Climate Change Media the Center Essay

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Where the paper once debated policy options -- which reasonably could include doing nothing -- it now uses intellectually deficient arguments riddled with logical fallacies to debate the subject. The tone has gone from one of applying academically-accepted economics to undermine the policy prescriptions for dealing with climate change, an approach that is intellectually honest but hard to follow for those without an economics background, to simplistic arguments that are much easier to understand but are lacking in intellectual rigor.

Conclusions

There have been changes over the years with respect to how climate change arguments are framed. For much of the debate in the past fifteen years, the Wall Street Journal has staked out an editorial position as climate change skeptics, but its news coverage reflected balance. The tone of the writing was in general sober and professional. It is only in the past couple of years that a distinct shift has occurred in the coverage of climate change in the Wall Street Journal. These changes reflect the nature of the debate in general. When the oil industry was mounting challenges to climate research in the mid-00s, the Journal's coverage was focused on skepticism and focused mainly on science. This echoed the nature of the coverage since 1995, which while being keen to present the skeptical side, was not unduly so. With the science long-since settled and the Obama Administration set to form its policies on the subject in early 2009, the tone became academic and articulate. Strong cases were made against specific policy prescriptions and there was no conflation of science and politics. Over time, however, this conflation occurred. The WSJ's editorial pages were handed over to climate change skeptics, and the tone deteriorated. Theories were replaced with shouting, and having actual knowledge of the subject matter was no longer a prerequisite for writing about it -- or for having an opinion venerated in text. In addition, the volume of articles increased dramatically in this period. In the winter of 2009, the time of sober discussion, there were seven articles on the subject -- three were intelligent and four were shrill. By the autumn of 2009, there were 46 articles on climate change. Three were intelligent, the other 43 were shrill opinion pieces. From an article every other week, the WSJ began writing editorials denouncing climate change in the most unintelligent terms possible at a rate of around three times per week.

The tone shift is not entirely surprising, given the highly political nature of the WSJ. At its best, the paper upheld its reputation for conservative economics and intelligent discourse. Over time, however, the paper has degenerated, mirroring the quality of the debate overall. Skeptics are nothing new, and their views are no better supported today than they were in early 2009. They are simply being given a bigger megaphone from which to preach, to the detriment of discourse overall and policy discourse in particular.

Appendix a: Climate Change Coverage Around the World (source: Center for Science and Technology Policy Research)

Works Cited:

Balling, R. (1995). Keep cool about global warming. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2011 from http://proquest.umi.com.eproxy1.lib.hku.hk/pqdlink?index=145&did=7702810&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1297636065&clientId=17557

Jolis, a. (2009). Revenge of the climate laymen. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704335904574496850939846712.html

Krupp, F. (2009). Carbon caps are the best policy. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785178691219381.html

Lomborg, B. (2009). Ethiopia, malnutrition and climate change. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704431804574537391296901758.html

No author. (2010). Media coverage of climate change. Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/media_coverage/

RealClimate. (2005). The Wall Street Journal vs. The scientific consensus. RealClimate. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/06/the-wall-street-journal-vs.-the-consensus-of-the-scientific-community/

Regalado, a. (2003). Leading the news: Warming's skeptics face storm clouds. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2011 from http://proquest.umi.com.eproxy1.lib.hku.hk/pqdlink?index=150&did=377897811&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1297637193&clientId=17557

Revkin, a. (2009). Hacked e-mail is new fodder for climate dispute. New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/science/earth/21climate.html

Robinson, a. & Robinson, N. (2000). Global warming is 300-year-old news. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2011 from http://proquest.umi.com.eproxy1.lib.hku.hk/pqdlink?index=348&did=48041464&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1297636717&clientId=17557

Rowe, J. (2004). The time to address climate change is now. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 13, 2011 from http://proquest.umi.com.eproxy1.lib.hku.hk/pqdlink?index=77&did=771236631&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1297637657&clientId=17557

Sensenbrenner, F. (2009). Technology is the answer to climate change. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123871985916184973.html

Strassel, K. (2009). The climate change lobby has regrets. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123630254209847245.html

Strassel, K. (2011). The climate change. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124597505076157449.html

Wilson, T. (2008). A bad climate trade-off. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122902969804899351.html[continue]

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