USA Today Compares Climate Change Skeptics to Birthers


This post is an installment in a series about the state of American climate skepticism. I'll be expanding upon the ideas put forward in my recent Slate piece, Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds?, so read that first. Photo: Vincent Desjardins via Flickr/CC BY

USA Today, long considered the vanilla wallpaper of newspapers, let loose a fiery, mostly right-on op-ed castigating the "head-in-the-sand" position the GOP, certain Democrats, and climate change contrarians in general stubbornly hold in regards to global warming. The piece goes so far as to compare the skeptics who deny the science of climate change to "birthers" who maintain that the president wasn't born in the United States. Check out this passage:

Late last week, the nation's pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called "America's Climate Choices." As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: "Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment." Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.

Coincidentally, USA TODAY's Dan Vergano reported Monday, a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia. Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the "birthers," who continue to challenge President Obama's American citizenship -- a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.

Emphasis is mine, though it's not even really necessary. The entire piece is dead on, if a little combative (!), and it's even more important since it comes from such an unlikely source -- USA Today readers are precisely the sort of audience that need to hear this message.

Good mainstream media coverage is perhaps the most important plank in improving American understanding of climate change, but it needs to be consistent and persistent -- this op-ed isn't likely to 'convert' vast swaths of the public into accepting climate science on its own. Researchers attribute the recent decline in American belief in climate change partially to poor media coverage over the last two years -- a fact I explored in my recent survey of climate skepticism. In other words, this is a fine start towards what will hopefully become a sense of renewed vigor amongst the MSM in its climate coverage. We can only hope.

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More From My Series on Climate Skepticism
Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works
Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds?
75% of Americans Have Never Heard of Climate-Gate, Study Reveals

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