Regular readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with how companies like Exxon, working with the Bush administration create a false sense of debate about global warming.

But at long last, there are signs the US mainstream media is finally catching on. Newsweek's latest cover story, "The Truth About Denial", catalogs how a, "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change". From the article:

Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless.

"They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

Just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was "a lot" of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was "mainly caused by things people do."

In contrast, majorities in Europe and Japan recognize a broad consensus among climate experts that greenhouse gases—mostly from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to power the world's economies—are altering climate.

The good news is that more Americans are also catching on. According to a new Newsweek poll, only 39 percent of Americans now think there is, "a lot of disagreement among climate scientists". And according to Newsweek, "38 percent of those surveyed identified climate change as the nation's gravest environmental threat, three times the number in 2000."

Even ExxonMobil has reduced funding for climate change deniers, and now claims it is "not a denier". (Though still working behind the scenes to block progress on the issue.)

(US) Media bias

Media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has warned for years about how the US media helps create a false impression of scientific debate. In the latest issue of their print magazine, they compare how climate change is covered inside and outside the country. You can find it online here. Their conclusion:

"...a comparison of U.S. media coverage with that by British and other non-U.S. English-language news outlets shows that the panel's findings were reported very differently on opposite sides of the warming Atlantic: Where U.K. media generally presented climate change as an urgent crisis that requires immediate action, in the U.S. it's still widely portrayed as an unresolved debate, regardless of the scientific evidence."

So, good on Newsweek for covering this story. Hopefully, it will help wake up the rest of the US media to how they're used by climate change deniers.

Next, maybe Newsweek can take on the nuclear industry's spin machine.