The U.S. Media and Climate Change: Recent Trends (St. James's Studies in World Affairs)


Hantel, Katya Chistik

Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. Although cohesive solutions remain elusive, U.S. media attention on climate change is decreasing. This study examines how media attention to climate change solutions has changed over time and makes recommendations on how coverage trends can be influenced.

Two broad solutions frames were chosen for the study: “market” solutions that address
human behavior utilizing market forces (e.g. cap-and-trade, carbon tax), and "technology” solutions that focus on developing technological tools to support more climate-friendly behavior (e.g. renewable energy).

The study examined 444 media articles published in the Associated Press, Reuters News, the *New York Times*, *USA Today*, the *Wall Street Journal*, and the *Washington Post*. Each article was coded according to a numerical rating scale for how prevalent the solution was in the media article, as well as if it was reported as being an effective solution (positive tonality) or ineffective solution (negative tonality). Articles were analyzed for characteristics aligning with the five phases of Anthony Downs’s issue-attention cycle: 1) Pre-Problem, with attention from niche audiences only; 2) Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm for addressing the issue quickly; 3) Increasing
negativity as the cost of progress is realized; 4) Gradual decline of intense public interest; and 5) Post-problem, when issue attention drops off.

Findings show that U.S. media coverage of both market and technology solutions to climate change follows Downs’s issue-attention cycle, though there are phase variations for each solution. Decreasing coverage volume and increasingly negative tonality was observed for both market and technology solutions, aligning with Downs’s characteristics of issue-attention cycle Phases 2-4. Several topics were consistently associated with short-term increases in coverage around a solution, a relationship that indicates that they may play a role in driving media attention to these solutions. Media consistently reported on technology solutions more favorably than market solutions. A tendency for individual politicians and political infighting to negatively impact tonality was observed, as were instances of media favoring an “underdog” in solutions implementation.

Science, Climate Science, Politics, Media Studies, Journalism, International Relations, International Law, American Studies, Public Policy, American Politics, World Politics, National Security Studies
Release Date: 
April 1, 2018
Hardcover: 978-1680530636
Trim Size: 
6 x 9

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