Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty by James Painter
By James Painter
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Extra info for Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty
It may be able to be reduced in some areas, but it is unlikely to go away completely. But for the general public educated in ‘school science’, this uncertainty may be something they do not readily associate with science. So what do scientists tell us about the degrees of certainty about different aspects of climate science? In broad brush terms, there is more certainty about the past, but (unsurprisingly) much less certainty about the future. So, there is almost universal agreement that the average surface temperature of the Earth has warmed in recent decades, and that the warming is mainly a result of human-driven emissions of GHGs.
A recent study of 12 newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK, and the USA strongly suggested that France and the three developing countries stood out for giving considerably less space to sceptics compared to the USA and the UK (Painter and Ashe, 2012). The US newspapers had, by some margin, the highest proportion of articles containing sceptical voices in the periods examined in 2007 and 2009–10. Well-known sceptics from the UK and other parts of the world are frequently quoted or mentioned in the UK press in a way that specifically links doubts about aspects of climate science to their opposition to taking action to curb GHGs (Painter, 2011: chapter 6 and appendix 4).
In other words, a decision maker could argue that, on the basis of this calculation, it would be wrong to take aggressive action as it would cost more to mitigate than it would to suffer the impacts. However, when he made a second calculation, in which he included a probability distribution of a range of inputs to estimate the impacts of temperature rises, then he came up with a much larger mean figure of US$400 trillion because it included the high temperature, high impact possibilities at the top end of the range.