English Speaking Countries’ Climate Confusion Blamed on Press

Leo Hickman writes in the Guardian:

During a trip to Italy earlier this year, I asked a local journalist whether climate sceptical views get much of an airing in the Italian media. My query was greeted with an air of slight bemusement, which was followed by a request for me to explain what I meant by the term “climate scepticism”. Their facial reaction alone told me that this was something of an alien concept to them.

It supported a hunch I have long believed to carry some substance: climate scepticism is a predominantly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. Or, rather, it is a phenomenon that tends to gets amplified to a much greater extent in the various English-language media outlets around the world – particularly, in the US, UK and Australia – than it does in other languages or countries….

Until now, there has been very little beyond the anecdotal to support this theory. But the proposition is now on a firmer footing thanks to a new report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, based at the University of Oxford, which firms up some related findings it published last year. …

Overall, the report (which, sadly, is behind a paywall, but the executive summary can be viewed here as a pdf) performs a very good job of summarising the political leanings of the sceptics and the media outlets that report, host or dismiss their views. It also shows why the flourishing of climate scepticism in the US “is related to the funding of American politicians by industry groups and the pervasive practice and power of lobbying”.


  1. Allow me to say that this article on the "Guardian" is completely wrong. The people interviewed by the journalist simply didn't understand English; that's the reason of their puzzled expression. An effect of the language barrier, but nothin more. In reality, in Italy we have a well developed denialosphere which looks very much like its anglophone counterpart. It has blogs, it appears on the media, it is related to right wing political parties and think thanks. Italian denialists are just as aggressive, vocal and incompetent in climate science as their anglophone equivalents. And at any conference on sustainability in Italy, it is almost 100% sure that someone from the audience will rise up and ask, "but I heard that climate scientists had confessed of having manipulated the temperature data," even though he (very rarely she) may not know or use the term "climategate." In short, having explored both spheres in some depth, I can say that there is not much of a difference.

    So, it is a myth that Americans are especially sensible to climate denialism. It is true, however, that many cultural phenomena and legends for some reason originate in the US and then spread to the rest of the world. So, there may be some time delay before they appear in this remote strip of land at the borders of the empire. But they do and they have a way, at times, to become even more virulent than their original version.

  2. To echo Ugo's comment: In the Netherlands there is a thriving and well connected skeptical community. Their opinions are amplified by mainstream media in general, and some periodicals such as de Telegraaf (most popular Dutch newspaper) and Elsevier (magazine) in particular.

    Hans Labohm (co-author of NIPCC) frequently applauds the Dutch climate discussions for being open to skeptics such as himself, in contrast to e.g. Germany where apparently they are much more marginalized. That does give some credence to the idea that in Europe in general skepticism may not be as much in the forefront as in Anglo-saxon countries, in which case the Netherlands may be somewhat of an exception. According to Jan Paul van Soest, who looked into this matter in detail, Holland serves as gateway of American-style skepticism into Europe.

    Dutch politics (at least two of the major parties) are also very receptive to climate sceptical arguments, to the point that the only speaker who talked about the physical science at a recent ministry-organized climate conference was a skeptic.

  3. Actually, I guess if one asks the average English speaker about "climate sceptical views", one may also get a similar bemused response.

    Why do I say this? While climate inactivists may sometimes call themselves "skeptics", they prefer even more to call themselves "true scientists" -- to the point where Joe Sixpack perceives them as an integral part of the wider scientific community, rather than the separate group that they really are. There's a reason the Tom Harris franchise of think-tanks call themselves "Climate Science Coalitions", rather than, say, "Climate Skeptic Coalitions".

    Besides, "climate sceptical views" is the sort of phraseology that only someone well-immersed in the brouhaha would use. A more general audience -- even a journalist -- may be familiar with ideas disputing the man-made global warming theory, but may not know that it's referred to as "climate scepticism".

    -- frank

  4. Japan has an original stream of climate change denialism. Its key person is Atsushi Tsuchida, originally a physicist and long-term anti-nuclear-power activist, who claim that the recent increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide content is a result of rising temperature.

    But this seems to be a small part of climate change denialism in Japanese-speaking part of the Internet. A larger part relays confusions originated in the English-speaking part of the world.

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