Climate change deniers have received more media attention over the years than recognised climatologists, according to a new study.
This creates confusion in the minds of the public and runs counter to the fight against global warming, notes the study, published this week in Nature Communications.
The researchers analysed 100,000 articles on climate change published in the press or on the Internet between 2000 and 2016, focusing on how often they mentioned or quoted hundreds of well-known climatologists and an equal number of deniers – academics, business people and politicians who doubt the planet’s climate is warming up or attribute the higher temperatures to natural causes.
The visibility of the climate deniers was 49% higher than that of the climatologists, note the authors of the study, which was led by Alexander Petersen of the University of California at Merced.
Even in a selection of top-ranking English-language newspapers such as the New York Times, The Guardian and the Wall Street Journal, climate deniers were quoted more often.
Scientific data shows that the world has become +1°C warmer since the pre-industrial era due to greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity, and climatologists have been warning for a long time about the threats global warming poses to humanity.
The deniers have succeeded in having a strong voice in political and scientific communication, the study’s authors said, noting that the imbalance in media visibility creates a false impression of the distribution of experts’ opinions and undermines the credibility of climate scientists.
The imbalance is made even worse by the amplifying effect of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, according to the study.
Since the publication in October 2018 of an alarming report by the UN Group of International Experts on the Climate, GIEC, the issue of global warming has moved to the forefront of public concerns, and demonstrations calling for action on climate change have become increasingly frequent. Some western governments have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Yet, mainstream media continues to serve as a platform for dubious and even discredited positions on climate change.