THE scIENTIFIc cOMMuNITY has considered media coverage about science, in general, as inadequate, and coverage about global warming and climate change, in particular, as distorted. Scientists have maintained that their consensus about the causes and consequences of global warming has been overshadowed by coverage that portrays global warming as a source of scientific controversy and debate. The peer-reviewed findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represent more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries who have reached the joint conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels is causing significant climate shifts, findings that have been substantiated by the National Academy of Sciences, among other prestigious scientific bodies.
Nonetheless, the media have tended to give importance to climate change skeptics. For example, the Western Fuels Association, a cooperative that supplies coal to consumer-owned electric utilities, hired such detractors, including scientists Robert Bailing, Patrick Michaels, and S. Fred Singer, as spokespersons in the early 1990s, as part of a strategy to shift the focus of global warming from fact to speculation. By 1997, only 22 percent of respondents in a Newsweek poll indicated that they worried a large amount about climate change, down from 35 percent in 1991, before the Western Fuels campaign began. Although mass media are not the only avenues which shape public opinion, it affects public perceptions, and, in turn, public policy. Western Fuels ultimately sued environmental groups for publicly linking global warming to the burning of fossil fuels, but the U.S. federal district court in Wyoming dismissed the suit.
A comparison in 2000, climate change coverage in major newspapers found that global warming received three times more coverage in the United Kingdom than in the United States. In the United States, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times has been praised as one writer who has covered global warming steadily. Additionally, it was not until 2004 that the Weather Channel began citing global warming in relationship to its projections. In recent years, however, awareness of global warming has grown and the media have begun to cover climate change more expansively. In those countries with greater media coverage, the public are more concerned about the effects of global warming. A 2007 study found that citizens in Brazil, where media coverage of global warming is regular, are among those most concerned about global warming in the developing world; South Korea's citizens are among the least concerned.
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