2.3 Models: The Missing Piece in Climate Change Coverage

Monday, 24 January 2011: 2:00 PM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Karen Akerlof, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

As the sole tool for projecting future climate trends under conditions of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, climate models form the basis for global warming risk assessments and thus are inextricably linked to policy formation. As such, one would expect that they would be a component of climate change discourses in the media. This study maps where attention to climate modeling was occurring in four U.S. newspapers over the period of 1998-2007, as well as in 20 media sources frequented by high-knowledge U.S. audiences for the year 2007. Mention of climate models occurred the most frequently in The New York Times, followed by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY, and in differing locations within the newspapers. More than half of the mentions of climate models appeared in The Wall Street Journal's editorial pages, compared to less than 15% in that of The New York Times. During 2007, a peak year of climate change coverage, the programs and publications with the most frequent mentions of models, based on an index of media preferred by high-knowledge audiences, were NPR's Science Friday, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Nation and The National Review.
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