Analysis: Newspaper coverage of climate change drops despite release of major UN reports
- 06 May 2014, 14:00
- Mat Hope
Credit: Roland Unger
Despite the launch of
two major UN reports on climate science, UK
newspaper coverage of climate change dropped last month.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has
reports on the causes and impacts of climate change over the
past seven months. The publication of the first report last
September led to a spike in newspaper coverage.
But the latter two reports - launched on the 31st March and 13th
April - didn't capture the same level of attention, our analysis
Our analysis shows 452 articles were published
in April, just two more than an 12-month average of 448 articles
per month. That's significantly less than February's 12-month high,
where floods catalysed a widespread debate on the impacts of
The IPCC's first report was the subject of many of last
September's 559 articles on climate change. The next two reports
similarly dominated April's coverage in April but failed to lift
the total number of articles above average levels.
That doesn't necessarily mean UK newspapers were neglecting
climate change coverage, however.
The IPCC's second report was released on the last day of March -
a fact that may have skewed the data slightly. While all of the
stories on the IPCC's first report were captured in September's
data, coverage of the second and third reports was spread across
March and April. Nonetheless, even if the 29 stories published on
the launch day of the second report were included in April's count
the total coverage would not have reached September's level.
The IPCC's reports did serve to focus newspapers' climate change
For instance, the IPCC's second report led to a number of
stories on the impacts of climate change on
food security and
extreme weather events. While stories about
renewable energy and the
costs of tackling climate change caught journalists'
attention in the wake of the third report.
We've broken down coverage of the IPCC's second report in
much more detail
Throughout April, three newspapers continued to dominate the
newspapers' climate change coverage. Our analysis shows the
Guardian, Times, and Daily Telegraph were responsible for over half
of all the articles published on climate change last month.
But when each newspaper's readership is taken into account, a
different picture emerges. While some newspapers drive UK newspaper
coverage of climate change, the same papers may not have the
greatest impact on the public's perception of climate change.
This graph shows the the proportion of April's climate change
coverage, weighted by each newspapers' circulation:
That's potentially significant, as the tone of each
publication's climate change coverage differs. For instance, the
newspaper with the highest circulation - the
Daily Mail - typically takes a more skeptical angle than the
Guardian, which is responsible for the most articles.
While the IPCC's first report led to a notable spike in
newspaper coverage of climate change, our analysis suggests the
latter reports didn't have the same impact.
That may be because journalists struggled to pin down a
particular angle on the IPCC's second and third reports, compared
first report's bold topline: that scientists were more sure
than ever that human's were responsible for climate change.
Alternatively, it could be because the IPCC's reports were
competed for space with other major news stories - most notably the
conflict in Ukraine and search for a missing Malaysia Airlines
In such a context, not even the launch of two major
scientific reports was enough to push climate change onto more
pages, it seems.