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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Climate Change Scepticism and the Decrease in Climate Change Coverage in the UK

“The media have a responsibility to provide the correct information [on climate change] for the public to think quietly about”  - Nicholas Stern
The 2006 Al Gore documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ coincided with the publication of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report, reconfirming a temperature rise and man’s role in the changing climate.  Both of these elements contributed to heightened public awareness of climate change which was reflected in the media. 

However, since then a global drop-off in coverage has been documented, with less coverage in both print and broadcast media.  By the end of 2011, Daily Climate report that global coverage had declined 42% since its peak in 2009.  Climate change seems to have a lower foothold on the mainstream media’s attention.

In my own research, I found that
climate change scepticism also began to increase in UK newspaper articles on climate change from 2006 onwards.  Arguably, this was mostly due to the widespread disillusionment in the outcome of the UN Copenhagen climate talks as well as the fallout from the Climategate email theft.  The media had a new line of questioning on both the science and political elements of climate change.

recent study also confirms regional and ideological differences in the coverage of climate change.  ‘Poles Apart: The international reporting of climate scepticism’ found that scepticism was more prevalent in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, UK and Australia.

The drop in coverage and simultaneous rise in scepticism was matched by a change in the
public perception of climate change - there was a slight drop in people’s confidence in climate change science and concern with the issue.  The reasons given for this include public fatigue of the sensationalism surrounding the issue and a continued lack of confidence in the ability of politicians to tackle it.

So despite
97% of scientists believing that climate change has a substantial anthropogenic contribution (i.e. it is mostly caused by human activity) and the fact that climate change has begun to resurface in people’s minds again (at least in the US), the level of global coverage is now below 2006 levels and misplaced scepticism is not waning yet.

How will this evolve? In the US, a recent study by Media Matters for America found that both print and television media
largely excluded climate change as one of the explanations for the recent heatwaves in the country.  Perhaps it is just the case that while the problematic world economy is at the forefront of people’s minds, the focus on environmental issues such as climate change has shifted. 

However, with upcoming research showing that the climate change threat seems more real to those who feel that they have personally experienced it, depressingly, it may well be that coverage will only rise again when climate change’s consequences become even more tangible.

Guest blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge, @flame_me_up

1 comment:

  1. Great to have our first guest blogger on the thoughtshower blog. Thanks so much, Barbara. This is a really interesting topic.

    Any other guest bloggers out there interested in contributing, please contact Ana at ac@sustainabilityconsult.com.