Climate change has been on the media agendas of most Western countries for at least two decades with significant fluctuations associated to scientific and, especially, political activity in relation to this issue. Some scholars have attempted to understand the evolution of media coverage on climate change with the help of Down’s (1972) concept of issue-attention cycle and by examining 'narrative cycles' (McCommas and Shanahan, 1999). The goal of this paper is to identify the currently dominant discourses on climate change in the media of the USA, the UK and Portugal, and to understand whether and how they differ from media discourses in the late 1980s and 1990s. Recently, Ereaut and Segnit (2006) have identified a set of ‘discursive repertoires’ on climate change and argued that there is a predominantly 'alarmist' representation of climate change in the UK. This paper will use Dryzek's (1997) classification of environmental discourses, as well as Ereaut and Segnit’s proposal, to examine a set of texts from newspapers of the three countries mentioned above. In each country, two quality and two popular papers will be examined. The main focus will be on the period 2006-2007 in contrast with 1988-1989 and 1997. Preliminary results suggest the predominance of an ecological modernization/techno-optimistic discourse in the quality papers and of a dual tendency towards survivalism/alarmism and prometheanism/optimism in the popular papers. The implications of these representations of the issue for political and civic action will be discussed.

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Two decades of media coverage of climate change
How has it changed?

Anabela Carvalho   University of Minho

Climate change has been on the media agendas of most Western countries for at least two decades with significant fluctuations associated to scientific and, especially, political activity in relation to this issue. Some scholars have attempted to understand the evolution of media coverage on climate change with the help of Down’s (1972) concept of issue-attention cycle and by examining 'narrative cycles' (McCommas and Shanahan, 1999). The goal of this paper is to identify the currently dominant discourses on climate change in the media of the USA, the UK and Portugal, and to understand whether and how they differ from media discourses in the late 1980s and 1990s. Recently, Ereaut and Segnit (2006) have identified a set of ‘discursive repertoires’ on climate change and argued that there is a predominantly 'alarmist' representation of climate change in the UK. This paper will use Dryzek's (1997) classification of environmental discourses, as well as Ereaut and Segnit’s proposal, to examine a set of texts from newspapers of the three countries mentioned above. In each country, two quality and two popular papers will be examined. The main focus will be on the period 2006-2007 in contrast with 1988-1989 and 1997. Preliminary results suggest the predominance of an ecological modernization/techno-optimistic discourse in the quality papers and of a dual tendency towards survivalism/alarmism and prometheanism/optimism in the popular papers. The implications of these representations of the issue for political and civic action will be discussed.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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