How does one scientific report generate two entirely contradictory stories and headlines? This is a perfect example of how information on climate change is filtered by the newsmedia and distorted to fit the politics and worldview of their readers.
The report on temperature data was released by the UK Meteorological Office on 26th November to try and generate some discussion during the disastrously muted Cancun climate negotiations.
This is how The Guardian, the UK’s leading liberal environmentalist newspaper reported it:
I cropped the website image to include a typical juxtaphotisian (see my last post). Above the headline is a banner advert promoting the Barclays ‘Fantasy Investment Portfolio’- as ever the climate news is enveloped with messaging reassuring us that everything is fine with the growth economy.
The Guardian based its headline on just one aspect of the report: “that sea surface temperatures were higher than initially thought because of a change in the way the temperatures were measured”.
And here is how the Daily Mail, a right leaning anti-environmentalist newspaper reported exactly the same Met Office report on the same day.
The Daily Mail does not deny that temperatures are still increasing (though it hardly goes out of its way to point this out) so draws solace and a headline from evidence that there has been a slight decline in the rate of temperature increase- it then labels this an ‘admission’ (as though wrung out of the Met Office through interrogation) that “will be seized upon by climate sceptics as evidence that man-made global warming has been overstated”
The stories are so different because the newspapers had already prepared their storylines before they even opened the report. The Guardian enthusiastically embraces catastrophic climate change stories, especially when framed as “you thought it was bad- actually it’s even worse”. The Daily Mail’s stance is that climate change is being exagerated for political ends. It does not deny the problem but actively seeks out storylines that emphasise distortion and unreliability of the data.
The different editorial lines of the newspapers show the fragility of human belief in climate change and the way that people’s pre-existing worldviews intervene and mediate in their processing of information about climate change.
Thank you Jack Pritchard and Clayton Lavallin for sending me these.