The Media and Science
There are those that dismiss climate change as pseudo-science. I do not. It is my opinion that climate change is very real. That view is based on the 97.1% of scientists who have come to a consensus that human activity is responsible for climate change.
When you have 97.1% of scientists concluding the same thing, it’s hard not to take it seriously. Yet so many do not. The current President of the United States, for example, believes that climate change is a hoax. Many sceptics believe that climate change is yet another government-promoted conspiracy to fleece people out of their cash.
We have to ask why do people think this way? Why is it that a not-insignificant number can dismiss the views of so many qualified and skilled professionals?
Because of the media, maybe?
Money Troubled Media
Unfortunately, the Internet promised so much but has delivered so little. Part of the problem is that news organisations are being forced towards a free model. Print media is dying as the wider audiences have adopted smartphones and tablets. We have access to information at the tips of our fingers, and no longer feel even thirty pence on a newspaper is a necessary expenditure. The Telegraph and The Sun have both dabbled with forcing subscriptions to their online offerings, with no success. The Guardian and The Mirror currently beg for donations to keep going.
Advertising is the biggest revenue generator for online news outlets. Virtually every media outlet frames articles with ads and tends to stick a handful in the copy. However, as The Guardian points out in their begging blurb, even advertising revenues are decreasing. The rise of the use of adblocking browser extensions means that fewer people are seeing ads – and I might cover the reasons why in another post.
Clickety-Click, Clickbait Time
What we now have is a saturated industry desperate for clicks to keep itself alive. And unfortunately, that leads to clickbait. We’ve all seen a link shared on Twitter or Facebook with an enticing headline, such as “You won’t believe what happens when she opens this box!”.
It’s clickbait. Such headlines are designed to rouse your curiosity. When you do click on them, you land on a site plastered with adverts, and that often requires you to navigate multiple pages for a lame reveal.
News outlets that endeavour to remain ‘respectable’ cannot resort to such classless tactics. Often, they head straight for science. There is a lot of bullshit science out there. The Independent’s Indy100 outlet often posts pseudo-science about sex. The Mirror is obsessed with articles about sex robots. Meanwhile, The Express likes to make do with apocalyptic scenarios.
Contradictory and Conflicting
These stories may entice, and they may grab a few clicks. However, what they also do is damage the credibility of science. One week we’re informed that kale is a superfood. The next week we’re told, often by the same news source, that kale will cause bowel cancer. We may get an article about the average penis size, and later see another piece about how a study has found women prefer three times more than average.
These studies that are attributed to “scientists” are often carried out by students, are rarely peer-reviewed, use small sample sizes or are complete misquotes of findings. They are as scientifically relevant as smoking one cigarette and dismissing the notion that smoking can cause cancer. Yet the media constantly bombards us with what can only be described as bullshit science. They are so desperate for clicks that science itself is reduced to clickbait.
Climate of Confusion
Therein lies the problem. When you’re being inundated with so much contradictory, conflicting and downright stupid shit passed off as science, it is easy to dismiss things which you find unpalatable. Climate change is one of those things. We don’t want to believe it because the potential repercussions of climate change are catastrophic. In many areas of the world, the effect of climate change is less pronounced than in others. And because we know that some supposed scientists are fucking about making the perfect piece of toast, we can sit here and call shenanigans.
This is all the media’s fault. They are irresponsibly conditioning people to reject scientific study as a folly of the workshy. For every few hundred clicks they get on their nonsense articles about science, the media are informing another person’s opinion that scientists are grant-stealing arseholes. This has to stop.
Take Back Control
Furthermore, they have to stop presenting genuine science as a 50/50 debate. In any discussion about climate change, the media will present one person for the argument and one person against. As John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight, this idea causes people to think there is nowhere near the consensus that there is on climate change.
It is time for the media to begin acting responsibly. Continuing to treat science as a clickbait money spinner harms the hardworking scientists who are trying to better humanity. Furthermore, in the long run, people will become so jaded by scientific clickbait that they will stop responding to scientific headlines. In the era of “alternative facts”, “false news” and “people have had enough of experts”, this is an area where we really do need to take back control.