When it comes to the media representation of climate change there is much room for debate. Science journalism and the media in general place as much importance on scientifically weak arguments as they do on scholarly analysis which offers “media expertise rather than media opinion” (Dreher, 2012). The climate change debate is not the first that has divided the public into sceptics and believers. The sceptics of climate change in the media could be compared to the tobacco and asbestos lobbies, which also hid behind the façade of the ‘sceptic’ to warrant their beliefs. “Climate ‘Sceptics’ have been assisted either by a culpable media or the media’s pursuit of “balance“ before accurate and adequate reporting of the science” (Purdue, 2012).
This concept of ‘false balancing’ is seen across a range of other media debates, one of the most recent examples was the relationship between Thiomersal and autism, or the ‘Thiomersal controversy’. The ‘Thiomersal controversy’ describes claims that vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative Thiomersal contribute to the development of autism. Contemporary science proves that after extensive research there is no evidence to support these claims but in spite of the consensus of the hard facts and figures some parents and advocacy groups continue to contend that Thiomersal is linked to autism. A 2011 journal article described the vaccine-autism connection as “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years” (Flaherty, 2011). The media coverage on Thiomersal resulted in scepticism about the product, just as the scientific media representations of climate change resulted in an opposition from climate sceptics. Again, the media’s ‘pursuit of balance’ assisted the sceptical view to overthrow the expert scientific evidence. In the case of Thiomersal this false balancing was resurrected, and hard science won. But who will win the debate on climate change – The scientists or the skeptics?
Cottle, S, 2011, ‘Taking global crises in the news seriously: Notes from the dark side of globalization’, Global Media and Communication 7(2), pp77-95
Dreher, T, 2012, ‘Analysing Literature: Global issues’, BCM310 Lecture Week 11, Wollongong University
Flaherty, D, 2011, ‘The vaccine-autism connection: a public health crisis caused by unethical medical practices and fraudulent science’, 45 (10): 1302–4, accessed online 17/05/2012 http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-Denial-Media-Banishment-Science-Reality.html
Purdue, B, 2012, ‘Climate Change, Denial and the Media – Banishment of Science Reality’, Sceptical Science – Getting Sceptical about Global Warming Scepticism