Media Bias: Why the Public Is Confused about Climate Change
The Tulsa World article ,”Global warming poll finds broad divide more political than scientific,” attempted to explain why the public and politicians are confused, not only about the issue, but about what scientists think. Polls of climate scientists find a strong consensus on the issue , with 97 percent of scientists actively engaged in climate research agreeing that man’s activities are the main cause of global warming. Fearing a loss of profit if CO2 is regulated, there has been a well-funded effort to spread doubt about the scientific consensus. And some media sources are willing accomplices.
The media has helped spread the doubt by treating the issue as a legitimate controversy, when there is very little controversy among scientists. At one time the Tulsa world was courageous enough to point out in an editorial that it was scientists who say that global warming is real and politicians who say that it is a hoax. However, the Tulsa world has changed ownership and the new managing editor has adopted a bias which he calls “reflecting Oklahoma values. “ The Tulsa World often publishes comments from readers in its editorial page, and though there were a number comments reflecting the scientists’ viewpoint, the editors added to the confusion by publishing only two comments from one side, and none representing scientists.
One comment tried to explain away the strong consensus among scientists by claiming that scientists find what they do because of money the research generates. However, climate and weather research is vital to our national interest and would be funded no matter what the scientists found. Climate scientists usually work at universities and government laboratories, where salaries range from $50,000 to $120,000. Research grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and most of the money from the grants goes for research expenses and little to the scientists. Their published results are held to a high peer review standard to ensure that the methodology is sound and the conclusions are consistent with the evidence. The amount of money they get is certainly not worth taking a chance on ruining their reputation and career.
The second comment claimed that the Earth’s systems are just too complicated to understand, and therefore climate scientist can’t know what they are talking about. That is the old Skeptic’s argument that if you don’t understand everything, then you understand nothing. In spite of the complexity, scientists have been able to identify the main factors that affect our climate. Greenhouse gas theory was developed in the 19th century, and after examining the natural and human caused factors that affect our climate, climate scientists have concluded that the main factor in global warming is man’s release of CO2.
The human body is also very complex, but medical scientists have identified a major risk factor to health be smoking. Yet, for many decades, tobacco companies were able to deny the scientific evidence that showed the link between smoking and coronary disease. Climate scientists have identified the major risk factor in climate change to be man’s emission of CO2 and warn of the danger to the environment that sustains us. However, like smokers who ignore their doctors, many people are unwilling to listen to the scientists’ warning. Would the Tulsa World, and other media sources, now be willing to treat the dangers of smoking as a legitimate controversy?
(c) 2013 J.C. Moore