Tabloid coverage of climate is biased, say researchers

A study from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute has examined press coverage of climate change by the UK’s four major tabloid daily newspapers.1It found that the articles printed between 2000-2006 "significantly diverged from the scientific consensus" that humans contribute to climate change.

The researchers trawled through nearly 1,000 articles from the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Daily Express and the Mirror. They analysed the tone, context, terminology and labelling of those quoted and relationships between messages. They concluded that readers were being misinformed.

Research fellow Max Boykoff said, "These newspapers have very high circulation and influence in the UK. We hope these findings help tabloid reporters and editors reflect further on the accuracy of their climate change reporting.

"To the extent that balanced reporting and contrarian commentary have misrepresented scientific consensus on the issue of human contributions to climate change, there is a problem."

Newspaper coverage of issues such as MMR vaccinations illustrates how successfully newspapers can engage the public, he said. And commentators like the Sun columnist Jeremy Clarkson have contradicted scientists with unfounded authority by alleging, for example: "Cars do not cause global warming. Now we learn that all along it was bloody sheeps and cows."

Dr Boykoff continued, "Misreporting on human contributions to climate change can contribute to skewed views among these papers’ many readers. We’re all involved in the fight against climate change and it’s in all of our interest to widen, rather than restrict, the spectrum of possibility for appropriate policy action."