Less than 10 percent of the articles written about last year’s Copenhagen climate summit dealt primarily with the science of climate change, a study showed on Monday.
Based on analysis of 400 articles written about the December 2009 summit, the authors of the report for Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) called for a re-think of reporting on future such conferences.
Author James Painter concluded that “science was under-reported” as the essential backdrop to the drama when about 120 world leaders met in Copenhagen but failed to agree a binding treaty to slow climate change.
Much coverage from Copenhagen instead focussed on hacked e-mails from a British university that some sceptics took as evidence of efforts by scientists to ignore dissenting views. The scientists involved have since been cleared of wrongdoing.
“We need more discussion between scientists, journalists and policy-makers on how to keep highly significant, slow-burn issues like climate change interesting and engaging to different audiences around the world,” Painter wrote.
Of 12 countries studied, Brazil and India gave the summit the most space in print media, followed by Australia and Britain. At the other end of the scale, Nigeria, Russia and Egypt gave the least coverage.
Painter said one way to improve the reporting on climate change was to provide more media staff to help scientists. He said environmental group Greenpeace had 20 media staff in Copenhagen against 12 media staff from 250 universities. The U.N. panel of climate scientists has one media officer.
Among other suggestions was more frontline reporting about the impacts of climate change, along with more imaginative use of new media.
Findings by a U.N. panel of scientists in 2007 that global warming is very likely man-made have been the main driver for action to curb emissions blamed for raising temperatures and causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.
This year’s U.N. talks — of environment ministers rather than world leaders — will be in Mexico from November 29-December 10.
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(Editing by Michael Roddy)