Climate Change Denial

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June 6, 2006


George Marshall @ 2:37 pm

Despite their supposed neutrality, newsreaders invariably add little gestures, snorts and asides after news items to seem human and more natural. There’s Happy Face, Sad Face, Lifted Eyebrow Quizzical Look (Sue Lawley used to do this all the time on the BBC 9 O’Clock News), Sombre Serious Look Into Camera, and, most irritating, the Little Chatty Flirty Ho-Ho-Ho with the Co-Hosts. These constitute powerful messages which
model a response for the audience.

I have noticed repeatedly that the newsreader responses to climate change stories are often inappropriate or actively undermine the story. This morning there was a good example on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme. After a significant discussion on a demand from business leaders for stronger government action on climate change, the presenter said – ‘and now- ho-ho over to the weather’ The weather reader then said ‘well, we’re certainly in for some ho-ho global warming today’. The connotation of global warming with pleasant summer weather is especially dangerous in Britain where many people anticipate an idyllic future of ‘Costa-del-Britain’.

Weathercasters do not undermine other serious news items in this way. They do not chuckle and say “explosive storms across the north east so expect some big bangs” or “and there’s another big pile up of fronts on its way’ or “gosh, weather’s going to be a bit of a holocaust today”. If they did they would be sacked on the spot.

I will make a note of further sightings. Please add yours.

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  1. Larry Saltzman says:

    The problem of climate change denial is certainly critical to understand and you are to be commended for addressing it. Obviously, much of it is driven by the rightwing think tanks in the pay of the energy industry who put this stuff out. And in turn the journalistic misapplication of the principle of balanced reporting gets the denial message out in a disproportional way. It makes it sound like scientists are equally divided on the issue. There is also clearly a psychological problem for many people to face such a horrific problem as global warming. Finally there is a profound ignorance of science amongst the general population of this country.

    I also think that the terms global climate warming and global climate change are part of the problem. They are nice words that fail to describe the catastrophe. Terms like global climate disruption or global climate catastrophe are far more accurate compelling and urgent and better describe what is coming.

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