when you consider the dismal (to pick one word) degree of understanding, on average, of global warming among the public, it’s hard to arrive at any conclusion other than that the media have dropped (and are dropping) a very big ball.
Update: See also Jeff's comments #96, 97 and 102 to the aforementioned Dot Earth thread, continuing to make the case that journalism is due a share of the responsibility for our current maldaptive trajectory, and doing so very well indeed. I really appreciated the analogy about the bomb report, which I'll take the liberty of quoting:
Even as the public’s understanding of global warming is not all that good, often the media’s coverage, or the Times’ coverage, of global warming is a bit like a pea placed below twenty mattresses. You almost have to be a princess with very sensitive skin to even notice it. If the paper puts its occasional global warming article on page 10, much of the public will think that it’s a “page 10” problem, no matter what the article’s text says. (It feels silly even having to mention this to the New York Times.)Also, Jeff pops up right here and now, in the comments to this thread with an interesting challenge for John Fleck. Welcome, Jeff! Y'all come back now, y'hear?
Consider: If you are walking down the street one morning, and if a person walks up to you calmly, in relaxed fashion, with a smile on his face, and tells you about last night’s game, and steroids in baseball, and then something about what someone said about McCain years ago, and then eventually says (still with a calm smile) that, by the way, a huge bomb just exploded and wiped out the next block, and then walks calmly past you, you might not believe him about the bomb part, or you’ll at least feel that you’re getting very “mixed signals” about the whole thing. Why was he so calm? Why was he smiling? Why was he apparently happy? Why did he tell you about steroids in baseball just now, before he even mentioned the bomb problem? Is the messenger crazy, you wonder? Does he have his priorities straight? Or, was he only joking about the bomb thing? Maybe you didn’t hear him correctly, after all? And, of course (I forgot to tell you this), you remember now that he also told you that “John says that a bomb went off, but Sally says it didn’t.” Now you get it: You assume that your calm messenger must believe Sally more than he believes John. Now, everything makes sense (except for the small problem that a bomb did go off.)
Update: Don't miss Joe Romm's Climate Progress article that kicked this all off.