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Communication of climate projections in US media amid politicization of model science

Abstract

Computer models generate projections of future climatic conditions that lie at the crux of climate change science and policy, and are increasingly used by decision-makers. Yet their complexity and politicization can hinder the communication of their science, uses and limitations. Little information on climate models has appeared in US newspapers over more than a decade. Indeed, we show it is declining relative to climate change. When models do appear, it is often within sceptic discourses. Using a media index from 2007, we find that model projections were frequently portrayed as likely to be inaccurate. Political opinion outlets provided more explanation than many news sources.

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Figure 1: Attention to climate models compared with climate change and global warming aggregated across The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The New York Times and The Washington Post over 13 years.
Figure 2: Downward trend in the total per cent of texts that mention climate models or simulations compared with those that cite global warming or climate change.
Figure 3: Climate models across media preferred by high-political-knowledge US audiences in 2007, N = 60.
Figure 4: Comparison of sentences relating to climate models in 2007 media sources.

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Correspondence to Karen Akerlof.

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Akerlof, K., Rowan, K., Fitzgerald, D. et al. Communication of climate projections in US media amid politicization of model science. Nature Clim Change 2, 648–654 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1542

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