By Whitney Akinyi
In a groundbreaking study conducted by the Alliance for Science, the era of climate misinformation in the global mainstream media has been declared all but over.
The research, which analyzed over 300,000 climate-related news stories spanning six months, unveiled a remarkable shift toward accuracy and consensus in climate reporting. As the world converges at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, these findings bring a ray of hope in the fight against climate change.
Mark Lynas, Head of research at the Alliance for Science and lead author of the study, announced the findings during a media event at the Climate Action Zone. “Climate denialism is dead as a news media phenomenon,” Lynas stated.
The study found that a staggering 99.98 percent of analyzed media coverage aligned with the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. This remarkable figure closely mirrors the 99.6 percent consensus identified in a recent comprehensive study of peer-reviewed climate literature.
Lynas emphasized that the debate surrounding climate change’s reality is all but extinguished in mainstream media.
“The era of false balance, where you used to have a scientist always balanced with a climate denier in news stories, is over,” he declared.
The study examined six deceptive climate-skeptic narratives on social media to gauge the extent of climate misinformation within the global press.
Surprisingly, it identified merely 59 articles that contained unverified misinformation related to these narratives out of a total of 321,553 climate-related articles. This translates to an exceedingly low misinformation rate of only 0.02 percent.
However, given the enormous volume of climate-related coverage, even this modest percentage amounted to an estimated 4.4 billion instances of misinformation.
The bulk of this misinformation found its way into the public domain through prominent platforms, including mainstream outlets like Yahoo! and MSN, facilitated primarily by public relations distribution networks.
Furthermore, it was observed that right-wing and conspiracy-oriented media sources, such as Epoch Times, played a significant role in propagating this misleading information.
Among the six misinformation themes, only two received significant breakout coverage in mainstream news. The first was related to a ‘World Climate Declaration’ purportedly signed by 1,500 scientists, making claims debunked by scientific consensus.
The second theme propagated the notion that the climate emergency is ‘fake’ because historical warming has been ‘mild,’ and elevated carbon dioxide levels were beneficial to life on Earth.
“Our findings are good news for the world leaders currently attending the Africa Climate Summit here in Nairobi. We show that the media conversation on climate change has now clearly moved on from denialist talking points,” Dr. Sheila Ochugboju, Director of the Alliance for Science, said.
However, Dr. Ochugboju also cautioned against complacency, highlighting the need to address the shift from denial to delay in climate action due to the influence of fossil fuel interests.
She emphasized the urgency of taking rapid action to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and securing funding for climate resilience and growth, particularly in vulnerable regions like sub-Saharan Africa.
As the Nairobi climate summit takes place, the Alliance for Science is hosting side events in a Climate Action Zone focusing on food security, climate resilience, and combatting anti-science misinformation, underlining their commitment to addressing climate challenges in a post-misinformation era.