Media coverage, Climate Change and one brainwashed dad.
If you asked my dad about his thoughts on climate change bout a month ago he would tell you that the Earth is warming, we’re doomed and we have humans to thank, all because Al’Gore told him so. My dad so was convinced he needed to do something about it and in his mind, that something was installing a solar hot water system and buying a lifetime supply of energy saving light bulbs… Guess I can say goodbye to those long steamy showers at the end of the day, you will be missed.
But fast forward 28 days and ask the same question, my dad will tell you that global warming is a natural occurrence and humans have nothing to do with it. Wait, what? How can he go from one extreme view to the other??
Climate change is a global issue and the reality of Global Warming has long been a heated debate (no pun intended). Our experience of climate change is highly mediated as we filter through report after report in search for the inevitable answers. So when my dad came across a documentary with the prefect triad of persuasion – a so called credible scientist, some form of evidence and some type of emotional pull – he went form team ‘warming’ to team ‘what-a-load-of-rubbish’ before you could say, “Stop the Carbon Tax”.
He believes that melting ice caps are a natural process and that the earth could actually be getting cooler, to the point that he has become sceptic to any news that tells him otherwise. Sounds like the plot to a Hollywood blockbuster. Endless conversations over dinner had me brainwashed, but it seems these views were that of the minority and I found out the hard way. When asked about our views on climate change in class, aside from the three students who were either a) too lazy to stand up and be involved or b) didn’t even know what climate change was, I was the only one who didn’t believe the earth was warming or that humans were partly causing it. Way to go dad.
Bud Ward in his text Journalism Ethics and Climate Change Reporting in a Period of Intense Media Uncertainty (2009), says that reports need to support the open exchange of views, even views they find factually inaccurate. But for many years, there has been a ‘false balance’ in media reporting, where an issue is presented as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence actually supports. In this case, journalist may provide arguments disproportionate to the actual evidence of each side or focus on what is widely ‘established’ as ‘scientific judgement’ (Ward, 2009).
That established view could be that climate change is real and anthropogenic but there are sceptics who question the power of specialists and media producers to take interviews out of context and grab what is convenient to their own ideologies. Sceptics such as my dad.
Some argue that the media should stop giving equal air time to the sceptics to overcome such false balance and question whether the views of the scientific community are accurately portrayed. But without the sceptics, will the coverage of climate change just become a form of national propaganda? Would my dad have even come across these views if they were only given the 1:9 ratio they so call deserve against the scientific consensus?
I’m am not saying my dad is wrong, nor right for that matter. But there is one thing I am certain and it is that the disconnect between the true views of the scientific community and those represented in the media make it difficult for the casual reader to get an accurate representation of what is at stake.
Media. How do we even know.
Climate Change gets Mythbusted