On the other hand, if reporters helped people break down and understand the decisions they are already making, perhaps those Gallup poll results would show that more people had begun to see global warming not just as fact, but also as a serious concern. It could go either way, and the point for journalists is not to say which way is right, but give the public the context it needs to decide for itself.

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.