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Researchers have tracked how media coverage can affect levels of public interest in climate science by comparing volumes of searches for climate change issues on Google's search engine.

Climate disputes have little effect on the public says study

They analysed data available on Google Trends between 2004 and 2013, looking in particular at the period around 'climategate' and the discovery of an error in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The study by the University of Oxford and Princeton University found that while intense international media coverage led to spikes in public interest, the number of search terms related to the topic fell back to earlier levels after just a matter of days. The researchers also looked for search terms indicating climate change scepticism and found no long-term change following the two news events. The findings are published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Relative search volumes for a number of terms, including 'global warming hoax' and 'climategate', were compared between 15 November 2009 and 15 March 2010. During this period, the two climate science stories had received intense media coverage across the globe. First, in November 2009, emails were hacked from the accounts of climate scientists from the University of East Anglia and used to accuse the scientists of misconduct, dubbed by the media as 'climategate'. The scientists were cleared following numerous inquiries by independent commissions. Then shortly after 'climategate', in January 2010, the news broke about an error in the rate of the Himalayan ice melt in the IPCC report.

Read the full story on the University's website