other side doesn’t “get it.” That’s why – I firmly believe. Before anyone can understand anything about reality, they must understand the basics first. And when my tribe shows pictures of suffering polar bears, the reason for that is habitat loss. That TRANSLATES to us in the tribe. But NOT to others. In fact, it devastates our cause because that’s picked up by this “silent majority” as the reason for so much research and so much money going into solutions. The concept of the “canary in the coal mine” is NOT understood. Same thing with the Endangered Species Act – same confusion among the masses.

    Then the media follows suit in just reflecting this. I don’t blame them. I just blame my tribe for what I can only attribute to an ego problem.

    • I’m certainly a member of the tribe you speak of. Like most environmentalists, I too find it surprising that not everybody gets this. I mean all the signs about climate change are out there for one to see. And I simply do not understand how “the other side doesn’t get it.”

      If I understand correctly, you are saying that what is missing is a better understanding of the causes. But do you really think Bill that the causes are not also out there for everybody to see. In your example of the polar bears, surely if one sees a polar bear stranded on a melting ice sheet, if one sees a polar bear suffering, it’s not a big leap to know what the cause is. The ice is melting because of global warming. And the causes of global warming are well known. I believe that the silent majority just does not want to face reality.

      Our challenge is to reduce the size of the silent majority to a point where it becomes the silent minority.

      Thanks for your comment.

  8. I appreciate your response and, yes – you understand my thoughts on the subject very well. You say, and I totally agree “…it’s not a big leap to know what the cause is.” But living and working here in San Antonio, Texas – in the heart of red country; that’s exactly what I see. And these people are NOT stupid and NOT evil or even greedy*.

    Let me give an example. I grew up in suburban Washington DC during the dawn of the Endangered Species Act. I recall someone in government saying to us at a local rally that the idea was as if “you could put expensive electric monitors everywhere to gauge when humankind had ‘gone too far’ . That would work in the knowledge (after the Cuyahoga River burned) that humans were now interfering in the balance of nature. But it’s cheaper to use the ‘species already there, and when they die off’ ‘. That could be our gauge. The ESA was born.

    I thought everyone knew this concept. But now living in San Antonio for the last 40 years or so – I can see that our side didn’t ever explain that (adequately anyway) to the voters. I’m sure that’s why the ESA is so unpopular here. Not even the local environmentalists understand that – USUALLY. To most – It’s all about the cute animals – a kind of PITA like sympathy. Not worries about ecosystems.

    When I tell locals that concept (almost an analogy) and relate that it’s all starting with these causes (population, unsustainable lifestyle…) – the majority understand. But they also believe that if that were the case, they’d hear more about it and less about Polar Bears.

    People could see the causes with some investigation, but they won’t take the time or energy until they understand the threat. And they won’t understand the threat until the causes are clear too.

    I put it to them this way: “The population has tripled in my lifetime and with it our infrastructure has also grown due to technology. Better, more healthier lives with better, healthier foods – mean we all live longer. But the natural world is buckling too. It’s breaking under the pressure and we’d better pay attention because we also rely on that.”

    * Greedy is relative. In my belief, there were many at Pearl Harbor who previous to that attack, wouldn’t have agreed to side with the European powers either. And for economic reasons. But once they understood the urgency of the enemies threats – they changed.

  9. Let me add this too. You say ‘Our challenge is to reduce the size of the silent majority to a point where it becomes the silent minority’. 100% agree – it’s NOT to give solutions but to explain the threat.

    We offer solutions thinking the ‘silent majority’ are aware as we are – of this threat. BUT most aren’t convinced yet (which involves understanding causes and outcomes). And as soon as they turn off (for various reasons) to this solution, or that one – they turn off to our entire thing and don’t investigate any further.

    That’s human nature. LAZY – yes, EVIL/STUPID – no.

    • I saw an article recently that San Antonio will likely be the first city in the US to run out of water. I’m just wondering if residents are aware of this – the causes and the threats. I mention this because you have a situation which fits very well in the framework of “causes and threats” By the way, I don’t disagree with the concept. But then I ask myself, which comes first, the causes or the threats.

      I quote from your response above – “People could see the causes with some investigation, but they won’t take the time or energy until they understand the threat. And they won’t understand the threat until the causes are clear too.” This is a catch-22 thing.

      The human race has never set out to create the climate crisis it now faces. I agree that we need to go back a little and look at the causes of our current situation. Here is a somewhat over-simplistic example using carbon.

      The threat, carbon emissions. The cause, fossil fuels. The solution, pricing carbon.

  10. People have limited free time (after work, family & home commitments, and of course sleep).

    It is my experience that my interests in trying to understand the greater picture of how humans affect our symbiotic planet, are lost on my friends and family for a variety of reasons… not just laziness or apathy. Some actually have no free time to peruse the problems of the world. Some are “glass is always full” types and believe the planet will balance itself. Some are just doom-sayers or nay-sayers and ignore anything positive.

    Most people seem to worry more about how they will cope with tomorrow, let alone next year, next decade or beyond. Our tribe is lost on them because it does not appear on their radar of priorities. It may take a large meteorite hit to get them to “sit up and take notice!” After all, climate change science always appears at the end of TV news…almost as if it were a bit of light entertainment.

    • Hi Colette – It looks like you read Bill Hurley’s comments above.

      It’s human nature to deal with the immediate and get back to other things later when they have time. And some things, usually the more complex and distant, just never get the attention they require. That’s what happens with global warming or climate change. People don’t worry about when the next meteorite will hit the earth. It could be a hundred years from now, so why worry? The same goes with climate change.

      So what is the solution to this apathy and indifference? It’s quite discouraging. I’m really at an impasse.

  11. Have posted this link in “Hope Is Back” and think this is appropriate here too…do watch the full 52 minutes of “DISRUPTION” and realise that we have a responsibility to act on 21 September.

    http://watchdisruption.com/

  12. Well, fancy that…a large meteorite fell last night in Managua…http://splashfm.com/mysterious-explosion-caused-by-meteorite/

    More meteorites will hit the earth as our atmosphere changes…we have been fortunate that most meteors burn up in our atmosphere, but the changing ionosphere (from our increasing greenhouse gasses will let more of them through. Witnesses to this one thought it was “a bomb,” as the shock wave reached them after the explosion.

    I think this is a warning “wake-up” call.

  13. More…http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sOdxC76k7Y8

    The blast measured on the Richter Scale… I heard the first reports on this… initially thought to be an earthquake.

  14. You know Rolly… It’s that “Hundredth Monkey” principle again… If in each country we get people really looking at their weird climate and listening to the Scientists, eventually, the energy of it spreads and spontaneously, people everywhere start putting it into their priorities.

    I am a rather on-and-off again member of the Global Coherence Initiative http://www.glcoherence.org/ which some here might find a bit off-topic, but the world can be changed by thought processes… Case in point…When North Korean aggression started up last year, it became the focus of a synchronised GCI heart-focus connecting logged-in members in a joint 15 minute meditation for resolution. Kim Jong-Un suddenly stopped his military move against the South. The same thing happened when a later heart-focus concentrated on Syria and the Western Nations Suddenly lost the political will from the people to invade with military forces. I cannot explain this, except to say that the focus of a few hundred people worldwide, can actually change the thinking of others with some sort of energetic psychic link.

    What I am trying to say, is that the symbiotic link all living creatures has, goes far beyond a physical reality…their is a much more important energetic link that allows all life to communicate.

    The answer surely lies in tapping into the psychic energetic link of our political , business, and scientific elites. If anyone can plant the seed of an idea into another’s head without them being fully aware of it, that process becomes a powerful tool for “change.” While this might sound far-fetched and a little bit SciFi, make no mistake that military powers have used this very principle. They have not made it work because they go against the principles of a symbiotic infrastructure.

  15. I can’t actually remember the source, but There was a warning that as we change our atmosphere, there will be less protection against meteorite hits. Papers have been written as far back as 1998 that indicate our troposphere is heating up (greenhouse gasses building up), the higher layers of our atmosphere, including the Ionosphere, are shrinking marginally and cooling down. The magnetosphere (above the Ionosphere) is especially crucial because it protects us from CME’s – Coronal Mass Ejections from the sun. I am no scientist, but I find the scientific observations really quite scary…perhaps I just read too much!

  16. Well right now England is experiencing something of an Indian Summer with daytime temperatures in the low to mid-20′s C, but that is on clear days – and nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. England can also be very cool if under cloud cover or rainy. Our weather forecasters don’t always get it right though – being an Island means we are subjected to lots of weather influences.

    As for meteorites… Highly unlikely I’d imagine :-)

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