US: Climate change misinformation: Comment
September 24th 2012
Since 1950, humans have manufactured more goods than have ever existed in history. Our consumption of those goods - a highly inefficient use of our natural capital - has wrought a long list of environmental consequences. Staggering deforestation, check. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, check. Rising heat, sea level, and incidence of extreme weather events - check, check and check. To environmental experts, such evidence is the proverbial writing on the wall: we must transition to a low-carbon economy in order to avoid irrevocable damage. As President Obama affirmed, upon accepting his party’s nomination for president, no less: ‘Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.’ The president’s choice of words seemed a pointed response to Republican Senator James Inhofe, author of The Greatest Hoax and, it’s worth noting, recipient of $1.3m in campaign contributions from the oil and gas lobby. Political maneuvering aside, why are Americans so disengaged from climate change – arguably, one of the most critical problems of our time?
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt; it’s also in places like North Carolina and perhaps even embedded into America’s cultural DNA. According to the latest study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the American public’s concern about global warming can be sorted into six categories, ranging from alarmed (13%) and concerned (26%), to cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive (that’s the other 61% of us). Among the many explanations offered for the knowledge gap are clashing worldviews, varying education levels, demographics, and the media’s handling of the issue. Even as evidence for climate change mounts and the consequences of the phenomenon become more severe, the amount of climate coverage on broadcast networks has plummeted. According to a stunning analysis by Media Matters, the Sunday morning current affairs shows averaged about one hour each on climate change in 2009, compared to averaging 21 minutes apiece in 2010 and only 9 minutes per program in 2011. In 2011, Fox News Sunday covered climate change the most (just under an hour), ‘but much of the coverage promoted the ‘Climategate’ controversy and downplayed the threat of climate change,’ reports Media Matters. At the other end of the spectrum, CBS had the least climate change coverage, devoting four minutes to the topic in three years. Altogether, in 2011, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox spent twice as much time discussing Donald Trump’s ‘will he, won’t he’ run for president rather than climate change. In fact, NBC’s Meet the Press devoted 23 minutes to Trump that year - but not a single minute to climate change.
Read the full article: The Guardian
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