Going beyond the hype...

Is it real? Is it Hype? Is it Hot in Here? GreenhouseTruth.com, an unbiased portal for climate change resources and news is the proud home of Nathan Cool's new book, Is it Hot in Here? where these and other questions about a potentially warming world are revealed in their simple, and sometimes sobering truth.

GreehouseTruth Blog  ::  Climate Porn

Free newsletter

Free newsletter


Tell a friend about this page

Tell a friend



Global Warming Blog

Climate Porn
New study on global warming in the media coins term for alarmist views
Posted August 5, 2006 by Nathan Cool

New phrases and words are emerging all the time. Take for instance aireoke (the art of playing the air guitar), freegan (a vegan who eats only foraged foods), a manny (a male nanny), songlifting (illegally downloading music) or godcasting (broadcasting religious material), all of which I found whilst Googling the web. Whenever something grabs our attention, becomes popular or in vogue, we, as sentient beings of a higher intelligence, set out to describe this new "certain something" with terms best suited to portray its true meaning. In the arena of global warming, one new term has evolved to describe the alarmist stance so often depicted in media headlines. This new term, coined Climate Porn by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in the U.K., is just one of many revelations described in a new report that sheds light on how the careful construction of words has warped perceptions regarding the truth about Earth's changing climate.

This report by the IPPR titled Warm Words, is a study of some 600 articles from U.K. periodicals, 40 television stations, 30 press advertisements and 20 different websites. Based mainly on objective techniques known as discourse analysis and semiotic examination, the IPPR study reveals that there are many disparate views on global warming being portrayed in the media, some of which include:

The premise of my new book Is it Hot in Here?--The simple truth about global warming revolves around this profusion of confusion illustrated in the recent IPPR report. Depending on the media's story du jour, the audience (us) can be the recipients of sensationalism with conflicting perspectives--not facts. As the IPPR report points out, climate change is often portrayed with an alarmist skew, reminiscent of the cover of Time magazine Apr. 3, 2006 that warned in big bold letters, "BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED" while showing what appears to be a stranded polar bear standing atop a melting ice floe. This kind of radical alarmism is used in a wide spectrum of media sources, not just in popular magazines and tabloids, but also in campaign literature for government initiatives and environmental groups as well. Even Al Gore, when interviewed by Grist magazine said, "...I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous [global warming] is..."

This form of extremist lexicon resonates a gloom, doom, death and destruction kind of tone, which can result in the sense that global warming is a far too difficult problem to tackle. Nevertheless, it pulls in spectators en masse. The draw? Basically the same thing as the urge to gawk at a bloody car crash--it's appalling, but human nature drives us to stare with a somewhat secret sense of astonishment and thrill, something slightly perverse; hence, the newly coined term, Climate Porn that well depicts the recent rage on slanted sky-is-falling coverage of global warming.

Using such words as "catastrophe," "chaos" and "havoc," the media has bombarded its readers and viewers with ratings-making fodder that allows for no middle ground. It's no wonder then why the debate on global warming is so polarized--many believe it wholeheartedly or not at all. The coverage of climate change, being presented in such an extreme fashion, almost never allows equal time or merit for opposing views, nor does it discuss the oftentimes-overlooked uncertainties and gray area (something I mentioned here regarding Brokaw's recent Discovery Channel documentary).

The media plays a game of persuasion--whether intentional or not--that impacts viewers' beliefs. This goes for policy makers as well--something I touch upon in another blog article here. We're all human, the general populace and policy makers alike. Sifting through the white noise though and realizing the truth that lies between the ramblings of the extremist viewpoints can be an arduous task as finding the facts covering both sides of the climate change debate can be elusive. Yet the answers to what is really going on can be quite surprising--no matter what any headline or sound-bite may try and tell us. Such was the foundation and inspiration for my new book Is it Hot in Here?--The simple truth about global warming where the facts about climate change are revealed in their simple and sometimes sobering truth.