Sceptics can unbalance discussions about climate change
FAO / Errath
[MELBOURNE] Airing the views of climate change sceptics in the media only serves to keep controversy boiling, scientists have told the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, Australia.
Kevin Hennessy, Australian scientist and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report, said today (18 April) that media attention on "the view of a handful of climate change sceptics" amplifies their opinions and "implies that there is little agreement about the basic facts of global warming".
Speaking in a session about climate change reporting, he said editors and journalists have a duty to ensure that facts are presented in context. Balanced reporting, he said, "perpetuates the public's perception that scientists are in disarray, which is misleading in the case of climate change".
Geoff Love, vice chair of the IPCC Working Group II, said that the IPCC assessment reports ― from 1990, 1995, 2001 and February 2007 ― are strong evidence of "the coming together of the scientific community" and that emphasis on the sceptic view does not help public understanding of climate change.
Media coverage has not always reflected the consensus of the majority of the scientific community, said Ian Lowe, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. "That only makes the public and political discussion more difficult," he said.
The problem is compounded by a lack of reporting on climate change, according to Chris Mooney, a US-based science journalist.
Although the 2006 hurricane season attracted a lot of media attention, Mooney presented statistics from the United States showing that climate change has never been a priority in the media.
The situation is similar in Africa, said Kenyan SciDev.Net correspondent Ochieng' Ogodo. Articles about deaths caused by floods or other natural disasters, and political scandals related to climate change tend to get precedence, he said.
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