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Is Global Warming Real?

According to a 2010 report published by Yale University, only 63% of American believe global warming is actually happening. Although there has been much debate in the scientific community regarding the rate of global warming, the fact that global warming has had a measurable effect on our climate is generally agreed upon by most (85%-90%) members of the scientific community. Therefore given numerous pieces of evidence, why do 37% of Americans still not believe in global warming?

The answers lie in the network structure of the American population as well as how information flows from the scientific community to the general public. First of all, most of Americans do not read the original research papers. These papers on climate change tend to be highly technical and its general audience is typically not the general public. Therefore the typical American citizen receives news and current events from cable television networks such as FOX, MSNBC, CNN, and etc. This is alarming because these news networks end up having a large influence over the entire population.

The situation of people and news networks can be modelled using a graph where links denote information flow. In this graph, people nodes will tend to have few edges whereas the news networks nodes will have many incoming and outgoing edges. Therefore if the Hub/Authority rule or PageRank was applied,  news networks will end up receiving a very high score. This illustrates that news networks gather stories from various sources and inform the public of these stores. However, what they choose to do between receiving a story and publishing story is not in our control. News networks can abrbitraily change facts and omit stores if they like. However, since they have such high scores in the network structure of the population, we generally have an implicit trust in the news networks as a source of reliable information. This reinforces the fact stated in the previous paragraph and shows why the news networks are in such a powerful position.

However, this is not the end of the story since the all news networks can choose to act correctly and broadcast the right message about global warming. If this was the scenario and given the news network’s powerful status, it is conceivable that a large majority of the American population should believe in global warming. Therefore the only alternative is that some news networks are not broadcasting the right message to the population. The researchers in the article discovered that FOX news in particular tends to be biased towards global warming and generally uses a dismissive tone during broadcasts. However, they also discovered the tones of the other news networks are generally positive towards global warming. Therefore if only 1 news network is offering conflicting views, how could it affect such a large percentage of the population.

The effect of FOX news can be understood with how technology is adopted. In general, each person has a personal reason for choosing a specific technology as well as external reason usually due to network effects. If the person has many friends using the opposite technology, the information is probably stronger than his or her own personal reason and he or she will therefore choose to switch. The same can be applied to news channels. In general, a person typically does not watch EVERY news channel on TV. He or she will have a favorite news channel either by personal choice or by network effect. This implies that if FOX has a substantial initial viewership, then there will be a strong network effect keeping these people watching FOX. In addition, the reason why these people initially chose FOX as a news source probably depended on some external factor such as having friends, family, or maybe coworkers that watch FOX news. This is the exact phenomenon found by the researchers, they discovered that a large portion of Democrats watched FOX news and they typically have the lowest acceptance rate of global warming.

The analysis of large news channels is alarming because it shows with enough network presence, the news source can have a dramatic role in the perception of the general public. This effect is not only localized to news sources, since we all live in a highly connected world, we are all victims of network effects in one form or another. My own beliefs could very well be skewed by the scientific community since that is the network I am most connected with. Therefore we should always be aware of the decisions we make and take time to wander why exactly did we make that decision.


One Response to “ Is Global Warming Real? ”

  • global warming fearful

    I’ve recently discovered that earthquake activity, specifically movement of tectonic plates around the globe has been shown to have a relationship to man made changes to our climate – i.e. global warming. This according to scientific research conducted over 18 months ago is some scary stuff given the far ranging implications suggested by that research.

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