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Biased Reporting On Climate Change Is A Danger To Us All

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Our aging newspapers and private TV networks are doing little to inform Canadians in a meaningful way about the dramatic changes in the climate that are already altering life in this country.

Scientific research shows that by 2050, unless huge progress is made, it will get much worse. Canada will be a land of climate-change extremes, the research says. Some parts of the country will experience very hot extremes, others will have longer wet periods. Droughts and forest wildfires will become more severe.

The damage caused by these dramatic changes will cost Canada billions of dollars, depending on how much action is taken.

The time-frame we're talking about is very short. A child born this year will be 34 in 2050. The person will be 84 at the end of the century. If Canada does not implement an effective carbon control program, future generations will see significant changes during their lifetime.

Older media generally provide biased coverage of climate change issues because they tend to focus on costs of taking action, without highlighting the costs of inaction.

Old media ignored wildfire link to climate change

While scientists were pointing out that the Alberta wildfires were more severe this year than in the past, most old media ignored the likely link.

Despite the severe threat to the country, no Canadian newspaper has taken on fighting climate change as a crusade. However, The Guardian newspaper, published in the U.K., has won worldwide praise for its strong coverage of climate change issues.

A survey of the country's old media shows that, while a few have run excellent, one-time features on climate change, only the Winnipeg Free Press has a dedicated environment page -- and even it consists of random environmental stories from around the globe.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, Canada's home of Big Oil, The Calgary Herald hasn't come out directly and said it's against action on climate change, but it has done a lot to encourage people to oppose the NDP government's plans.

Last week the Calgary Herald published a piece by Ted Morton of the Manning Foundation for Building Democracy, in which he wrote that the government's actions planned to take on climate change were no more reliable than going and betting in Los Vegas. Another Calgary Herald piece was entitled: "Climate change plan is causing worry." It was written by Robin Campbell, president of the Coal Association of Canada.

The National Post has given the most coverage to the few scientists and would-be experts who deny that climate change is the result of human activity. Most recently, the paper resisted the idea that the wildfires in Alberta were the result of climate change.

And the paper has been at this, practically weekly, for a very long time. Ten years ago, the Post published a huge 27-part series that presented only the views of climate change deniers. Interestingly, the last part of the series, which ran in June 2007, said people should be more concerned about a coming Ice Age.

The Globe and Mail, allegedly the country's most influential national paper, has been running stories that tend to scare people about how hard it will be to overcome climate change. But, at the same time, the paper neglects to point out what will be the consequences of climate disaster if we don't act.

How the Globe opposes climate action

Here are two examples of the Globe's biased approach of supporting economic development versus the threat of climate change:

On Monday the Globe ran a front-page story "Ontario to spend $7-billion on sweeping climate change plan." But the paper published no accompanying information concerning why the Ontario government feels the plan is necessary.

On Tuesday, the Globe orchestrated a follow-up that suited its position on supporting the status quo: "Energy, auto sectors raise red flags over Ontario climate plan."

All the usual bosses that will have to change the ways of their corporations were quoted. The story quoted environmentalists who favour the plan but, again, the Globe did not publish any information about what will happen to Ontario's environment if little is done to fight climate change.

In recent years, the Globe, while it has carried out some excellent investigative journalism, has supported and published reactionary views and columns on climate change, including some that deny there's a problem.

While The Toronto Star does not have a regular section devoted to climate change, it reports on the need for action more than any other paper in the country. Today, while the Globe was, in effect, urging business and people to oppose a climate change plan, the Star reported that Ontario's cap-and-trade system will be cheaper than a tax on carbon for the average household.

Mass media is the main place where people should be learning of the threat ahead. Largely because of inadequate reporting by mass media, most Canadians are not well enough informed or angry enough to demand action by government and non-renewable corporations.

A study co-authored by Université de Montreal researchers suggests that, while 79 per cent of Canadians do not doubt the reality of climate change, 39 per cent don't believe it is caused by human activity. These discouraging numbers represent the media's failure to report on the threat of climate change.

It's time Big Media stopped making excuses and started doing their jobs.

Read other posts by Nick Fillmore from his blog: A Different Point of View.

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