Media representations of uncertainty about climate change

Painter, James 2015. Media representations of uncertainty about climate change. PhD thesis University of Westminster Faculty of Media, Arts and Design

TitleMedia representations of uncertainty about climate change
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsPainter, James

This commentary first explains why it is important to study media representations of uncertainty around climate change. It then surveys the extensive literature on climate change and the media, and within this, the two bodies of scholarship relevant to media representations of uncertainty: i) ‘uncertainty’ as a dominant frame or discourse in media treatments; and ii) the presence of scepticism, in its various manifestations, in traditional and new media.

The commentary then shows how the four submitted works have added to the existing literature: i) they have deepened understanding of the country differences between a wide variety of ‘Anglosphere’ countries and non-‘Anglosphere’ countries. Three of the works stand out for including three of the BRIC countries (Brazil, China and India) who are major emitters and major players in international negotiations; ii) they were the first to apply a taxonomy of scepticism to the content analysis, which gave a more nuanced appreciation of what type of climate scepticism can be found in which part of which newspaper in which country; iii) together they provide very large data sets over a period stretching from 2007 to 2012, which have not been replicated in the academic literature; and iv) one of the studies was the first to compare an uncertainty framing with other dominant frames such as ‘disaster’ and ‘explicit risk’.

A critique is then given of the heavily quantitative approach used in the content analysis found in the works. It argues that a combination of a quantitative and a qualitative approach would have supplied more nuanced results. It revisits articles in the UK print media in 2009/10 and applies a different research method. The results suggest that a newspaper’s ideological leaning is an important driver of the treatment of climate science and scientists not just in its opinion pages, but in its news pages too. It concludes by placing this finding and others demonstrated in the submitted works within future priority areas of research identified by other scholars: the global characteristics of climate reporting and the drivers of country differences; the changing nature of sceptical discourse; and the role the media plays in fuelling, or reflecting, the political polarisation around climate change.


Permalink -

Share this

Usage statistics

135 total views
214 total downloads
1 views this month
3 downloads this month
These values are for the period from September 2nd 2018, when this repository was created

Export as