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Scientists Holding Media Accountable on Climate Reporting


Scientists Holding Media Accountable on Climate Reporting

By Michael Levitin

We all know about the media confusion – and misinformation – that surrounds the climate debate. Now, a new global coalition of scientists has stepped out of the lab to respond in an organized, powerful way to inaccuracies in the media, while reinforcing trust in news sources that accurately report on climate issues. By sorting fact from fiction in coverage across the mainstream news, these scientists are finally doing what no one did before: hold the media accountable on climate reporting.  

Climate Feedback works like this: Using the new web-annotation platform Hypothesis, scientists verify facts and annotate online climate articles, layering their insights and comments on top of the original story. They then issue a “5-star” rating so readers can quickly judge stories’ scientific credibility. Recognized by NASA, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and California Gov. Jerry Brown among others, Climate Feedback is already improving journalistic standards by flagging misreported climate science in outlets like Forbes, the Telegraph and elsewhere; earlier this month, for example, scientists took apart Bjorn Lomborg’s misleading op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. This is only a hint of what Climate Feedback will offer as it now begins to aggregate those credibility scores into a wider index, rating major news sources on their reporting of climate change in a new Scientific Trust Tracker.

To that end, Climate Feedback is launching a crowdfunding campaign on April 27 around the hashtag #StandWithScience, supported by leading climate minds like Profs. Michael Mann, Naomi Oreskes and others. Here’s a sneak preview of the campaign. A potential news hook for the story is the April 22 signing of the most important climate treaty to date by 130 countries at the UN. Another is the Exxon scandal that has already made its way into the 2016 election season, while few discuss the role the media have played enabling corporate interests like Exxon to sow doubt about the science of climate change. As founder Bill McKibben said of Climate Feedback: “Scientists are just about ready to come out of the lab and get more active – and when they do, it will make a remarkable difference. Climate Feedback is a great vehicle for that work: every citizen of this beleaguered planet deserves the credible information it will provide.”.