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How certain is ‘certain’?: Exploring how the English-language media reported the use of calibrated language in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Public Understanding of Science
Issue number6
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)656-673
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date6/04/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article presents findings from an analysis of English-language media reports following the publication of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report in September 2013. Focusing on the way they reported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s use of ‘calibrated’ language, we find that of 1906 articles relating to the issuing of the report only 272 articles (14.27%) convey the use of a deliberate and systematic verbal scale. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s carefully calibrated language was rarely discussed or explicated, but in some instances scientists, political actors or journalists would attempt to contextualise or elaborate on the reported findings by using analogies to other scientific principles or examples of taking action despite uncertainty. We consider those analogies in terms of their efficacy in communicating (un)certainty.