The Credibility of Climate Change Information

I chose to examine an interactive article from the New York Times, “Climate Change is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions” because I knew I would have a hard time being partial in my analysis. My trust in the New York Times comes from years of relying on it for news; subconsciously I think I find it as impartial as an organization like NPR. The information printed in the NYT also tends to align with my views which naturally increases my confidence in their credibility; however, there are several things that might decrease the credibility of the New York Times articles as sources on climate change.

While I might like to view the Times as being relatively impartial and I’m certain that journalists working for the Times would view it as impartial, there is no denying that it leans a little to the left. It isn’t as far to the left as Fox New is to the right, but I think it falls a slightly left of center. As climate change is currently a partisan issue, liberal journalists might be inclined to publish articles about climate change that place an emphasis on the evidence that calls for dramatic action plans and might not include evidence about uncertain aspects of climate change.

Another thing that makes New York Times articles on climate change less credible is that they aren’t always written by scientists. For example, the biography page on the NYT website for Justin Gillis, author of “Climate Change is Complex” doesn’t mention what he studied in college or any expertise he might have in any science. All I know about Gillis is that he covers climate change and policy for the Times. The credibility of the author is crucial for the credibility of the information in the article.

Finally, articles in the New York Times aren’t peer reviewed. While there is a fact check process, it could never compare to the rigor of peer review that precedes publication in a scientific journal.

There are, however, certain aspects of “Climate Change is Complex” increase its credibility as a source. For example, the article is full of hyperlinks to articles about the various subjects discussed. While I found that most of the links lead to other articles in the New York Times, most of those articles contained links to actual reports with peer reviewed information.

My evaluation of the New York Times as a credible source depends on what the use of the information is. If I were writing a research paper on the facts of climate change, I wouldn’t say that the Times qualifies as a credible source. I wouldn’t cite something I read in an article, I would cite something from the report an article is based on. However, given the way that information is cited in articles like “Climate Change is Complex” NYT is a great starting place for basic information. While I think I would classify climate change articles in the Times as trustworthy, I don’t think trustworthy is synonymous with academically credible. The New York Times is first and foremost a newspaper and with respect to climate change that means condensing a lot of complicated information into a relatively simple and short article. While I trust the New York Times, academically credible information on scientific issues like climate change have to come from more comprehensive, peer reviewed sources.



Gillis, Justin. “Climate Change is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.” New York Times.

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