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Lost in translation? United States television news coverage of anthropogenic climate change, 1995–2004


Eminent climate scientists have come to consensus that human influences are significant contributors to modern global climate change. This study examines coverage of anthropogenic climate change in United States (U.S.) network television news – ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News – and focuses on the application of the journalistic norm of ‘balance’ in coverage from 1995 through 2004. This study also examines CNN WorldView, CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports and CNN NewsNight as illustrations of cable news coverage. Through quantitative content analysis, results show that 70% of U.S. television news segments have provided ‘balanced’ coverage regarding anthropogenic contributions to climate change vis-à-vis natural radiative forcing, and there has been a significant difference between this television coverage and scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change from 1996 through 2004. Thus, by way of the institutionalized journalistic norm of balanced reporting, United States television news coverage has perpetrated an informational bias by significantly diverging from the consensus view in climate science that humans contribute to climate change. Troubles in translating this consensus in climate science have led to the appearance of amplified uncertainty and debate, also then permeating public and policy discourse.

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Correspondence to Maxwell T. Boykoff.

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Boykoff, M.T. Lost in translation? United States television news coverage of anthropogenic climate change, 1995–2004. Climatic Change 86, 1–11 (2008).

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  • Climate Science
  • Anthropogenic Climate Change
  • Television News
  • Climate Change Science
  • Balance Reporting