Taehyun Kim, Ph.D. Assistant Professor


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Taehyun Kim, Ph.D. Assistant Professor

  1. 1. Taehyun Kim, Ph.D. Assistant Professor CSUN Journalism Department False Sense of Balance: American Media and Public (mis)Understanding of Science of Global Warming
  2. 2. Public Opinion Polls <ul><li>The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press </li></ul><ul><li>www.people-press.org </li></ul><ul><li>June 14-19, 2006 (n=1,501) +/-3 </li></ul>20% 70% Americans said there is no solid evidence of global warming there is solid evidence that the earth's average temperature is rising
  3. 3. 41% 21% Global Warming is due to human activities due to natural patterns in the earth's environment
  4. 4. 2007 poll A Yale University / Gallup / ClearVision Institute Poll July 23-26, 2007 (n=1,011) ±4 71% Global Warming Believers 48% Believe that there is consensus among the scientific community
  5. 5. 57% 12% 29% Global warming is caused mainly by human activities caused equally by humans and natural changes mostly by natural changes
  6. 6. <ul><li>American public’s Global Warming Grade Report Card: C </li></ul><ul><li>False Sense of Balance exacerbate misunderstanding of science of global warming. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Journalistic Balance? <ul><li>Journalists are ordinary citizen’s watchdogs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They warn the publics about the dangers around them so that they can take necessary actions. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Journalists must pursue unbiased truthful information </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>But journalists are rarely in a position to determine absolute truth (disaster, murder, politics or business news…) </li></ul><ul><li>If a reporter cannot determine what’s true, what do they do instead? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quotation and Attribution… Faithfully capture the meaning and intent of the source; let the source face the consequences </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><ul><li>Maintain Balance or even-handed approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Interview representatives of all the sides involved, then include as many opinions as possible. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We report, you decide; Truth is in here somewhere </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Balancing = accuracy? <ul><li>Yes, if there are two or more equal counterparts. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anecdotal story, good guy vs. bad guy, micro-individual level </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No, when it comes to complex macro-level controversies like global warming </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>“False sense of balance” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Error by taking “even-handed, balanced” approach when there are overwhelming majority and vocal minority opinion. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. U nintended consequences <ul><li>Through &quot;balanced&quot; coverage of global warming, the US media have under-represented IPCC's consensus on the human contributions to global warming and over-represented global warming skeptics views. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>“Illusion of scientific uncertainty” American public still have doubts about science of global warming </li></ul><ul><li>Thereby providing space for politicians to call for &quot;more research&quot; before tinkering with the status-quo consumption of fossil fuels. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>8 years of Inaction=Victory for Global Warming Skeptics and fossil-fuel lobby </li></ul>
  15. 15. Call for New Paradigm <ul><li>Risk Society (Ulrich Beck): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Global Warming poses significant cognitive burden on individuals to perceive unprecedented global scale risks. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Thus, media play increasingly vital role in informing people about ubiquity of risk. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>New paradigm: Real balance, reflecting the weight of opinion within the scientific community, instead of simplistic dueling scientist scenario </li></ul><ul><li>True watchdog journalism </li></ul>
  17. 17. Required Reading <ul><li>Ross Gelbspan, “The Heat Is On” and “Boiling Point” </li></ul><ul><li>Boykoff and Boykoff, July 2004 &quot;Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the U.S. Prestige Press” Global Environmental Change </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>&quot;The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality&quot; </li></ul>Thanks!
  19. 21. <ul><li>NASA James Hansen's 1988 testimony to the U.S. Congress </li></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;99 percent certain&quot; that warmer temperatures were caused by the burning of fossil fuels and not solely a result of natural variation and that &quot;it is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.&quot; </li></ul></ul>
  20. 22. <ul><li>On the other hand, some skeptical meteorologists and analysts assert that global warming reflects a natural cycle of temperature fluctuation and cannot be decisively tied to human actions. &quot;As far as we are concerned, there's no evidence for global warming, and by the year 2000 the man-made greenhouse theory will probably be regarded as the biggest scientific gaffe of the century,&quot; Piers Corbyn, an astrophysicist at London's Weather Action forecasting organization, told the Reuters news agency. --1995 Washington Post article (3/28/95) </li></ul>
  21. 23. Powerful Elites Groups <ul><li>Fossil-fuel industries launched deceptive campaigns to confuse the public and policymakers on the issue. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Confusion is intentional, expensively gift wrapped by the energy industries.” </li></ul><ul><li>Fostering doubt is a well known public relations tactic. </li></ul><ul><li>Inaction = victory </li></ul>
  22. 24. Fossil-fuel Lobby <ul><li>Tactics: People generally do not favor action on a non-alarming situation when arguments “appear” to be balanced on both sides, e.g. “Dueling Scientist Scenario” </li></ul><ul><li>They have used lobby groups, public relations firms and conservative think-tanks </li></ul><ul><li>They attempt to cast doubt on predictions of global warming and its impacts </li></ul>
  23. 25. Anti-Kyoto Lobbying <ul><li>Consortium of 20 organizations representing oil, coal and other fossil fuel interests spent an estimated $13 million on television, newspaper and radio advertising. </li></ul><ul><li>Its target: &quot;older, less-educated males from larger households who are not typically active information seekers&quot; </li></ul>
  24. 26. More Anti-Kyoto Lobby Groups <ul><li>The Coalition for Vehicle Choice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ford, GM and Chrysler. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The US National Coal Association spent $700,000 (1992/93). </li></ul><ul><li>The American Petroleum Institute </li></ul><ul><ul><li>BP Oil, Shell, Chevron and Exxon paid PR-firm Burson-Marsteller $1.8 million (1993). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3M, Amoco, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Exxon, Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble and General Motors. </li></ul></ul>