Weekly News Critique Blog: Climate Change

The thing that immediately struck me about most of these articles is that they are, with the exception of The Daily Show and Colbert Report, not from “entertainment” news sources. These are articles written for people who are interested in the subject; enough so to actually read through a fairly long in-depth analysis of the issue.

The twenty-four hour news cycle is conducive to articles that are short, simple, and full of easily digestible sound-bites. The article’s chosen are long enough to give someone context to a complex issue, something that escapes what most people consume as TV news, see in their facebook feeds, or read tweets about.

The problem is that even articles that take the time to intersect the human element, and contain chilling imagery of cornmeal disguised as anthrax spores, still escape the attention span of most Americans.

So my question is this: how can scientific thought compete with sensationalist deniers when most won’t take the time to educate themselves on the issue?

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8 Responses to “Weekly News Critique Blog: Climate Change”

  1. I think graphic designers could have a significant contribution to scientific news of the future, and may be able help scientists compete with the sensationalists to a certain extent. More and more often, info-graphics are helping ordinary non-scientists understand, visualize, and educate themselves on scientific issues, in an aesthetically pleasing and contrite way (think National Geographic).

  2. Perhaps global warming is one scenario where it is better to lead with proof of support, not the proof itself. It seems as though dispute still exists largely because people cannot, or at least do not take the time to, analyze the most recent research on global warming. Raw data, the most convincing portion of a scientific argument, can not only overwhelm and confuse readers but also elicit feelings of hopelessness. In depth analysis, therefore, would not serve its purpose in entertainment sources. Additionally, disputing these brash claims against global warming can be difficult to accomplish without refering to detailed analysis of current findings. This allows discussions with less credible information to remain in circulation and even dominate the newsfeed. Because of this, I agree with Erica in that user-friendly graphics can help to educate the viewer. Graphics simply explaining the number of experts that are consonant with the theories, such as the one on the James Powell site, can inform viewers on the amount of support without frightening them away from the topic altogether. It is statistics like these that can be used to convince current skeptics, saving the more in-depth data for those who are ready to hear it.

  3. We need to use education to pique our population’s curiosity and empower them not only to pursue appropriate context on their own but also to make them understand the impact that they can have on their environment and their health. This effort must include graphic branding efforts that Erica mentioned as well as making data more digestible as Taylor suggested, but as elements of a larger strategy. In order to combat sensationalist deniers it is of paramount importance to communicate the impact that people can have. Every human wants control, the message the scientific community needs to sell is not to reinforce how dreadful this situation is but instead to convey the ease with which small changes can have a huge impact. That is one message that the deniers of climate change can’t touch. By claiming humans aren’t causing climate change they also deny our ability to fix it. The scientific community has focused too much on what humans are causing, not what humans may be able to prevent. Combating the popularity and numbing effect of sensational reporting is not going to be accomplished through mimicking tabloid tactics. We can no longer fight fire with fire, any scientist or rational human will tell you that you need to use water and in this case, we need about a glaciers’ worth.

  4. Spitting a bunch of scientific information about global climate change at these “sensationalist deniers” is not the solution to the problem. The issue at hand is the information they are already consuming. The “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” video, The Colbert Report, and The Union of Concerned Scientists articles all cite examples of current news media sources denying that global climate change exists or claim that the whole thing is a fraud based off of what evidence? The fact that there was an extreme snow storm last winter or the seemingly cool summer months. To those who choose to side with their news anchors, the hard scientific data that proves these climate change deniers really are crocks does nothing but instill fear, which Lynne Cherry explains only motivates avoidance rather than a desire to do something about it. Perhaps the solution would be to educate from the top in a way that they understand, starting with our major media sources, so the misinformation does not reach the general public to begin with.

  5. The comments above mine, while extremely valid, may be missing something Jamesbradbury wanted to emphasize. He believes that these “sensationalist deniers” are not taking “the time to educate themselves on the issue.” I certainly agree with this; but I’m not sure if merely adding info-graphics or by other means aesthetically enhancing climate change news articles and columns will attract deniers to climate change-related content. As Steve Outing suggests, deniers tend to believe that climate change is some kind of “liberal conspiracy.” Because of this, I think a lot of climate change skeptics steer away from anything with “climate change,” “global warming,” “greenhouse gasses,” “carbon footprint,” etc. in the headline. I think the most effective way journalists can educate those who resist education is to have as much fairness and balance in the story as possible. A story about climate change should appeal to the deniers’ beliefs and utilize Jamesbradbury’s “scientific thought” to refute these sensationalist ideals. Interview a skeptic–see what this person has to say regarding the climate change issue; perhaps interview a few skeptics. Then interview a climatologist or other scientific expert. Pair the latter interview with statistics and data (perhaps some info-graphics) to further illustrate the reality of global warming. I think that this week’s YouTube link, “It’s so Cold, there can’t be Global Warming” presents an excellent refutation and incorporates some of the new technology aesthetics that the previous commenters described. Notice how this headline could appeal to skeptics though–very clever! Another way we could educate those resistant to education is to find an effect of global warming with pathos (i.e. an emotional appeal). Introduce some recent phenomenon that will make readers feel pity/sadness/discontent, then reveal that the morose topic is an effect of global warming. There’s no question that we need to educate these deniers. But to educate those resistant to education, we must modify the content of the text in a way that will draw the skeptics to the newsstands.

  6. It’s definitely worth pointing out (as Erica did above) that graphic designers could play a big role in helping to adequately explain this issue. People don’t understand numbers, and I don’t mean that in a “most people are stupid way,” the fact of the matter is the human mind has a difficult time comprehending any number we can’t immediately visualize.

    It’s on journalists to make this stuff understandable. The fact of the matter remains that one side is burdened by reporting the “boring truth,” while the other get to pretty much say whatever they want.

  7. While I agree with all the above comments of using statistics and graphic designers, I think the best way for scientific thought to start competing with and winning over sensationalist deniers is to get the “entertainment” news sources involved. Like jamesbradbury5 said, the articles we read all gave in-dept analysis of the issue and were longer than the average human attention span so these deniers will never focus long enough to actually educate themselves on it. If scientists can convince more entertainment news sources and social media networks to start publishing shortened versions of their findings then more people, including deniers, will read about it and at least get a baseline education of what global warming is doing to the Earth. After reading all of the facts in these articles, like the rising ocean water temperatures, it is hard to deny its existence.

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