Researcher: Media Coverage of Climate Change Skeptics Can Mislead Public
Max Boykoff will speak at the UA on May 4 about ways the media portray those who have alternative views about climate change.

By Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment
May 3, 2010

Max Boykoff, an expert in cultural politics and media coverage of climate change, will speak at the University of Arizona about ways outlier views on climate change are portrayed in the news.

Boykoff, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, will deliver his talk, “Who speaks for the climate? Understanding media representations of outlier views on climate change" at 3:30 p.m. May 4 in Room 129 of the Emil W. Haury Anthropology Building, 1009 E. South Campus Dr.

The talk is free and open to the public. The UA’s Institute of the Environment, School of Geography and Development and School of Journalism are hosting the event.

“Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time, and special interests are working overtime to confuse the public on the science. We need to understand what’s going on and why,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a UA geosciences professor who also is co-director of the Institute of the Environment and an internationally renowned expert on climate change.

Boykoff also will speak to UA students the next day during a class on climate misunderstandings and communication, which is taught by Overpeck and geosciences professor Julia Cole.

His public talk aims to promote understanding and discussion of how and why disproportionate media visibility has been provided for outlier views – particularly views often dubbed climate “contrarians,” “skeptics” and “denialists" – on various issues in climate science and governance.

Media coverage, from news to entertainment, is a critical link between how climate change is discussed among science and policy experts and the public and the everyday realities of how people experience climate change.

Outlier voices have gained more prominence and traction in mass media over time.

Boykoff suggests that when the media misrepresent or amplify these outlier views, they contribute to ongoing illusory, misleading and counterproductive debates within the public and policy communities and poorly serve the collective public.

Widely published on how the media covers climate change and on the cultural politics of the environment, Boykoff has ongoing interests in environmental governance, science and policy interactions, and political economics and the environment.

He has experience working in North America, Central America, South Asia, and Europe. From 2006 to 2008, Boykoff was a James Martin 21st Century Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University.

Boykoff holds a doctorate in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and wrote the book, "The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey," which was published in December.