Climate coverage from major media now accurate, study finds

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Aug. 17 (UPI) — Kudos to the press — major newspapers in the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have been accurately communicating the facts of climate change for the past 15 years, according to a new survey.

For the study — published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters — researchers analyzed the content of 4,856 newspaper articles on climate change. Scientists determined the coverage accurately represented climate change and the human-related causes 90 percent of the time.

Importantly, researchers found climate change has increasingly been presented as a factual reality and less and less as political controversy.

“Facts now outweigh a debate,” lead study author Lucy McAllister said in a press release.

But it wasn’t always like that.

“Two decades ago, print media frequently gave equal credence to both legitimate climate experts and outlier climate deniers. But we found in more recent years that the media around the globe actually got it right most of the time,” said McAllister, a former postdoctoral student at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Across the mainstream press, researchers found nine out of ten stories were accurately reported.

Analysis showed, however, that climate coverage from historically conservative newspapers in all five countries — Canada’s National Post, Australia’s Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and the U.K.’s Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday — was less accurate.

“Accurate reporting in these print outlets vastly outweighed inaccurate reporting, but this is not a cause for complacency,” ]co-author Max Boykoff said in the release.

“The terrain of climate debates has largely shifted in recent years away from mere denial of human contributions to climate change to a more subtle and ongoing undermining of support for specific policies meant to substantially address climate change,” said Boykoff, director of the environmental studies program at Boulder.

The researchers note that most people are unlikely to read peer-review scientific studies on climate change, with the majority of readers relying on print media for climate change news.

This, they said, makes journalistic accuracy vital for a healthy and informed public policy debate.

“Achieving consistently accurate media coverage is still not a silver-bullet solution to spark collective action,” Boykoff said. “Our work helps provide insights on how the media are portraying human contributions to climate change, yet more clearly must be done.”

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