PEJ New Media Index: Global Warming Debate Rages on in Social Media

Dec 17, 2009

Global warming has of late been a very hot topic in social media, and last week it was hotter than ever. Much of the added fuel came from climate change believers who engaged in the debate that had been dominated by skeptics.

From December 7-11, more than half (52%) of the news links in blogs were about global warming, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That represents the most attention to the subject in any given week this year, and marks the third week in a row that global warming has been among the top four subjects in blogs. It was also prominent on Twitter last week, registering as the No. 3 topic with 14% of the news links.

And while mainstream media has generally covered the issue less than social media, global warming filled 10% of its newshole last week, the highest level of coverage since PEJ's News Coverage Index began tracking it in January 2007.

Over the past few weeks, the social media commentary has been led by climate change skeptics focused on "Climate-gate"-the hacked emails from a British research unit that raised the possibility of climate data manipulation. Skeptics claimed that the actions undermined the science behind global warming and de-legitimized the Copenhagen summit which began December 7. Last week, many of the online commentators continued to voice doubts about global warming fueled by Washington Post op-eds by prominent conservatives and global warming skeptics, George Will and Sarah Palin.  

But there was a noticeable change in the social media debate last week as those who believe in the dangers of global warming increased their presence. These supporters criticized the emphasis placed on "Climate-gate" and applauded the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to regulate greenhouse gases.  

Read the full report Global Warming Debate Rages on in Social Media on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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