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Facts Frozen Out: Network News and Global Warming

Executive Summary

Polls from groups as diverse as Greenpeace and Citizens for a Sound Economy show that most climate scientists are skeptical of claims that the climate change of the 20th century has been a result of greenhouse gas emissions. This is news to network reporters. A study from the MRC's Free Market Project demonstrates that over the past five years reporters have presented a highly distorted picture of the global warming debate. Specifically, researchers found:

1) Thirty-nine of the 48 network evening news stories during the study period simply assumed that science supports global warming theories. Only seven stories mentioned that climate scientists are skeptical of claims that humans are changing the earth's temperature.

2) Of the seven stories which did mention that scientists are skeptical of global warming theories, only two brought up the actual arguments of skeptical scientists. (There were two stories during the study period that neither assumed climate change nor brought up arguments against global warming.)

3) Only two of the 48 stories pointed out that some scientists believe global warming, if it did occur, would be a boon to human health and well-being. The other 46 stories assumed global warming would be disastrous.

4) Only 10 of the 85 soundbite sources reporters interviewed opposed policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, while 60 soundbite sources supported such policies. Fifteen sources were neutral.

In order for their stories to be balanced, reporters must present the arguments of the many climate scientists who are skeptical of claims that humans are disastrously warming the planet. So far, such scientists have rarely been heard from on the evening news.