A Different Approarch Needed in Climate Change Reporting

Posted by Amy Guinan

Apr 7, 2015 8:00:00 AM



Doomsday Climate Change Reporting

We all know climate change is a major threat - potentially a catastrophic one.  But it is not too late to still tackle the worst effects of climate change and there are many solutions available. Unfortunately, a recent study published in Nature Climate Change revealed that news outlets almost exclusively report climate change doomsday scenarios and rarely report solutions. This unbalanced reporting leads to hopelessness, disengagement - even fatalism (when what is really needed right now is effective action).  

Researchers analyzed the media coverage in the U.K. and the U.S. of three different reports published as part of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent climate change assessment.

The first IPCC report, dealing with projections such as rising seas, ocean acidification and increasing temperatures was covered in 65 newspaper stories or broadcast news in the US and England. The second report, published 51 times, and the third IPCC report, published 27 times, discussed energy policy options for substantially curbing global warming, an action plan that could keep warming to less than 3.6°F (the overarching goal of U.N. climate negotiations), and climate change adaptation strategies.

Hope Gap

Very few of the  IPCC stories were found to have been framed in terms of opportunities, health effects, ethical considerations, or the economics of global warming — frames that Saffron O’Neill, one of the authors of the study, said have been shown to be more engaging for audiences.  A "hope gap" develops where viewers feel depressed about the issue and powerless to do anything about it.

The findings were consistent with research published a little over a year ago by researchers from the University of Michigan and Rutgers University, in Science Communication, which found that most evening TV news reports dealing with the impacts of climate change failed to mention steps that can be taken to address the problem.

Want to feel proactive in the face of climate change?  Increased renewable energy options can lower the amount of carbon in the environment.  Install solar on your home and encourage other community members to do the same.

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