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Media Bias on Climate Change

Media is our main source of information on current events and issues happening in our world. We look to the media in all its forms to give us unbiased and objective news coverage. These reports frame our understandings and shape our opinions. But what if there is media bias on climate change coverage? How does this effect knowledge and the drive for change?

Climate change is an issue threatening our planet and has become highly controversial across the globe. It is predicted that human-induced changes to our planet will occur at drastic rates if sustainable solutions are not implemented. If these changes occur, sea levels and temperatures will rise, ice sheets and glaciers will shrink, and the likelihood for natural disasters will increase, according to data collected by NASA.

Media coverage of the issue has shaped the public’s understanding of the threat it plays on our natural world, but critics believe that coverage has failed to truthfully communicate the facts or promote political advocacy or engagement. In an effort to balance bias, reporters covering climate change have created controversy surrounding this issue.

Talkingclimate.org reports that left-leaning media outlets voice stories that promote political activism and environmental change, whereas right-leaning outlets take a doubtful approach that devalues scientific research. In an effort to keep stories balanced through the discussion of both sides of the argument, climate change has become more controversial than it is.

A recent study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that media coverage has contributed to public skepticism about climate change. The study found that better reporting of current issues could lead to increased public engagement and interest.

“Consuming stories about political activism and individual actions – ‘especially news that featured a local focus, a compelling narrative and an accessible everyday hero’ -can have the opposite effect on readers, reports mediamatters.org. Study participants who read and discussed such stories reported “much greater enthusiasm and optimism for political engagement,” the website reported in a recent story.

Through alternative, local media outlets that promote activism within the community, individuals can become more engaged in sustainable efforts rather than remaining confused about scientific disputes in national media coverage.

“There is a strong desire for a different kind of news about climate change, which provides people with inspiring and compelling stories about how others just like them are becoming active and engaged in climate politics,” co-author of the study Shane Gunster said in an interview with mediamatters.org.

The first city to adopt a climate action plan in 1993, Portland is a city that is committed to sustainable solutions and has taken the issue of climate change to heart both in media coverage and public action. It’s important to continue the discussion of climate change and how it affects our city. Portland Radio Project has reported on sustainability efforts in the community, such as city-wide changes in composting and events such as the 2014 Eco-Summit.

For more information on the city’s efforts to promote sustainability, visit portlandoregon.gov to learn more about Portland’s climate action plan and ways to get involved in the community.

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