Research Press Release

Climate change: Media visibility of climate change contrarians assessed

Nature Communications

August 14, 2019

A group of climate change contrarians appeared in 49% more media articles than scientists who support the consensus view that climate change has an anthropogenic origin, according to an analysis in Nature Communications of digital and print media articles from 2000 - 2016. However, when comparing visibility between these two groups in a subset only of mainstream media outlets, there was a 1% difference in their respective visibilities.

Alexander Petersen and colleagues investigated the visibility and emergence of authority among climate change contrarians. The authors tracked the digital footprints of 386 climate change contrarians (comprised of academics, scientists, politicians and business people) and 386 climate scientists who agree climate change has an anthropogenic cause. They did so using approximately 100,000 media articles and blogs on climate change from sources based primarily in North America and Europe from 2000 - 2016. They found that overall, the climate change contrarians’ media visibility was 49% higher than the climate change scientists’. However, when the authors looked specifically at 30 mainstream media sources (sources that implement quality control through traditional editorial standards), the media visibility of the two groups was nearly the same.

The authors argue that prominent contrarian voices may benefit from the scalability of new media, particularly news sources and blogs that may not implement rigorous information quality assessment standards.


Return to research highlights

PrivacyMark System