The U.S. media gives climate change deniers too much prominence by placing people with little understanding of the complexities involved in the same league as top scientists, a study has found. This imbalance has created an unrealistic picture of climate change, hindering efforts to raise awareness of the problems the planet faces.

“It’s time to stop giving these people visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority,” University of California Merced Professor Alex Petersen said in a statement. Peterson was one of three scientists who traced the digital footprints of climate deniers and scientists across 100,000 media articles for a study in Nature Communications. They discovered about half of mainstream outlets actively seek out climate change denying experts for coverage.

Media outlets reporting on climate change will bring in deniers in an effort to “balance” coverage and present an alternative view. However, to viewers, this then places them—often a person with no scientific background—on the same level as someone who is an expert in the field.

“It’s not just false balance; the numbers show that the media are ‘balancing’ experts—who represent the overwhelming majority of reputable scientists—with the views of a relative handful of non-experts,” study author Professor LeRoy Westerling said in a statement. “Most of the contrarians are not scientists, and the ones who are have very thin credentials. They are not in the same league with top scientists. They aren’t even in the league of the average career climate scientist.”  […]