Ten years to prevent catastrophe? Discourses of climate change and international development in the UK press

TitleTen years to prevent catastrophe? Discourses of climate change and international development in the UK press
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 111
KeywordsChange, Discourses, international development, press, UK
AuthorsDoulton, H., and K. Brown
Year of Publication2007
Abstract

The science of climate change is full of uncertainty, but the greater vulnerability of poor countries to the impacts of climate change is one aspect that is widely acknowledged. The UK government is taking a lead in international action to instigate mitigation measures and assist developing countries to adapt, for which it needs the support of the public. The media plays a critical role in influencing public opinion, yet there has been no analysis of media portrayals of climate change and international development. This paper uses Dryzek’s (2005) ‘components’ approach to discourse analysis to explore the media construction of climate change and development. Eight discourses were identified from these articles based on the entities recognised, assumptions about natural relationships, agents and their motives, rhetorical devices and normative judgements. They showed a wide range of opinions regarding the impacts of climate change on development and the appropriate action to be taken. Discourses concerned about likely severe impacts have dominated coverage in the Guardian and the Independent since 1997, and in all papers since 2006; previously discourses proposing that climate change was a low development priority had formed the coverage in the Times and the Telegraph. Overall, results demonstrate media perceptions of a rising sense of an impending catastrophe for a developing world that will be defenceless without the help of the West. This has implications for public understanding of, and government responses to, climate change and international development.

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