Thursday, January 06, 2011

Falling off the map

The online journal The Daily Climate is getting upset about the lack of media coverage of climate change. According to this source, in 2010, journalists published 23,156 climate-related stories in English last year - a 30 percent drop from '09's tally. This brings them back to 2005 levels, after spiking in the run-up to the much-hyped climate talks in Copenhagen and during the Climategate scandal.

Interestingly, of individual journalists, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times delivered the highest output, at 146, but it was our very own Louise Gray of The Daily Telegraph who came third, with 119. She beat even the lead Guardian journalist, Suzanne Goldenberg, who trailed in at sixth place with a mere 81 stories.

However, if the print (and online) volume is down drastically, US network news has shown an almost precipitous decline. Drexel University professor Robert Brulle has analyzed nightly network news since the 1980s. Last year's climate coverage was so miniscule, he says, that he's doubting his data.

"I can't believe it's this little. In the US, it's just gone off the map," he complains. "It's pretty clear we're back to 2004, 2005 levels." Coverage of Cancun is Exhibit A: Total meeting coverage by the networks consisted of one 10-second clip. By contrast, 2009's Copenhagen talks generated 32 stories totalling 98 minutes of airtime. "It's so little, it's stunning," Brulle says.

And this The Daily Climate piece is but one of a whole raft of articles drawing attention to the changed media environment for the warmists. Only a few days ago, we had a long piece in Der Spiegel which noted that "the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere keeps going up and up, but public interest in climate change is sinking".

Environmentalists, said the paper, are trying to come up with new ways to make the issue sexy – offering the picture illustrated (right)  ... nude greenies, and remarkably lacking in sex appeal. But shock tactics can backfire all too easily, says Spiegel. Climate change used to make headlines. But these days the issue appears to have largely fallen off the radar.

Nature also offers a not-dissimilar whingeing piece, headed: "Why dire climate warnings boost scepticism". It tells us that: "Undermining belief in a fair world may mean that climate warnings go unheeded," then going on to tell us that, "although scientific evidence that anthropogenic activities are behind global warming continues to mount, belief in the phenomenon has stagnated in recent years".

We also get Ted Nordhaus at the Breakthrough Institute, a Californian think-tank for energy and climate issues. He remarks that, "When I was a pollster, I was detecting that many dire messages seemed to be counterproductive, we really needed someone to determine why," the dissertation then evaluating why the greenie message appears to be failing.

The real reason, of course, is that you can only offer messages of impending doom for so long before they lose their effect, so you keep having to up the ante. In time, the messages become so dire and so extreme that they lose all vestiges of credibility, and people simple switch off.

What particularly has done for the warmists this year, of course, is that white stuff that falls from the sky. Thus we have Spiked telling us that the snow crisis of December 2010 has become a striking snapshot of the chasm that separates the warming-obsessed elite from the rest of us.

Nevertheless, we have the High Priests delivering the booster messages, in particular Suzanne Jeffery in International Socialism, who writes under the heading: "Why we should be sceptical of climate sceptics". Every point she raises I have seen repeated – sometimes many times – in the Booker column comments, raised by the infestation of warmists, presented as if they were original ideas.

Much the same comes from Planet Save, with not a new idea to offer, other than to slag off "deniers" with their "BS of the year" awards.

The sheer volume of introspective and pessimistic coverage from the warmists points to a failing movement that has lost confidence in itself and its message, becoming strident and aggressive to boot. They cannot even agree amongst themselves as to the way forward.

But another failing of the warmists is their focus on the traditional media. While the MSM coverage may be falling, the internet has "exploded" – on the blogosphere and on forums and article comments. That is where the debate is being fought and, by and large, lost by the warmists. This very modern scare fails to understand the dynamics of the modern media.

Their only saviour, for the moment, is the inertia of the politicians who, having put measures in place, are not about to change them in a hurry. But the warmists are greedy and ambitious – they always want more, and the high water mark has been reached. They have nowhere to go but down – and it looks as if they know it.