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Climate change news coverage reached an all-time high. Language used to describe it shifting was also used

Climate change news coverage reached an all-time high. Language used to describe it shifting was also used

Climate change news coverage reached all-time high, language to describe it shifting

Climate change news coverage reached all-time high, language to describe it shifting
At various points during the two-week negotiations, COP26 was featured on the front page of the media. Credit: Media and Climate Change Observatory

According to data from the Media and Climate Change Observatory, (MeCCO), a multi-university collaboration, the United States’ coverage of climate change reached an all time high in October and November.


Monitoring stories from around the world via 127 newspapers, radio and in 59 countries and 13 languages, MeCCO found that during these two months—which coincided with the 2021 United Nations change conference in Glasgow, Scotland—U.S. The media coverage was at its highest since November 2009 and December 2009 when the same annual conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Climate Change is not just a science story. It’s now a political and economic story,” stated Max Boykoff (MeCCO lead investigator and chair of Department of Environmental Studies).

Both October NovemberThe global climate change coverage increased significantly in the past year. Newspaper coverage in October 2021 was more than doubled (a 114% rise) from October 2020. This coverage in October 2021 was much more extensive than the previous month. Newspaper coverage increased 22%, while radio coverage increased 29% over September. Although newspaper coverage had slowed to a halt in November 2021 it had risen 81% from the previous year. Global radio coverage of climate change rose by a whopping 45% between October and November 2021.

Apart from the U.N. conference emerging stories about social movements played an important role in increased coverage. Also, new scientific reports were published in October 2021: The annual The LancetCountdown ReportAbout climate change impacts on human healthcare (to which MeCCO team members Lucy McAllister and Olivia Pearman contributed); and a paper ScienceThis study documented how the land dispossession of native Americans in the U.S. has increased people’s vulnerability to climate change.

Change your language to adapt to a changing world

According to data from MeCCO and Babbel, climate change terminology is changing. There are more extreme terms and phrases being used to describe the phenomenon such as “climate crisis” and “climate catastrophe.” These data were collected by Babbel and language learning platform Babbel between 2006 and 2021.

MeCCO’s work relies on finding new terms in the news and then incorporating them in their tracking algorithms. They chose eight search terms to track when and where they have appeared in recent years as part of their collaboration with Babbel.

The use of the term “climate catastrophe” by U.S news outlets has increased by half between 2020 and 2021; the UK’s use of the term has tripled.

Boykoff, who is also a Fellow in Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences CIRES, stated that “our language helps to describe the realities of the world.”

The terms “global heating” and the “greenhouse effect”, however, are less often used. One outlet, The Guardian, changed its style guide in 2019 and preferred the terms “global Heating” and “climate emergency crisis or breakdown” to “global warming” or “climate change.”

The term “climate change” however, is not disappearing—it’s just that other terms are increasing, said Boykoff.

He points out that it is difficult to draw a line between increased media coverage and more action on climate change. The news is a significant way we understand the world around and ourselves, however. He said that media attention can also be used to gauge public pressures or interests.

Boykoff said, “Increased media attention can be part of a story about increased engagement and actions.”

MeCCO will release its fifth annual summary/explainer on climate change in 2021, which covers a year. MeCCO’s data for compiling their reports is available as open-source databases through CU Boulder Libraries. These databases are free to journalists, academics, and the general public.

See Also

Members of MeCCO also contributed to a paper. The Lancet“January 2021”COVID-19 media coverage decreasing despite deepening crisis”, which uses similar methods to analyze media coverage about COVID-19. MeCCO could make use of their existing network to get valuable insights with more resources and funding. Like they have been following and analysing the pandemic news.


Majority of climate change news coverage is now accurate: study


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The climate change news coverage reached an all-time high. Language to describe it shifting (2021, Dec 21)
Retrieved 21 Dec 2021
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