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04/11/2017

The media: linesmen or players?

Is the role of the media adequate in the fight against climate change?

The media: linesmen or players?

Without the mass global scope of the press and media, public opinion would not have enough information to favour this or that measure or use its preferences to influence the political decisions required to tackle major challenges like climate change and the world shift towards a low carbon economy.

Over the past four years, a lot more information about climate change has entered the public domain. Both in the press and on television, we regularly see news about the consequences of global warming in the shape of drought, fires, extreme storms and increasingly powerful hurricanes, as well as articles on the changes that must be made to economy and production models if we are to reduce the main cause of this phenomenon, namely human activity and our dependence on the use of fossil fuels.

In his latest book, Homo Deus, historian Yoel Nuva Harari observes that, in a data-saturated society and bombarded with often contradictory signals, individuals are drowning in noise preventing them from identifying messages critical for their future. From the many thousands of inputs we receive every day, it’s difficult to tell which ones are really urgent and important.

Backing of 97% of the scientific community

The media are in this contradictory situation because of some practices basically only on the lookout for news headlines, which give information only in that type of format. But an issue like the fight against climate change, which should be constantly addressed and carefully explained, cannot always be reduced to a news item. One example is the question of how ordinary citizens should react to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the alarming content of which, on the possible catastrophic consequences of global warming, has the backing of 97% of the scientific community. It is of little use to society if information is only given every five years, when a new edition is published. So, in this great match with no referees, it is in our interests to ask ourselves whether the media should be getting more involved as players instead of standing on the sidelines like linesmen.

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