Climate skeptics heard most often in UK and US, study says

Climate skeptics are heard most in U.S. and U.K. media – often in opinion pages and editorials – and politicians represent about a third of all skeptical voices.

Newspapers in the U.K. and the U.S. have given far more column space to the voices of climate skeptics than the press in Brazil, France, India and China, according to an Oxford University study published in the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism on November 10, 2011. In fact, press in the U.K. and U.S. account for more than 80 per cent of the inclusions of the skeptical voices, according to the research.

The study – ‘Poles Apart:The International Reporting of Climate Skepticism’ – shows that 44 per cent of all the articles in which skeptical voices were included were in the opinion pages and editorials, as compared with the news pages. It also finds that in the U.K. and the U.S. the ‘right-leaning’ press carried significantly more climate skeptical opinion pieces than the ‘left-leaning’ newspapers.

A London graffiti artist expresses an opinion about global warming. Via the Christian Science Monitor

A team of researchers led by James Painter, from the University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, examined more than 3,000 articles from two different newspaper titles in each country during two separate periods. In each country (apart from China), the newspapers were selected to represent divergent political viewpoints. The periods studied were February to April 2007 and mid-November 2009 to mid-February 2010, which included the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen and ‘Climategate’.

Although the researchers discovered a link between the amount of coverage given to climate skeptics and the political viewpoint of newspaper titles in the U.K. and the U.S., this link did not appear in the other study countries – Brazil, France and India. In the latter, few skeptical voices appeared and there was little or no difference between that country’s two selected titles in the amount of space given to the skeptical viewpoints.

In all the countries, politicians represented around a third of all the skeptical voices quoted or mentioned, with the U.K. and U.S. newspapers much more likely to quote politicians than the press in other countries.

The ‘Poles Apart’ study defines climate sceptical voices as those skeptical that the world is warming or those that question the influence of humans in the warming. It also includes those skeptical about the pace and extent of its impacts, or about whether urgent action and government spending are necessary to combat it.

Read the full release from Oxford University about this study

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