Media coverage affects perceptions of climate change

February 25, 2009 |

Climate change will not be taken seriously until the media highlights its significance, say researchers at the University of Liverpool.

Dr Neil Gavin, from the School of Politics and Communication Studies, believes the way the media handles issues like climate change shapes the public’s perception of its importance. Limited coverage is unlikely to convince readers that climate change is a serious problem that warrants immediate and decisive action.

Researchers found that the total number of articles on climate change printed over three years was fewer than one month’s worth of articles featuring health issues. The articles offered mixed messages about the seriousness and imminence of problems facing the environment.

Dr Gavin explains: “Our research suggests that the media is not treating these issues with the seriousness that scientists would say they deserve. The research company lpsos-MORI found that 50% of people think the jury is still out on the causes of global warming. The limited amount of media coverage – which tends to be restricted to the broadsheets – means that this statistic is unlikely to alter in the short-term.

“Climate change, therefore, may not be high enough on the media agenda to stimulate the sort of public concern that prompts concerted political action. The media may well continue to focus its attention on health, the economy or crime, thereby drawing public attention away from the issue of climate change.

“This is more likely when resources are stretched, government popularity is on the wane, or where more pressing, non-climate-related issues force the government to direct expenditure or invest its political capital and energy elsewhere.”

He added: “Even if the British Government wanted to push climate change further up the media agenda, it is not necessarily in a position to shape the debate that takes place in the media.”

2 Responses to Media coverage affects perceptions of climate change

  1. Anonymous November 25, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    You don’t actively see new stations doing much about global warming. Yes, you’ll see them report on CO2 emissions somewhat frequently, but who cares. To the average person that doesn’t mean much, it doesn’t affect their every day life, their income, where and how they live… etc. To see actual change the media would almost have to be accusatory in their findings. Seek out actual corporations, car manufactures, aerosol manufactures and whatnot. Bring the attention on the producers rather than consumers.

    Politicians need to be affected as well. The media needs to be a focus on these people, so that actual legislation might be heard that can then affect these producers. Unfortunately that news just doesn’t sell as well as sex scandals and murder…

  2. Anonymous February 25, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    I don’t know about England but here in the US the media is constantly telling us we’re going to die because of global warming. They are also constantly telling us that anything bad that happens is a direct result of global warming. Finally, they always add that global warming is caused by human produced CO2. I really don’t see how the media could do anything else to bring it to our attention unless every newspaper and tv broadcast was headlined with “GLOBAL WARMING IS GOING TO KILL YOU!” every single day.

    Maybe the reason 50% of people aren’t convinced is because they can see through the Chicken Little charade that has been created. Maybe they realize that there really are more important things to deal with than something which can’t really be influenced.

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