18 September 2013

Africa: Vulnerable Nations Have Less Climate Change News

Countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change do not have above-average coverage of this issue in their media, according to a global analysis published in Global Environmental Change last month (21 August).

Most media studies in this area have been conducted in developed nations, the authors say, calling for more research of media coverage in developing nations, where they find climate change is covered but less so than in industrialised countries.

The reasons may be country-specific, but they say that one possible cause is a lack of resources for science and environmental journalism in developing countries.

The researchers analysed media coverage of climate change from 1996 to 2010 in 37 leading newspapers in 27 countries, including 14 developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Overall, they found that climate change coverage accounted for 0.62 per cent of all articles under study, with a trend of growing media attention.

On average, media coverage was lower in particularly vulnerable developing countries, such as Algeria, India and Mexico.

"We show that media attention on climate change in developing countries is in general considerably lower than in industrialised countries," co-author Andreas Schmidt, a researcher at the University of Hamburg, Germany, tells SciDev.Net.

This is probably due to several, country-specific reasons, he says.

"Our main argument is that developing countries in general are not obliged to pursue climate mitigation policies - greenhouse gas reduction efforts - and therefore domestic political events or debates triggering media coverage are missing," he says.

He adds that journalists in developing countries need better training and financial resources to meaningfully report on climate change and its complexities, for example by attending international climate change negotiations.

Lead researcher Mike Schäfer, from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, says that "we don't know that much about these countries' coverage of the phenomenon", adding that about three-quarters of published studies on climate-change communication focus on developed nations.

"Scholarship needs to take developing countries into account more, before we know what to do and how to improve media coverage," Schäfer says.

Nassanga Goretti Linda, associate professor of journalism and communication at Makerere University, Uganda, says the paper offers a "good foundation for other researchers to build on, especially those from developing countries that have few research studies on media and climate coverage.

"Findings from such studies should enable governments and media development agencies to come up with relevant strategies to address climate issues that are applicable to the particular country."

Link to study abstract


Global Environmental Change doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.07.020 (2013)

Copyright © 2013 SciDev.Net. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.