“An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong.”
Have you ever wondered why so many Americans are skeptical of global warming and climate change? Despite the fact that most people around the world accept it as fact, and every national academy of science around the planet has made statements supporting not only that global warming is real, but that at present we’re the main culprit. Republicans make up the greatest percentage of deniers, but even Democrats have a ways to go to catch up with other countries around the world in believing the science.
It can’t only be the wing of the political spectrum that explains it. For example, in Canada we have a conservative government, one that is frequently criticized as aggravating the problem of climate change by developing the tar sands in Alberta, and not doing enough to help clean up our emissions. (Canada is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter per capita, behind Australia and the US.)
But even the majority of conservatives in Canada acknowledge that global warming is real. Only two percent of the country deny global warming is real according to a recent poll. The Prime Minister and his government simply prefer to put their efforts into helping the economy of today more than the environment of tomorrow. (And to be fair, Canada’s economy weathered the global recession much better than most countries around the world as a result of that approach.)
A new poll from the Union of Concerned Scientists may shed some light on the matter as to why so many Americans are skeptical of global warming and climate change. It’s likely that at least in part it depends on where Americans are getting their news. In decades past, Americans had a more balanced exposure as the three big television networks provided a much more fair and balanced perspective on the news, at least compared to today. Now that brand of impartiality is much harder to find.
The poll from the UCS looked at what percentage of recent stories on the topic of climate change climate covered on both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal contained misleading comments. The UCS researchers defined misleading as those containing “broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry picking of data.”
A whopping 93 percent of stories on Fox News contained misleading comments by using that definition. (Ever see all of the corrections that scroll by on Saturday Night Live sketches when they parody Fox News? It may be closer to reality than we previously thought.) The Wall Street Journal did slightly better with only 81 percent of their stories on climate containing misleading comments.
Its not hard to see where this poor level of journalism is coming from. Rupert Murdoch owns New Corporation which in turn owns both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch is known for his extremely conservative views and that comes through loud and clear with his news organizations. In fact, a managing editor wrote a memo back in 2009 instructing reporters to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”
Although many skeptics and deniers will point out there’s nothing incorrect about that statement, phrasing it the way Murdoch’s news organizations do implies to their viewers and readers that an equal amount of scientists agree with anthropogenic global warming as disagree with it, suggesting the ratio between the two is around 50:50. The reality is a lot more skewed: the vast majority of scientists working in climate science accept the concept of anthropogenic global warming, with more than 97 percent of scientists who publish in the field agreeing with the validity of the concept. (In fact, most of the others don’t actually disagree with it but rather remain unconvinced. A very small percentage actually believe that we have no significant impact on global warming.)
Most people don’t have the time to exhaustively review the data on global warming and climate change. And many of them don’t have the scientific background to critically appraise the literature and make their own decisions. So they’re left to rely on experts to tell them what’s reality.
So do you rely on what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the many national academies of science around the world have to say on the issue? Or do you trust Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, news sources which couldn’t possibly be affected by bias. (Not!)
To me, the answer is clear. Sadly, unbiased reporting of the news is sorely lacking today.