The Stark Reality of Climate Change
There has been so much uproar over climate change and global warming. We’ve been subject to many ads showing disintegrating ice caps, polar bears drifting away on melting sheets of ice, schizophrenic weather conditions and heard of Al Gore at one stage or another. The thing is, our idea of climate change has been so heavily mediated that even though we may think there is an obvious two sided, equal argument, it is not exactly the case…
When it comes to climate change, the main question seems to be whether it does in fact exist. The answer is yes (and you can read some excerpts from experts at NASA here) but the mainstream media has a tricky role to play when giving us information about it. On one hand, journalists have a responsibility to ‘the public’s right to know’. Australia’s Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) code of ethics states that journalists are to be ‘honest’ and ‘fair’ and in the case of global warming they should theoretically provide both sides of the argument. The problem with that is the idea of ‘false balance’. What the media does is show that both the arguments for and against the existence of global warming are totally equal however most scholars agree that it does exist (so there is essentially no need to heavily publicize critics and sceptics). This is a form of ‘informational bias’ as a few sceptics have their ideas amplified for the sake of putting in their opinion.
On the other hand, journalists are also to be objective when reporting on every issue. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, journalists have a responsibility to ‘give voice to the voiceless’ as both ‘official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid’. Despite this idea we still seem to get the same kind of news over and over and the more scandalous it is, the more hyped and talked about it becomes. What we never seem to hear of in the case of climate change is the struggle of the islands that are affected by it right now. Countries such as Tuvalu have their island sinking due to the rising sea waters and are looking for options on where to relocate their people. There is not nearly enough coverage about this issue compared to the politics that are surrounding what we should be preparing for, as if global warming hasn’t happened yet. How are we to help these people if no one gives them the opportunity to speak?
Journalists have an important role. In most cases it is essential to provide evidence from both sides but when it comes to climate change, there is clear evidence that its current effects should be amplified instead of criticised.