Climate change coverage in the United States media during the 2017 hurricane season: implications for climate change communication

Roberta Weiner, Sarah P. Church, Junyu Lu, Laura A. Esman, Jackie M. Getson, Michelle Fleckenstein, Brennan Radulski, Pranay Ranjan, Emily Usher, Linda S. Prokopy, Linda Pfeiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The United States media does not consistently associate natural hazards and the effects of climate change. Media messages about climate change can influence readers’ perceptions of and reactions to climate risk, and analysis of media messages in various news outlets can have important implications for the beliefs readers hold. We investigate how newspaper characteristics (political orientation, elite status, and proximity to a 2017 hurricane) correspond to the presence, accuracy, and content of climate change coverage occurring in the context of natural hazard articles. We performed a content analysis of hurricane coverage in six US newspapers. The 1057 articles identified from nine constructed week samples were coded for references to climate change, climate denial perspectives, and presentations of climate change consensus and for the use of proximity cues indicating the relative nearness or distance of climate impacts to US readers. Whenever reference to climate change occurred (26.7% of all articles analyzed), all newspapers accurately documented changing trends related to climate change. The conservative newspaper near a 2017 hurricane differed significantly from the other conservative newspapers in frequency of articles explicitly referencing climate change, as well as reference to climate change denial, climate change consensus, and use of proximal and distal proximity cues. This suggests that partisan norms around climate change coverage may be influenced by immediate proximity to a climate-related natural hazard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalClimatic Change
Volume164
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Construal level
  • Content analysis
  • Natural hazards
  • Politicization
  • Risk communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science

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