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Climate deniers get more media play than scientists, study says

PARIS—Climate deniers have garnered far more media attention than prominent climate scientists over the years, fueling public confusion and slowing the response to global warming, researchers reported on Tuesday.

From 2000 through 2016, hundreds of academics, business people and politicians who doubted global warming or attributed rising temperatures to “natural” causes got 50 percent more ink than an equal number of top scientists, according to a study in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed journal.

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Even in a more select group of mainstream English language news outlets with high standards of evidence—from the New York Times and The Guardian to The Wall Street Journal and the Daily Telegraph—skeptics were still cited slightly more often.

In reality, there has long been overwhelming agreement among climate scientists that global warming—caused mainly by burning fossil fuels—poses a major threat to civilization and much of life on Earth.

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An increase of only 1 degree Celsius had triggered rising seas and a crescendo of deadly extreme weather, and Earth is on track to heat up another 3 C by century’s end.

Made worse by social media

“Climate change contrarians have successfully organized a strong voice within politics and science communication,” noted the authors, led by Alexander Petersen at the University of California at Merced.

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Petersen and colleagues scanned 100,000 news items published from 2000 through 2016 for bylines, citations and mentions of 386 scientists, and 386 “contrarians.”

“Tallying across all media sources, we find climate change contrarian media visibility to be 49 percent greater than climate change visibility,” they wrote.

The imbalance was made worse by the amplifying effect of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, they added.

“Such disproportionate media visibility of contrarian arguments and actors misrepresents the distribution of expert-based beliefs,” they said. —AFP

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