News cycles are a strange thing and not just the 24 hour trivia variety beloved of parliamentary press gallery journalists. There is an ebb and flow over lengthy periods of how the media treats serious subjects and global warming is a case in point.

Right across the globe, it seems, there are times when global warming is considered to be news and times when it is not.

The surveys by the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) at the University of Colorado-Boulder of stories appearing in a selection of the world’s major newspapers (you will find a list of them here which includes The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Courier Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Age) show that internationally coverage is well down from the peak levels of late 2009.

A similar analysis by Drexel University professor Robert Brulle of coverage on the CBS, ABC and NBC networks in the United States shows a similar decline from a high point in 2007-08.

Last year’s climate coverage was so minuscule that Prof Brulle started doubting his data.

“I can’t believe it’s this little. In the U.S., it’s just gone off the map,” he said. “It’s pretty clear we’re back to 2004, 2005 levels.”

Yale University polling expert Dr. Tony Leiserowitz attributes part of a drop in public understanding of climate science since its fall 2008 peak to the collapse in media coverage. In an interview with Climate Science on on public attitudes toward climate science and policy he commented:

“I think underappreciated, is the role of media coverage. We have colleagues who study newspaper coverage as well as television coverage, and they have found that, since 2007, newspaper coverage of this issue has dropped to less than one-third of what it was in 2007 and television coverage, things like the “CBS Evening News,” has dropped to less than one-fifth of what it was back then.

Most Americans know about this issue through what they encounter in the media. They don’t know climate scientists. They don’t read the peer-reviewed literature. They learn about this issue, which is invisible to most of us, through the media. So when the media doesn’t report the issue, it is literally out of sight. So that’s what we think has played an important role.”

What does keep getting reported in Australia are the views of a coal industry concerned at the consequences of the government actually doing something to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Perhaps the industry should enlist the help of The Onion website which has come up with this little gem of a comment on the use of wind as an alternative energy source.