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Conservative media bias is inflating American climate denial and polarization

Posted on 6 September 2016 by dana1981

A new study by a team of sociologists at Oklahoma State University has found political polarization on climate change is growing in the United States. Today’s Republicans are less likely than they were a decade ago to accept that the effects of global warming have begun, that humans are responsible, and that there is a scientific consensus on these questions. Democrats and independents are slightly more likely to answer these questions correctly today than a decade ago.

congress enviro scores

Global warming views by party controlling for education and era. Illustration: Dunlap et al. (2016)

Climate change is now more polarizing in the US than abortion or gay marriage. At the same time, climate denial has become the norm among Republican policymakers, as they’ve grown increasingly anti-environment. As the study notes:

What was once a modest tendency for Congressional Republicans to be less pro-environmental than their Democratic counterparts has become a chasm—with Republicans taking near-unanimous anti-environmental stances on relevant legislation in recent years, especially 2015.

congress LCV scores

League of Conservation Voters’ environmental voting scores U.S. Congress – by chamber and party. Photograph: Dunlap et al. (2016).

Policymakers work for their constituents, so if Republican voters are generally apathetic about the tremendous threats posed by climate change, party leaders have relatively little motivation to tackle the problem (aside from the obvious, like protecting future generations and the long-term viability of their political party).

However, the public responds to cues from intellectual and cultural leaders. Were Republican leaders to start listening to climate science experts, many of their voters would likely follow suit. After all, most American conservatives already support climate policies; they just don’t view the issue as a priority. Unfortunately, today’s Republican Party is essentially controlled by the fossil fuel industry. As the study notes:

we and others have argued that the conservative movement, fearful of the regulatory implications of climate change, and seeking to defend the current economic system built on fossil fuel use, has been the driving force behind organized climate change denial.

Conservative media climate denial is a root problem

Public perception and priorities are also heavily influenced by the media. A 2013 study found that conservative media consumers are more likely to distrust scientific experts and reject climate science realities.

Relatedly, a new report by Media Matters on climate coverage in major American newspaper opinion pages found pervasive misinformation in the Wall Street Journal.

Out of 93 climate-related opinion pieces published in the Journal during the time period examined, 31 featured climate science denial or other scientifically inaccurate claims about climate change (33 percent)


Illustration: Media Matters for America.

A study last year found that the WSJ’s biased climate coverage extended beyond its opinion pages to its news coverage as well. And during the time of the scandalous #ExxonKnew revelations, Media Matters found that the WSJ was a constant apologist for the oil company.


Illustration: Media Matters for America.

The WSJ readership is heavily comprised of wealthy, powerful men, and it has become an increasingly conservative paper since Rupert Murdoch purchased it. Conservative media consumers are bombarded with climate misinformation and fossil fuel industry propaganda, usually without the authors’ fossil fuel ties being disclosed

The industry has created an echo chamber in which they control the climate messaging of conservative media and party leaders, which in turn trickles down to misinform Republican voters, growing the partisan gap on climate change. The authors of the Oklahoma State study see no easy way break through what they call the “denial countermovement”:

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. I find it compelling... that a scientific community spends so much effort, money and time focusing on the "Political Demographic" that speaks against the scientific Theory they purport, rather than on the proving the science through measurable, repeatable methods.  "Methinks he doth protest too much"... when you spend all your time berating and labeling entire sections of the general public, rather than backing up radical doomsday claims with actual non-fabricated science, you certainly look guilty of trying to influence outcomes for your own political ends.  It is such a shame that our scientific community has allowed money, greed, power and funding cloud our real purpose... searching for understanding.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] This comment has been stricken because it constitutes sloganeering which is prohibied by the SkS Comments Policy. Please read and adhere to this site's comment policy.

  2. As if there is any shortage of measurable, repeatable methods and evidence employed in the study of the physical science of climate. But then this article isn't about the physical science of climate, it is abut the social science of climate science denial. I find it compelling that Prof-X can't tell the difference between physical and social science.

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  3.  I would have thought climate acceptance would be as inexorable as, well, sea level rise.  This result shows how a self-reinforcing system of belief can be purchased by deep-pockets.  Also, why those pockets would 'go dark' so as not to be revealed.  Recently, it was found that Senators in America who voted against an amendment to a bill that read 'climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change' were receiving five times as much as Senators who voted for that amendment in fossil fuel contributions.  Here: compelling evidence that money is paying for what Republicans believe in America.  Yet, more remarkable, this clear evidence of betrayal got zero play-time in our Mass Media.  I suspect the kind of money Big Fossils can throw at denial means it can aim 'thirty pieces of silver' at everybody.  All Nature can throw in response is six feet of sea level rise.  So for Science believers, we're in purgatory, stuck between a fossil rock and an ocean hard-place.

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  4. So we have this situation where conservatives are more sceptical of climate science than republicans. We should note America as a whole also appears to be more sceptical of climate change science than other countries.

    This is a complex equation with many likely contributing factors starting with vested interests in fossil fuels of course. America is a land that worships individual rights and corporate rights above community rights, so people may see fossil fuel companies as being somewhat beyond reproach and owning a large gas guzzler as a right. Conservatives may feel this more strongly than liberals.

    We have psychological reasons for climate scepticism such as cognitive bias and feeling that one’s world view is under threat. Conservatives crave stability (not a bad trait) but something like global warming threatens this on many levels so perhaps they go into denial.

    Conservatives tend to distrust big government, and government rules. Again some of this is healthy to a point, but some things can only be fixed with government rules, climate change being one of them. Sometimes markets don’t provide all the answers, and this complex issue has to be faced.

    Conservatives also follow authority, and will therefore be closely following what leaders in their Party promote. Liberals are more anti authoritarian. If the leaders of the Republican Party are climate denialists, others will follow, so lobbyists target these leaders and congress people.

    The media play a part. For some reason the right wing media are often climate denialists and also very inflammatory, emotive, and outspoken. This gets an audience because people are attracted to inflammatory statements. Rush Limbaugh comes to mind. This may be partly driven by right wing attitudes, and partly by a desire to simply get ratings and lift profitability. The Liberal media seems slightly more low key, and measured in its style, for whatever reason.

    And of course conservatives own plenty of the media and ownership is control. They seem to feel balance and scientific data comes second to promoting ideological positions.

    However much of all this is becoming more entrenched, and it’s hard to see how it will change.

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  5. I meant to say conservatives are more sceptical of climate change science than liberals. Must proof read.

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  6. In the sea of misery brought on by these studies one comforting eddy of thought is that eventually it will turn around, eventually the climate science will be widely accepted and more and more, strong action will be taken. There are so many examples of where society has changed including slavery, women’s right to vote and views on race and smoking. Last night on the news (Australia) there was an item on a woman who chained herself in the House of Commons in 1907 protesting for the right to vote. She was sent to jail for a month, but now there is a plaque to honour the event. While being much more complicated, our response to Climate Change is another example of societal change that will happen.

    Climate change is an aspect of the exponential growth that is happening globally in so many areas. Another comforting thought is the exponential disruption that is happening with renewable energy and electric (and hydrogen?) cars. The societal change and the technology change go hand in hand and reinforce each other. So even though the US is going slightly backward in these studies the media and fossil fuel companies promoting denial are trying to hold back the tide (with sea level rise behind it) and it will become futile. And at some point in the future we will look back at the climate activists of today in praise and thanks like we do the woman in the House of Commons.

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  7. I have many friends who are gravely sceptical of the global warming hypothesis. however, I resist from lebelling them "deniers",  "morons", "conspiracy theorists" etc, because in my experience that's more likely to cement their denial position in the long term, than it is to encourage a reevaluation.

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  8. Art Vandelay @7 , you can certainly think of these "gravely skeptical" friends as deniers, morons, and conspiracy theorists - because that is exactly what they are.

    But you are right, to resist calling them that (to their face).  Like the Flat Earthers, they have already decided on their "position" - and no amount of factual evidence will make them change their position.  Don't even try to encourage them to a re-evaluation : since you will be completely wasting your time.

    They are not "skeptical" of the evidence - they are determinedly dismissive of the mountain of evidence which is right in front of them.  They won't listen to you, or to anyone.  If their minds were open to rational re-evaluation of the climate realities, then they would have ceased their denialism long ago.

    If you wish to discuss the many interesting (and grave) aspects of modern-day global warming, then you would be best restricting such conversation to friends who have a genuine scientific way of thinking about the world.

    With "denier" friends, keep the conversation to football.  And don't even mention the weather !!!   They will eventually have to change their minds, but it sounds like they are stubborn enough to hold out for 20 years - until the day comes when they will suddenly "re-invent history" and declare that they had never really doubted all the climate scientists : and that your memory is faulty !

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  9. Eclectic,

    I have found that many people are unaware that warming has been so well documented.  Art could mention to them that the last three years have been the hottest on record.  He could remind them that the last foot of any coastal flood was caused by sea level rise.  Heavy rains are enhanced by AGW.  Most people do not discuss AGW at all in their lives.  If you mention facts enough time eventually it might sink in that there are problems now with AGW.  No need to harp on the subject if htey do not wnat to hear it.

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  10. Eclectic@8,

    I agree, but would say that many "deniers" are deliberately and knowingly dismissive of information and understanding that is contrary to their personally preferred beliefs, desires and hopes to get away with what they can actually understand are unacceptable things to try to get away with.

    The deliberate dismissers are not likely to change their minds in 20 years. They will continue to push for the ability to get away with obtaining more undeserved personal benefit for as long as possible. That is the type of people they choose to be.

    The growing problems faced by humanity today are the result of the success of pursuers of their personal short-term interests getting away with developing popular support for pursuits that could have been understood to be damaging and unsustainable (actions a few would benefit from without ever really facing the likely damaging consequences... In business that is called mitigating risk and it is focused on mitigating the personal risk to the wealthiest and most powerful, not protecting the general population or future generations or even the consumers that are relied on to support the pursuit).

    Tragically, many mechanisms to review the acceptability of pursuits of profit allow unacceptable actions to have their potential perceptions of popularity and profitability be "balanced" with any understanding of their unacceptability or unsustainability (and many are rigged to ensure the perceptions are highlighted while any potentially contrary understanding is restricted). That is an absurd way to determine acceptability, especially if the advancement of humanity to a lasting constantly improved future for all is the objective. But is very common, including the way that future costs of climate change are discounted for comparison to the evaluated lost opportunity if climate change impacts are actually effectively reduced.

    There really is no other beneficial, moral, ethical or valuable purpose to a life than helping with the advancement of all humanity to a lasting better future. There can definitely be other desires but the results of pursuits of other desires can be personal self-interest, and such desires need to be monitored and restricted to ensure that they are not detrimental to the advancement of humanity (those who are unwilling to self-monitor and self-restrict clearly need to be "helped...with a tough love approach if necessary").

    A key argument used by deliberate dismissers against having to accept the reality of the unacceptability of benefiting from burning fossil fuels is that "They and others" would not be able to live as well as they have developed a taste to live if they are unable to continue to get away with it, or if it is made to be a more expensive way to do things. They declare they will behave better if someone else makes it cheaper and easier for them to enjoy their life in another way. The reality is that getting away with the least acceptable way of doing something will always be "Cheaper and Easier". That needs to change if truly sustainable transportation technology is to be developed.

    Free Market Capitalism clearly can not be expected to bring about that required change or development. Only rational considerate leadership willing to disappoint and correct the deliberate dismissers of climate change due to fossil fuel burning, and so many other damaging unsustainable developed popular and profitable activities, can bring about the required change. And when elected popular leaders will not do that then others, like the teams that drive the likes of sKs and civil protest groups, have to make it more difficult for leaders to "do the potentially easier job of unLeading Pursuits of Personal Interest rather than the likely more difficult job of Leading the Advancement of Humanity".

    That is the fundamental flaw of the popularity and profitability competition of Free Market Capitalism. The ones willing and able to get away with the worst behaviour have a clear competetive advantage. Raising awareness and improving the understanding of the unacceptability of "some specific self-interested people" can help restrict what is allowed to compete in the Free Market to actions that are understood to be part of a lasting better future for all of humanity into the far far future, on this or any other planet. But that action will not change the minds of those who have made-up their minds to desire to believe something else (something of self-interest), it will only restrict the freedom of such people to do what they would prefer to do, likely making them angry.

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  11. Eclectic @8

    I broadly agree. We shouldn't call people demeaning names even if you privately feel they are a bit thick.

    However not all climate sceptics are morons. Many are highly intelligent. We are all sceptics about something.

    So the question is why are intelligent people sometimes climate sceptics? Obviously some have very large vested interests in the fossil fuel industry.

    Others have clearly been persuaded by the extreme neoliberal laissez faire capitalism philosophy that creates a theoretical basis that attempts to justify their greed or short term interests, and which opposes government controls on acceptable behaviour. However the evidence suggests laissez faire capitalism without appropriate constraints is highly unstable and certainly exacerbates poverty at the lower end of society. The deregulated finance industry played a big part in the global financial crash for example.

    As we have seen conservative leaning people seem more sceptical of climate science than liberals. I think this is because at least some conservatives like stability and hold onto very fixed positions. You see this with opposition to abortion, homosexuality being inherently "bad" and all sorts of social bottom lines. They have added climate science scepticism to their list of non negotiable bottom lines, and any scientific evidence that gets in the way is dismissed as flawed, or a lying conspiracy. It's all a search for fixed principles in a world that science is showing to be anything but fixed.

    In no way am I suggesting conservative world views are unworthy or inferior to liberal views. Millions of years of evolution have produced both conservative and liberal views, so they probably both serve some positive purpose. However it's hard to see anything good coming from hiding from the scientific evidence.

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  12. Michael Sweet @9 , certainly there are many people who have little knowledge or interest in matters of Climate Change.   And it is shameful that the subject of AGW receives far less public education than (for instance)  the dangers of cigarette smoking.

    But if you read between the lines of Art Vandelay's @7 comments, you will see that his [dogwhistle phrase] "gravely skeptical" friends are the sort who are actively resistant to acceptance of scientific facts.

    For the reasons that OnePlanetOF gives - and for other reasons too - these friends are a lost cause.   They are beyond the reach of any rational AGW discussion, which Art Vandelay might care to give.   It is how they have chosen to be.

    As Nigelj @11 says, they have made an emotion-based decision to reject the scientific evidence.  They may well be intelligent, but clearly they are not using their intelligence rationally.  Art Vandelay can't influence them, even if he wanted to.

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  13. Eclectic @12,

    In my experience, profiling and stereotyping is more likely to result in a dismissal of, or resistance to the message, particularly if used with combative or demeaning intent. Most of us accept that it's not helpful to label people of specific ethnicity as less intelligent, even if some empirical evidence exists. If we create an 'us' and 'them' divide we also create a barrier towards the sharing of values and trust between groups, but that's precisely the situation that exists between the conservative class and the progressive class on the subject of climate, and every time we assign derogatory labels or employ psychological or intellectual profiling we only further entrench the divide.

    My feeling is, if it was possible to get a bunch of climate skeptics into a room with a few climate scientists it would likely lead to a positive outcome. As it is at the moment, conservatives mostly hear the climate message through the progressive media, which is guilty of entrenching the class divide.

    If we want conservatives to take notice of climate change and to become advocates for change, and we do, we need to break down the divides and build constructive relationships.

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  14. Art Vandelay @13 , thank you for your comments.

    The deniers - those who are "gravely skeptical" - are not the low-level deniers who know precious little about climate other than what they get from Fox News and similar propaganda sources.   The "low-level" types would, most of them, be prepared to consider re-evaluating their views if and when face to face in a room with polite personable climate scientists who provided skilled factual information.  

    But the top-level deniers, the true deniers you call "gravely skeptical", are another kettle of fish altogether.   ( If I have misinterpreted your description of these particular "gravely skeptical" friends, then please give a detailed description of their attitudes and underlying motivations, plus their climate science knowledge and their general understanding of economics and Conspiracy Theorism. )

    My earlier comments were in no way related to ethnicity or particular  intelligence [ please note that "morons" was your choice of wording, which I take as you being somewhat hyperbolical ! ]    So profiling and stereotyping are entirely inappropriate words for my type of description, which is intended to be generic and accurate ( based on my extensive experience with a considerable number of fervently outspoken deniers ) .

    My main point was that in this day and age of freely available high-quality  scientific information, it is impossible to be "gravely skeptical" based on an open mind and minimal initial knowledge of climate matters.   To be "gravely skeptical" requires a determined resistance to the mountain of facts which are available to the intelligent open mind.

    Art, you will not change those who have chosen to stay in a bunker.

    Save your energy for the job of educating of those who aren't a lost cause. In other words :- for those who are mildly indifferent and unthinking, and who lack the Conspiracy Theorist paranoia.

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  15. Eclectic and Art Vandelay,

    I prefer to refer to the required action as raising awareness and improving the understanding of things.

    For this issue that begins with the undeniable reality of increased CO2 in the recycling environment of our planet from actions like buried hydrocarbons being dug up and burned or forests being cut down without replacement growth, and the constantly improving understanding of the implications and impacts of the increased CO2 (in the atmosphere and the oceans).

    As Eclectic has mentioned some people are determined to not even accept that undeniable starting point for a discussion. Some may appear to accept that starting point but then declare that CO2 is plant food, or warmer is better, or it won't be getting taht much warmer, or some other excuse. Those people are determined to be lost causes for humanity. The only effective action regarding such a person is to figure out why they are so determined to not better understand the issue and overcome their determination to resist better understanding the issue. When a person has a strong self-interest as the basis for their determination it can be very difficult change their way of thinking, they will mentally fight harder and even less rationally.

    Even some very intelligent and well aware people have been choosing to put a lot of effort into trying to create appealing justifications for what they can actually understand are not justifiable beliefs.

    My best understanding of what is going on is that the real root problem is the power of the science of misleading marketing which is able to be abused in the social and economic systems that are so easily to develop appeal for (popular support for unsustainable damaging pursuits that are contrary to the advancement of humanity have been developed in all types of systems: communism, socialism and capitalism). Who would not be potentially tempted to desire and support the "Freedom to believe and do whatever they please" or support "Actions that would be to the benefit of a portion of humanity (a tribe) even if the action can be understood to be detrimental to other humans (or other life on this amazing planet)" or "Not pay taxes that would be spent to benefit other people" or "Be able to live decently without having to participate in the actual helping of others and other life to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all"?

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  16. One Planet Only Forever @15

    Good comment. Maybe your post could be summarised as saying some people are selfish and greedy, and think short term. They have little concern for the future of the planet, humanity as a whole or in government initiatives to help people. There are indeed people like this, and it's a real problem.

    Some of these people figure in extreme political movements like the Tea Party. They are individual freedom focussed, rather than community focussed. Most people are in the middle and realise there has to be a balance of individual freedom and community restraint or government restraint, for the world to function in any reasonable form.

    The neoliberal "free emarket" market orthodoxy promoted by people like Reagon and Thatcher provides an economic theoretical system that justifies greed (self interest) and provides an argument for deregulating controls on economic behaviour and environmental quality. It's a reaction to over control of the 1950s and 1960s, and while some form of economic liberalism was needed, it has gone too far and it has gone very wrong.

    The trouble is neoliberalism or market fundamentalism is extreme and deeply flawed. But until the elite economics community and leading politicians of left and right acknowledge this, it will be used as a theory to justify greed, excessive self interest,  and minimisation of environmental rules.

    Some people will always be sceptical of climate science for a variety of reasons. They are beyond convincing, and are ruled by emotion and instincts, but there are people in the middle that can be convinced. I do agree with comments above that stigmatising them or yelling at them doesn’t help (although its really tempting). You take a polite approach in your post that is thought provoking and makes a strong point, without being inflammatory. I dont see what else we can do.

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  17. Eclectic @14 said - "My earlier comments were in no way related to ethnicity or particular intelligence [ please note that "morons" was your choice of wording, which I take as you being somewhat hyperbolical ! "

    To clarify, my choice of wording was inspired by recent studies, including one from Brock University, Canada, that extablished a link between political orientation and IQ, and of course this paper from Lewandowsky -, linking political beliefs with conspiracy theorism.


    Whether such links exist or not is of academic interest to some, but I would argue is also highly unconstructive.

    And some academics have identified dangers with this type of research-

    But that aside, as has been pointed out by Eclectic and OPOF, there is also considerable diversity within the conservative demographic, and using my own municipality as an example here, which is highly conservative; education levels are above the national average and average household income is also well above average.

    It's also true to say that not all conservatives deny the impact of human activities on the climate system. As has been pointed out there is a diversity of opinion, which unsurprisingly I get to hear on a daily basis.

    On the point of whether intelligent conservatives pose a greater threat to climate action than do less intelligent conservatives, I can't say, but my guess is that intelligence and education levels, regardless of political orientation, are net beneficial to global climate mitigation efforts.

    On the topic of this thread, my only other contribution is the observation that people tend to gravitate towards the media that best represents their ideology, so I would question the extent to which media bias makes a significant contribution to climate change contrarian views. This is also supported by the fact that there are many more news stories that promote climate change as a problem than vise versa.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed Links. Please use the Link icon in the comment editor to create these yourself.

    [RH] Off-topic deleted.

  18. I would bow to any data from published papers, but it is my personal experience that highly intelligent people are also extremely talented in rationalizing their beliefs/values. It takes a kind of discipline to let data inform your opinions and it doesnt come naturally to anyone, especially where any kind of stake has made in a position. The "Gone Emeritus" phenomenum might be evidence of this.

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  19. To the moderators, I put it to you that Art Vandalay's second link @17 is clearly off topic, not to mention political.  I am advising you of this in lieu of responding as I am sure SkS does not want to become embroiled in a race discussion.  But neither am I prepared to leave that link uncritiqued if it is allowed to stand, given the overwhelming immorality that is racism.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Agreed.

  20. Tom Curtis is right. As well a being off-topic, the racial/IQ "thing" is really old news - it was being researched and quoted back in the 1960's and prior.  And even then, it was pointed out that the same racial groupings that  "did poorly" in testing in the USA , were not doing poorly in Brazil.   Interesting, and probably complex/multifactorial - but definitely off-topic.

    Scaddenp has his finger on the point that Art Vandelay seemingly found most mention-worthy.   That is : it is not intelligent conservatives who are the problem, but people whose emotions rule their intellect and whose "motivated reasoning" allows them to create and believe lies.  And especially such people, when they have the wealth and power to wield a hefty amount of propaganda to manipulate the average citizen.

    Art Vandelay, you raise an interesting second point - about whether (in American terminology) Conservatives and Progressives seek out their own comfortable and non-challenging news media.

    It is highly likely that is the case, for those at each extreme of the spectrum.  But I am reasonably sure there's a great number of people in the middle, who don't have strongly polarised views ( and who don't have much knowledge of climate matters, or much interest in the longer term aspects which are not immediately affecting them ).   These "middle-grounders" will naturally be influenced by their everyday exposure to the media they happen to encounter.   An influence that accumulates subtly over many years - an influence which will be all the more successful as it promotes the soothing comfortable idea that there is nothing to worry about now and nothing needing doing about (non)problems now.   Just relax, kick the can down the road, and concentrate on Presidents, Taxes, and Kardashians.

    I do not know whether there are many more news stories that promote climate change as a problem than vice versa.

    But it is general human nature that a comforting lie is received with greater weight than 7 discomforting truths (especially truths which are not standing on the front doorstep).   And that is why the influence (in English-speaking countries) is very great, from the "denier" mainstream media - such as Rupert Murdoch's extensive media empire which is widespread.   And influential because it is widespread.

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  21. Art@17,

    You stated: "I can't say, but my guess is that intelligence and education levels, regardless of political orientation, are net beneficial to global climate mitigation efforts."

    As I stated in my earlier comment the required action is "...raising awareness and improving the understanding of things." With that in mind, I suggest that this very recent BBC item should allow you to gain a better understanding, and that you will understand that higher education or intelligence does not ensure a person will choose to use their knowledge and ability to participate in advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all.

    There is ample evidence that many very intelligent and aware people choose to believe that the freedom of everyone to do whatever they want will advance humanity to a lasting better future. More correctly, they personally desire the benefit they can get in their lifetime from trying to get away with unjustifiably promoting and excusing the belief that any restriction on a person's freedom of attitude and action is bad. They encourage attitudes and activity regardless of their ability to understand how some desires are only going to benefit a portion of humanity in their lifetime, they are not going to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all. And it is more difficult to change the minds of such 'intelligent and determined' people.

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  22. Eclectic @20

    "I do not know whether there are many more news stories that promote climate change as a problem than vice versa."

    Fair point, but I’m not sure numbers matter too much, within reason. It's about style and volume. The warmists and sceptics are quite different.

    For example the media stories "promoting" climate change generally tread a careful line and are reasonably restrained in their language, non political, and science based. They usually at least acknowledge that there are also sceptical views. Even "Al Gore" generally stayed with the science, and his biggest alleged sin was to suggest Greenland may be melting faster than the IPCC was estimating at the time. (Interestingly it looks like he was actually right).

    The “warmists” have to tread carefully because the slightest mistake, or dishonesty and they get absolutely torn apart by the media. Look at the way the IPCC was attacked over some single error over ice loss in the Himalaya mountains. Climate scientists have also been sued or taken to court over the most incredible nonsense without any foundation, and it ammounts to harassment.

    As a result the climate “warmists” are very low key, qualified, and restrained, and this can become a little boring and they may not get so much attention or be so effective at selling their message. That of course has been the sceptical lobbies intention all along, in attacking them as viciously as possible to cower them into submission.

    Now compare this with the climate sceptics in the media. They are quite unbalanced and cherrypick only those few science papers they perceive helps their case, and quote them in a way that implies this is what the entire climate community are saying about everything. The sceptics are not shy about accusing climate scientists of being liars (without providing a shred of proof) and politicising the thing by suggesting climate change is all politically driven by liberals, or the Chinese (according to Donald Trump), or socialists (again without a shred of proof).

    And the media have been very reluctant to take these more outspoken sceptics to task, and one has to ask why? Well the media are dominated by corporate ownership, who may not be too keen to embrace the climate change message. The media also benefit from inflammatory opinions, as this attracts an audience like a magnet. So the media indulge the sceptics, and while they may be a minority, they are very loud!

    The playing field is tilted towards the sceptics.

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  23. Nigelj @22 , the playing field is more than just "tilted" by the  sensationalism-and-controversy tendencies of innocently (and inappropriately) "balanced" or "equal time" reporting by the media.

    The Murdoch press [most particularly] engages in active forcing of the denier messages.  Op-Eds of gross falsehood in the WSJ  (far too grossly false, to pass as editorial failure of supervision).   And the use of a spurious "expert" to completely misrepresent and misreport the considered consensus of thousands of true experts (in a recent case).  Many other cases could be mentioned.   We are not talking of mild "spin", but of heavy-handed propaganda combined with suppression of truth.

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  24. Eclectic @23

    I would say the media is tilted towards the sceptics by a good 45 degrees minimum!

    I agree with your comments on the Murdoch press. They present pure, one sided propaganda that is quite misleading. That’s being polite about it.

    However even the so called liberal media or "in the middle" media is tilted towards the sceptics. The liberal media in my country goes at great pains to give sceptics 50% of column space on climate change opinion articles, even though sceptical climate scientists are in a minority. This is important because this false balance creates an impression with the public that scientific opinion is split 50 / 50 when it isn't!

    Of course sceptics should get some space in the media, because of freedom of speech and balance, but they are over represented.

    I just want to back to the Murdoch press and conservative leaning media like Fox. It is obvious I dislike their views on climate change, and other matters, however I'm also a strong supporter of freedom of speech. What really annoys me about their climate sceptical commentary is how misleading it is. You have talked about this.

    Another example is an article I read in the conservative leaning media highlighting a paper on low climate sensitivity, without mentioning these papers are in a minority, and are based on a very risky set of assumptions on the so called pause. It all creates an impression that the science community has moved on and that climate sensitivity is now accepted as being low, when this is absolutely not the case.

    If the "warmists" misrepresented research like this, the media as a whole would roast them alive, figuratively speaking. Warmists look at the weight of evidence, and the most thorough research papers.

    I’m just interested in the truth about climate change. I’m 100% sure we have a big problem, but I’m open minded. It would be good if there was some alternative explanation that recent warming is natural, but there isn’t one that I can see which only leaves the greenhouse effect. I have a decent general education.

    So if I can see this why can’t the conservative media? As I have said previously I think its a combination of things to do with selfishness, vested interests, dislike of big government, and a conservative tendency towards fixed beliefs based somewhat on emotive reactions. It’s like the conservative media have made a decision to distrust the science as its “inconvenient” to them for all these reasons, and have decided to declare war on climate science, and a war where the ends justify the means. It’s gone crazy.

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