Climate Change News Not Affecting the Public

climate change

News coverage of climate change does not seem to have a lasting impact on the public. In fact, a new study suggests that climate change news does not affect the public’s perceptions of climate science and climate scientists. At least this seems to be on target regarding news related to climate change scandals. The bad news has no genuine repercussions on public interest in climate change issues at all.

Researchers, from Princeton University and the University of Oxford in Britain, looked at trends in specific Internet search terms. They also examined searches for “climategate” on November 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009. The study followed the term “global warming hoax” to look for the impact of both the “climategate” story and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reporting error. Most “climategate” searches came from Australia, Canada and the United States.

Scientists analyzed Google Trends data for internet searches on climate change following two climate change stories. The first story concerned hacked emails at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Climate change skeptics said the “climategate” emails revealed a plot to suppress dissenting scientific views on human-caused climate change. Further investigation revealed no misconduct in that case. The second story concerned a IPCC report. The report overestimated how quickly Himalayan glaciers would melt.

Charts of internet searches around the time of each news story showed a spike in interest, followed by a dramatic drop in interest. The number of searches dropped by almost 50 percent after six days and had dropped 90 percent after 22 days. This rapid decline in interest suggests that climate change news is not affecting the public as much as scientists might like.

The quick drop in searches suggests “no long-term change in the level of climate change skepticism.” said Oxford scientist Greg Goldsmith. A flurry of media coverage of an event like “climategate” was followed by a burst of public interest, which faded quickly.The researchers concluded that fleeting scandals involving climate science appear to have minimal effect on public opinion. That conclusion is supported by independent polling data.

Data from a YouGov poll has shown that interest in climate change dropping from 80 percent in 2006 to 71 percent last year and 63 percent this year. While this drop in interest could be considered a problem, there is also an upside. Scientists had worried that bad news, like the IPCC overestimate and the hacked emails, could undermine public trust. This just is not the case, based on the rapid loss of interest indicated by this new study.

Media coverage of climate change news seems to have little effect on public awareness of the issue, the scientists conclude in their study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The researchers suggest a fatigue factor might be involved, where people just lose interest in an issue.

Declining public interest in climate change could make it more difficult to “muster public concern” to take action on climate change, said co-author William Anderegg of Princeton’s Environmental Institute. This trend of declining interest is worrisome and needs to be addressed soon, he said.

Climate change news does not much affect public interest in the subject, according to the scientists behind this study. The researchers suggest that climate scientists reexamine how best to engage with the public on the subject of climate change, the researchers wrote.

By Chester Davis

Tech Times
Nature World News
Red Orbit



One Response to "Climate Change News Not Affecting the Public"

  1. climatebob   May 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    The media is firmly in the camp of the fossil fuel industry and to get real climate change new you have to go to specialist sites. Fortunately we have the internet and can get access to reliable university and government sites for the facts.


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