Climate Change in the Media

The ongoing debate of climate change often comes with mixed opinions. It has been hailed as ‘the biggest challenge to mankind in human history’ but has also been labelled ‘the biggest swindle’. This confusion stems from what Bud Ward considers as the main challenge for global media, through the ‘false balance’ that is present in the media. These notions, as well as the ‘voice for the voiceless’ are two concepts that regularly surface in relation to debates about global crises such as climate change.

The notion of a ‘false balance’ within the media is a superficial balance, which can be a form of informational bias – through the telling of ‘both’ sides of the story. This has allowed climate change sceptics to have their views greatly amplified and has brought to light the debate of balance vs. objectivity. Generally, the media is expected to provide a balanced coverage in order for the public to make an informed opinion about societal issues, yet in the debate of climate change, it is possible that objectivity would work better, with the presence of a remarkable lag between what climate scientists believe and what the general public believes.

In a YouTube video released by ‘earthhorizonpro, titled ‘A Burning Question’, Professor Justin Lewis addresses the contradicting ideas in the media in relation to climate change. He states that even though the science has become more and more settled, public opinion has become more vague, resulting in support for climate change research dropping. The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change claims that 95% of climate scientists believe global warming is happening, whilst a BBC Poll found that only 26% of the British public believe that climate change is happening as a result of human activity.

What we can draw from these statistics is that television shows like I Can Change Your Mind About Climate‘ do not present a realistic view of the climate change ‘debate’. A number of scientists were vocal in response to the ABC saying that the show, despite having the best intentions, was unhelpful and distorted where the scientific research was at.

The ‘voice for the voiceless’ approach involves amplifying the voices of the ‘voiceless’ and telling untold stories of climate change. The people of small island states such as Kiribati, an island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, have done the least to cause climate change, yet are affected most severely by it.

In order to reduce carbon emissions and reduce climate change, the general public need to be fully informed so that they can make sound decisions. With the work of groups such as the Pacific Calling Partnership and the United Nations, the false balance in the media can be rectified and allow the voices and actions of local people to be recognised in order to move forward. These voices are important in humanising the issue of climate change, so that it is relatable for audiences – who can then take action.


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