Biases in Media Coverage of Climate Change

Newspaper headlines influence readers, and often leave a stronger impression than the text of an article. This impression could well be misleading, as headlines may not be balanced or the article may not present the full facts, a practice known as selective reporting.

For example, the December 13 Canadian edition of the Epoch Times, a weekly newspaper published throughout the world, headlined an article on climate change “New Funding to help poorer countries combat climate change”.  The article quoted Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, who explained that the financing provides ‘concrete help for some of the most vulnerable countries’.

The headline could well lead readers to think that Canada was doing its share of combating climate change by generously aiding “poor” countries with new funds. Yet Canada had previously committed to provide funding for developing countries to fight climate change under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord The amounts referred to by Peter Kent were not new: they were part of Canada’s commitment under Copenhagen.

Many readers would probably not appreciate the complete picture: two weeks before, at the 2012 Doha UN Conference on Climate Change, Canada refused to advance further sums to support the Green Climate Fund for developing countries; a fund that had been agreed on at Durban in November 2011, until a climate change treaty was in place.

The Times article had a further sub-headline: “The Science is unclear” – words that are known to be the mantra of Denialists.  That assertion was based on a letter signed by 134 scientists to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The Times did not explain that these individuals represented a very small percentage of the scientific community, a community that has overwhelmingly concluded that global warming is a reality, and threatens the future of our world.

The letter stated:  “ . . . the weather of the past few years cannot be caused by global warming that has not occurred. Whether, when and how atmospheric warming will resume is unknown”.

This conclusion was based on data from the UK Met Office that shows that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years.  As the UK Met Office has pointed out, these years are all record high temperature years.

Global warming is here to stay! Unfortunately so is denialism!


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