Media in the U.S. appear to be expressing more certainty about the principal causes and effects of climate change since the United Nations’ December 2007 climate change conference, but U.S. newspapers “still lag behind” those in the United Kingdom “in terms of the amount of coverage, the presence of climate contrarians” and other metrics.
That is a basic conclusion of research published by Ball State University researcher Mai Kuha in Language & Ecology, an online journal focusing on discourse and environment.
Kuha wrote that her research found “signs of slow improvement” in media coverage of climate change science but “a tone in media coverage that is still more tentative than the climate crisis warrants.” She wrote that a particular concern is that readers across the U.S. have “dramatically different levels of exposure to coverage about global warming.” As a result, she wrote, “it is important to receive repeated messages and to feel that the information presented belongs in the mainstream.”
“Given the state of literacy in the U.S.,” Kuha wrote that she is not confident that the public can easily distinguish between fact-based scientific news coverage and editorials. She wrote that scientists can most contribute to improved understanding of climate change by striking “an appropriate balance, so that the way we communicate with journalists is direct and forceful enough, while remaining objective.” She encouraged university science and journalism faculties to interact more closely on communications of important climate science issues. But she concluded by writing that “if the role of the conservative movement and big oil companies turns out to be the heaviest factor, bringing about change in news discourse could be challenging.”