Newspapers increasingly published articles mentioning climate change as extreme weather hit the UK throughout February.
595 articles mentioned climate change in February – more than at any point in the past 12 months, according to our analysis of 13 of the UK’s most prominent daily and weekly newspapers. It shows 5,417 articles mentioned climate change in the past year (up to the end of February 2014).
This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts tracking how UK newspapers cover the issue of climate change. More detail about what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it, can be found here.
Last month’s spike can largely be attributed to the storms which battered the UK at the end of 2013 and start of 2014, with journalists discussing how the intense weather linked to climate change.
The UK had the wettest winter since national records began in 1910, with stories about storms and flooding filling ever increasing column inches over the couple of months.
On the 9th February, the Met Office released a report looking at whether climate change played a part in the UK’s exceptional weather. The Met Office’s chief scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, summarised the report, saying “all the available evidence suggests there is a link to climate change” – though the full report made clear just how difficult it is to unravel the special weather we get here in the UK.
Later in the month, comments by Labour leader Ed Miliband prompted more coverage. Miliband warned that climate change poses a threat to the UK’s national security unless action is taken to cut emissions.
Before February, the biggest peak in coverage from the past year came when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the first instalment of its Fifth Assessment Report last September.
The number of articles varied across the publications we looked at. Every newspaper we analysed published more articles mentioning climate change than in any of the 12 months previously, however.
The analysis shows three newspapers – the Guardian, Times, and Daily Telegraph – consistently publish the highest number of articles mentioning climate change.
That trend continued in February, with 56 per cent of the articles appearing in those three publications.
The number of articles mentioning climate change varied significantly from paper to paper.
In February, the Guardian printed over a quarter of articles mentioning climate change, publishing 160. The Daily Express published the least articles of the daily newspapers, printing 23.
Of the Sunday newspapers, the Guardian’s sister paper the Observer published the most articles, printing 53 over February’s four Sundays. The Mail on Sunday published the least, printing five.
A different picture emerges when the newspapers’ readerships are taken into account, however.
The Guardian may publish the most articles mentioning climate change, but it has the second smallest readership out of all the daily newspapers. That means its articles will are likely to be read by less people overall than those published by papers with bigger circulations.
Here’s the newspapers’ shares of articles mentioning climate change when weighted by their respective readerships:
So while the Guardian may publish lots more articles mentioning climate change, they’re not necessarily reaching as much of the audience as articles published in The Sun and Daily Mail.
Our previous analysis suggested newspapers were originally slow to discuss the link between the UK’s recent extreme weather and climate change. This new data suggests that by the end of February, climate change had become an established part of the flooding narrative, however – with the number of articles mentioning climate change reaching its highest point in a year.
UPDATE, 12th March, 1.30pm:
The post was updated with new data regarding the newspapers circulations in response to a comment posted below.
This is the first in a monthly series of blogs which track the number of articles UK newspapers publish on climate change. For more information on how the data is collected and analysed, see this blog post.