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Re: [greenyes] Analysis of US Media Blackout on Climate Disruption

While I do not wish at all to imply any lessened threat from global climate change any learned student of paleoclimatology can illustrate that earth's history is replete with instances of extreme weather events and that it is statistically extremely difficult, if not impossible, to isolate a statistically insignificant few and localized recent "extremes" and draw a direct correlation to global climate change. Unfortunately sh_t happens! There have always been torrential downpours - potential problems are enhanced by an increasing population changing land use and land cover! There have always been "catastrophic" hurricanes, there have always been droughts, tornados, floods, etc. you just never knew about them 'cause there wasn't any media coverage - either there simply wasn't media, the event went entirely undetected, or some reporter decided not enough personal property was damaged or loss of life occurred to warrant significance.

While global change is likely very real it is way past time we moved passed junk science.


Peter Anderson wrote: / News / Feature

Though global climate change is breaking out all around us, the U.S. news media has remained silent.

Ross Gelbspan
May/June 2005 Issue WHEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA was inundated by a foot of rain, several feet of snow, and lethal mudslides earlier this year, the news reports made no mention of climate change-even though virtually all climate scientists agree that the first consequence of a warmer atmosphere is a marked increase in extreme weather events. When four hurricanes of extraordinary strength tore through Florida last fall, there was little media attention paid to the fact that hurricanes are made more intense by warming ocean surface waters. And when one storm dumped five feet of water on southern Haiti in 48 hours last spring, no coverage mentioned that an early manifestation of a warming atmosphere is a significant rise in severe downpours.

Though global climate change is breaking out all around us, the U.S. news media has remained silent. Not because climate change is a bad story-to the contrary: Conflict is the lifeblood of journalism, and the climate issue is riven with conflict. Global warming policy pits the United States against most of the countries of the world. It's a source of tension between the Bush administration and 29 states, nearly 100 cities, and scores of activist groups working to reduce emissions. And it has generated significant and acrimonious splits within the oil, auto, and insurance industries. These stories are begging to be written.

And they are being written-everywhere else in the world. One academic thesis completed in 2000 compared climate coverage in major U.S. and British newspapers and found that the issue received about three times as much play in the United Kingdom. Britain's Guardian, to pick an obviously liberal example, accorded three times more coverage to the climate story than the Washington Post, more than twice that of the New York Times, and nearly five times that of the Los Angeles Times. In this country, the only consistent reporting on this issue comes from the New York Times' Andrew Revkin, whose excellent stories are generally consigned to the paper's Science Times section, and the Weather Channel-which at the beginning of 2004 started including references to climate change in its projections, and even hired an on-air climate expert.

Why the lack of major media attention to one of the biggest stories of this century? The reasons have to do with the culture of newsrooms, the misguided application of journalistic balance, the very human tendency to deny the magnitude of so overwhelming a threat, and, last though not least, a decade-long campaign of deception, disinformation, and, at times, intimidation by the fossil fuel lobby to keep this issue off the public radar screen.

The carbon lobby's tactics can sometimes be heavy-handed; one television editor told me that his network had been threatened with a withdrawal of oil and automotive advertising after it ran a report suggesting a connection between a massive flood and climate change. But the most effective campaigns have been more subtly coercive. In the early 1990s, when climate scientists began to suspect that our burning of coal and oil was changing the earth's climate, Western Fuels, then a $400 million coal cooperative, declared in its annual report that it was enlisting several scientists who were skeptical about climate change-Patrick Michaels, Robert Balling, and S. Fred Singer-as spokesmen. The coal industry paid these and a handful of other skeptics some $1 million over a three-year period and sent them around the country to speak to the press and the public. According to internal strategy papers I obtained at the time, the purpose of the campaign was "to reposition global warming as theory (not fact)," with an emphasis on targeting "older, less educated males," and "younger, low-income women" in districts that received their electricity from coal, and who preferably had a representative on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Western Fuels campaign was extraordinarily successful. In a Newsweek poll conducted in 1991, before the spin began, 35 percent of respondents said they "worry a great deal" about global warming. By 1997 that figure had dropped by one-third, to 22 percent.

Then as now, a prime tactic of the fossil fuel lobby centered on a clever manipulation of the ethic of journalistic balance. Any time reporters wrote stories about global warming, industry-funded naysayers demanded equal time in the name of balance. As a result, the press accorded the same weight to the industry-funded skeptics as it did to mainstream scientists, creating an enduring confusion in the public mind. To this day, many people are unsure whether global warming is real.







Peter Anderson, President
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Stephan Pollard, Ph.D. Candidate
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University of Arkansas
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