News Coverage of Climate Entering ‘Trance’?

The New York Times' climate blog, DOT EARTH, analyzes some recent data about the decreasing focus of climate change in the media.  The author states that the current political and economic environments might result in the, "media entering a climate trance."

Posted Dec. 5th, 2008
By Andrew C. RevkinDOT EARTH (NYTIMES)

I recently asked whether the world is poised to enter an Obama-style “trance” onDOT EARTH graph 1 jpeg climate policy given 
the focus on economic turmoil and plunge in oil prices,
which have in the past seemed synchronized with concerns about
transforming energy policy. (Keep in mind that the chief executive
officer of Gulf Oil said Wednesday that oil could drop to $20 a barrel and gasoline $1 a gallon).

Now Maxwell Boykoff, who studies the media and climate change
at Oxford University, has come up with an initial snapshot looking at
climate stories over the last four years in 50 newspapers in 20
countries and (along with a colleague, Maria Mansfield) finds that the media may be entering a climate trance (or ending a bubble, depending on your view).

He’s presented these data (click on graph at right) in a side event at the Poznan, Poland, climate DOT EARTH graph 2 jpeg
conference, where the main event — the high-level sessions — begin early next week. What’s your take on this graph?

In an e-mail, Dr. Boykoff said: “Apart
from that Oceania blip in mid-2008, it does seem like stagnation or
decreasing coverage. I’m curious about links between that and possible
interpretations by negotiators of decreased public pressure to put
forward a strong agreement leading into Copenhagen.”

Of course, the burst of coverage in 2007, surrounding the release of the fourth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
could be seen as the journalistic equivalent of the global heat wave in
1998, propelled by a Pacific Ocean El Nino warming — creating a peak
that distorts a trend. So the long-term trend may still be up.

To set the recent trend in broader context, check out sociologist Robert Brulle’s graph tracking network news coverage of global warming
and the following graph of newspaper coverage of climate change from
1980 to 2006 (a separate newspaper sample) from Dr. Boykoff’s recent
paper in Nature Reports – Climate Change:
DOT Earth pic 1 jpeg

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