Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters > Climate change

20 Sep 13 05:36

I am sure that nobody will be surprised to discover that a study of reporting on climate science revealed that the media tends to present a sensationalized view of the risks that creates a very skewed public perception of the issues.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University examined 350 media reports from three major publications in each of six countries with a combined circulation of over 15 million. Their study showed that "the dominant messages that readers receive were predominantly ones of disaster or uncertainty. The language of risk (and of opportunity) was much less prevalent".

That is a nice way of saying that journalists tend to focus on the most apocalyptic story angles because that is what sells. This is in turn creates a very confusing and mixed view of the issues, particularly when reporters try to introduce "balance" by giving equal time to contrarian views, even when those are a long way from consensus opinion. So, for example, the views of the 1.5% of scientists (according to a 2013 study by Cook at al) who continue to deny that climate change is happening are given equal space.

This is a huge problem because poor public understanding of climate risk makes it harder for policy makers to push through painful and costly regulation to mitigate those risks and easier for special interest groups to muddy the waters.

It seems obvious that, as the experts in risk, insurers should play a key role in explaining climate risk to the public. After all, our industry has a huge vested interest in the outcome. And yet, it is still rare to see actuaries and risk engineers cited in articles and insurers are clearly not as visible on the subject as they could be. It is clearly in our interests as an industry to change that… so what's stopping us?

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Disaster risk


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