Climate sceptics more prominent in UK and US media

October 4, 2012

Climate sceptics are being given a more prominent, and sometimes uncontested, voice in UK and US newspapers in contrast to other countries around the world, new research suggests.

The findings have been published today, 5 October, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, as part of a study looking at how climate manifested itself in the print media of the US, UK, Brazil, China, India and France during a 3-month period which included 'Climategate' in 2009/10 and a second period which covered the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

In an audit of over 2,064 newspaper articles from the six countries during the first period, the authors, from the University of Oxford and University of London, found that around one in nine articles contained a sceptical voice.

In the US, 34 per cent of all stories appearing in the and during this time had a sceptical voice. Of the 511 climate change articles appearing in the Guardian/Observer and the Daily/Sunday Telegraph during this time, 19 per cent contained a sceptical voice.

Chinese newspapers came next with seven per cent of stories containing sceptical voices. India and France followed with around six per cent each and Brazil was last with three per cent.

The researchers also examined whether there was any correspondence between the political leaning of a and its tendency to give a voice to climate sceptics. Excluding China – their right and left splits are not relevant – the researchers found that there were slightly more articles containing sceptical voices in the left-leaning newspapers than in the centrist or right-leaning newspapers.

This was surprising considering the strong association of climate scepticism with the political right, especially in the US, and previous studies showing that right-wing newspapers were more inclined to question .

On closer inspection of the figures, however, it was found that in the US and UK, a significant amount of the sceptical voices appeared in opinion pieces and that in the right-leaning newspapers these views were uncontested.

In the UK, the Guardian/Observer ran 14 opinion pieces containing sceptical voices during the two periods, all of which were countered or balanced by mainstream scientists. The Daily/Sunday Telegraph on the other hand ran 34 opinion pieces, more than half of which were not contested. The New York Times ran 14 opinion pieces that included sceptical voices, all of which were contested. In contrast, the Wall Street Journal ran 17 opinion pieces, all but one of which was left uncontested.

The researchers also chose to look at the type of climate sceptics that were being quoted in these stories. The types of sceptics who question whether global temperatures are warming at all appear almost exclusively in the UK and US newspapers. These two countries also give a very strong presence to the type of sceptic who challenges the need for robust action against climate change.

Even though 'Climategate' was a UK-based scandal, the researchers picked a period which included this event to sample data as they believed the story was big enough to spark international reporting. A further 1,263 articles were analysed between 1 February and 30 April 2007 at the time when the released their Fourth Assessment Report as this was a period in which scepticism wasn't the central issue.

Lead author of the study, James Painter, said: "These results are significant because they do seem to support those who argue that climate scepticism is much stronger in 'Anglo-Saxon' countries, such as the USA, UK, Canada and Australia, as measured by its presence in the media.

"The data would also suggest a lot of the uncontested scepticism is found not so much in the news reports but in the opinion pages of right-leaning newspapers in the USA and the UK."

The newspapers chosen for analysis were Folha de São Paulo and Estado de São Paulo in Brazil, People's Daily and Beijing Evening News in China, Le Monde and Le Figaro in France, The Hindu and Times of India in India, the Guardian/Observer and the Daily/Sunday Telegraph in the UK, and the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in the USA.

From Friday 5 October, this paper can be downloaded from

Explore further: National differences in reporting of climate scepticism

More information: 'Cross-national comparison of the presence of climate scepticism in the print media in six countries, 2007, James Painter and Teresa Ashe 2012 Environ. Res. Lett. 7 044005.

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3.3 / 5 (7) Oct 04, 2012
"These results are significant because they do seem to support those who argue that climate scepticism is much stronger in 'Anglo-Saxon' countries, such as the USA, UK, Canada and Australia"

hallelujah, all those lambs hail to the glory of the only God. Not surprising at all. Mortals doings are insignificant in the God's scheme. God will save. God will pardon all sins. God will provide. God will correct what mortals messed up...etc, so just go right ahead. Just to be sure to appear contrite at the end to get to the heavenly bus. Such an easy religion to follow!
1.7 / 5 (11) Oct 04, 2012
"climate scepticism is much stronger in 'Anglo-Saxon' countries,"

So is individual liberty and economic prosperity.

4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2012
So is individual liberty and economic prosperity.

Rygg, just for a moment, consider the implications if humans really are driving climate change. Just for the sake of argument, what if it's true?
Wouldn't everyone's liberty be infringed upon? Everyone would be being adversely affected for the economic 'properity' of some. I understand you're libertarian, as am I to a certain extent, but some profiting while others pay the price for it isn't in line with libertarian principles.
Now of course, if it isn't true, then it isn't a problem for personal liberty. There is still the issue of others paying for the pollution of certain industries; that infringes on personal liberty, forcing one to pay the price for the polluting entity's lack of responsibility.
Which is the greater evil? Infringing on the lives of people by changing their habitat? Or infringing on the 'liberty' of companies to change the habitat in the first place?
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2012
"climate scepticism is much stronger in 'Anglo-Saxon' countries,"

So is individual liberty and economic prosperity.

For now....

"The data would also suggest a lot of the uncontested climate scepticism is found not so much in the news reports but in the opinion pages of right-leaning newspapers in the USA and the UK."

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As witnessed on this site, AGW denialism and factual observation are at opposite ends of the scientific arena. The "ignore the problem and it will go away" philosophy always works until the problems become unignorable....
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 05, 2012
If it were true, a free people in a free economy would do what people have done for centuries, adapt.
But they would be doing so from a position of economic strength.
AGWites are socialists and want to centrally plan the world's economies to 'fix' ONE problem they believe needs to be fixed.
In a free economy, billions of people can decide and make their own fixes, just as nature does.
In free economies, millions of people can be wrong with no harm but to themselves.
In a centrally planned world, if the ONE expert is wrong, billions suffer.
Why won't AGWites promote technology based, free market solutions instead of socialist 'solutions'? Because they do NOT really want to solve the problem. They want power.
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2012
You may have missed what I was trying to say. My post wasn't the most coherent. =)
I'll try to rephrase: If a company's (or individual's) actions adversely affect everyone else, forcing them to adapt because of their actions, or imposing expenses on them they wouldn't have otherwise, wouldn't that company or individual be profiting at the expense of everyone else?
In other words, would it be right or ethical (even by libertarian ethics) for a company to force others (in this case, the entire world) to pay for the damage it was causing?
By my libertarian ethics, all trade and commerce is voluntary, never forced. If a company (or many) is causing damage others must pay for or adapt to (or both) unwillingly, that isn't ethical or right, even from a liberty and economic focused viewpoint.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2012
...apparently geostkr doesn't like questions or discussion. =)
2 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2012
If a company's (or individual's) actions adversely affect everyone else,

Then they should be taken to court and sued for damages. That is how property rights are protected.
In particular, English common law on property rights, if applied properly, would allow anyone to sue for property infringement regardless of damages.
But this would impact business and govt revenue so the plaintiff must prove damages, not just infringement.
If property rights were protected by the govt in this manner, any pollutant, contaminate, or any infringement at all, whether harmful or not, must be remedied.
US rivers are 'owned' by the govt so property owners on the Cuyahoga River in OH couldn't sue the polluters, only the govt could.
This is what happens with a 'progressive' state.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2012
US rivers are 'owned' by the govt

Rivers generally belong to everyone. Surely you wouldn't advocate private companies owning a river?

Some pollutants are clearly toxic in any quantity, pcb's for instance. Clear damage laws can (and have been) implemented about such things; at least until the EPA gets disbanded because such laws 'interfere with economic progress'. But how about things like fertilizer? Just enough, and it's good to spread around. Too much, and it kills vegetation. How would you sue your neighbor if he dumped too much fertilizer on your land? It's not a pollutant; clear laws don't exist. It's the same with CO2. In small amounts, it isn't a pollutant, but too much globally, and it gets bad. Who do you sue? Everyone? No clear laws exist.

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