Mar
18
2014

Public Confused About Climate Change? It's Everybody's Fault But the Media's

Mirror (cc photo: Les Chatfield)

When it comes to figuring out who's responsible for public misconceptions about climate change, here's one place the New York Times won't be looking. (cc photo: Les Chatfield)

The New York Times reports on the new American Association for the Advancement of Science report on climate change, and wonders whether it will make any difference. Reporter Justin Gillis notes that, "because so many people are confused about the science, the nation has never really had a frank political discussion about the options." He contrasts this to the debate and subsequent action on CFCs: 

Global warming has been much harder to understand, not least because of a disinformation campaign financed by elements of the fossil-fuel industry.

But the new report is a recognition among scientists that they bear some responsibility for the confusion–that their well-meaning attempts to convey all the nuances and uncertainties of a complex field have obscured the core message about risks. The report reflects their resolve to try again, by clearing the clutter.

Will the American people hear the message this time?

So public misperceptions about the reality and severity of climate change aren't just the fault of the fossil-fuel industry–scientists are also to blame,  for being too nuanced. In any case, it certainly isn't the fault of the media who for so long pretended (and often still pretend) that those two groups' opinions are of equal validity. Nor is it the media's fault that there's never been a national discussion about solutions to climate change–how could they engage in such a thing, when people are just so confused?

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.