It’s the media’s fault
One day I’m going to sit down and draw a flow diagram. It will chart the path of influence from media to public and back again. It will be a big mess of a diagram because as well as having to reflect the very different reporting in the range of news outlets that we have, it will have to understand how the different readers / watchers / hearers of the news will react – and a million and one stages in between.
For the meantime I’m not going to bother compiling my flow diagram. Its reception, once drawn, would be different depending on the newspaper that chose to cover it so in the end it would end up meaning even less than it did in the beginning. I guess where the media and public are involved there are no such things as truths.
Except there are. There remain, regardless of your favourite newspaper and favourite journo’s style, scientific truths. One such truth has been known since the greenhouse effect, proven in 1858, was put together with the massive increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere since the industrial revolution: global warming and climate change. There is almost no scientific debate on this subject. However our newspaper tell very different stories.
Yeterday I walked into my newsagent, smiled at the bloke behind the counter and reached for the Guardian. I was pleased to see this headline on the front-page. Lurking behind the Guardian was the Daily Express with their version of front page news (sponsored by Mercedes Benz…). One paper says that even those who have denied the severity of human-induced climate change are now changing their tune and telling us to plunge money into climate change mitigation and adaption. The other tells us that climate change research is full of holes, lies and exaggerations: that there is nothing to worry about.
So there is debate about climate change. Enough debate to have two papers give their front pages to contradictory reports. But the debate is not backed up by the scientific community. It is an illusion of debate (with very real effects), rather than a debate focused on the facts of the greenhouse effect and global warming. So where does the agency for this faux-debate come from. Is it the public that does not want to reckon with the reality of climate change, or the press that would prefer not to ‘preach’?