The news media often gets flack for its "balanced" reporting on climate change that gives undue credence to climate skeptics. But in the U.K., at least, high-circulation newspapers can’t even claim balance when it comes to renewable energy. The Guardian reports on a study of news coverage of renewable energy in July 2009, when the discussion was largely about the "pros and cons of low-carbon energy sources.” The results:
In the Mail, a staggering three-quarters of articles "centrally concerned with renewables" took a negative stance, and only 8% were positive. The Sun came out almost as anti-renewables as the Mail — though largely thanks to the efforts of Jeremy Clarkson, who singlehandedly accounted for two-thirds of the Sun's negative pieces, according to the research.
To be fair, the Daily Mail is sort of the Fox News of British papers. And not all outlets were so negative: the less-read Independent, for instance, gave renewables more positive coverage. But the case of Clarkson, a well-known British columnist, also indicates how much influence one person's negative opinion can have on the fate of clean energy. Clarkson is known for his pro-carbon ways; climate activists protested his attitudes in 2009 by dumping horse dung on his lawn. While probably enormously emotionally satisfying, that action couldn't make millions of people un-read Clarkson's anti-clean energy columns.
Get Grist in your inbox