Environmental Communication

Published by Taylor & Francis

Online ISSN: 1752-4040


Print ISSN: 1752-4032


Carbon Reduction Activism in the UK: Lexical Creativity and Lexical Framing in the Context of Climate Change
  • Article

July 2009


120 Reads

Brigitte Nerlich


This article examines discourses associated with a new environmental movement, “Carbon Rationing Action Groups” (CRAGs). This case study is intended to contribute to a wider investigation of the emergence of a new type of language used to debate climate change mitigation. Advice on how to reduce one's “carbon footprint,” for example, is provided almost daily. Much of this advice is framed by the use of metaphors and “carbon compounds”—lexical combinations of at least two roots—such as “carbon finance” or “low carbon diet.” The study uses a combination of tools from frame analysis and lexical pragmatics within the general framework of ecolinguistics to compare and contrast language use on the CRAGs' website with press coverage reporting on them. The analysis shows how the use of such lexical carbon compounds enables and facilitates different types of metaphorical frames such as dieting, finance and tax paying, war time rationing, and religious imperatives in the two corpora.

Carbon Gold Rush and Carbon Cowboys: A New Chapter in Green Mythology?

March 2010


125 Reads

Individual and collective efforts to mitigate climate change in the form of carbon offsetting and emissions trading schemes have recently become the focus of much media attention. In this paper we explore a subset of the UK national press coverage centered on such schemes. The articles, selected from general as well as specialized business and finance newspapers, make use of gold rush, Wild West and cowboy imagery which is rooted in deeply entrenched myths and metaphors and allows readers to make sense of very complex environmental, political, ethical, and financial issues associated with carbon mitigation. They make what appears complicated and unfamiliar, namely carbon trading and offsetting, seem less complex and more familiar. A critical discussion of this type of imagery is necessary in order to uncover and question tacit assumptions and connotations which are built into it and which might otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged in environmental communication.

Cross-Country Analysis of the Association between Media Coverage and Exposure to Climate News with Awareness, Risk Perceptions, and Protest Participation Intention in 110 Countries
  • New
  • Article

October 2023


21 Reads

Competing Crises? Media Coverage and Framing of Climate Change During the COVID-19 Pandemic

August 2021


208 Reads

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged against the backdrop of the longer-term climate change crisis and increasing global awareness of the imperative for climate action, disrupting the post-Paris trajectory of climate policy and media coverage of climate change. We examine news media coverage from Canadian legacy newspapers and answer three questions. First, did the COVID-19 pandemic work as a critical event in its impacts on news media coverage of climate change, and if so, in what ways? Second, did media framing of climate change shift in response to this critical event, and if so, in what ways? Third, are there notable differences between national and subnational media frames? We find that COVID-19 is a critical event linked to a period of reduced media coverage of climate change. However, this critical event also opened new spaces for news framing that connects environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability.

COVID-19 Pandemic as an Opportunity or Challenge: Applying Psychological Distance Theory and the Co-Benefit Frame to Promote Public Support for Climate Change Mitigation on Social Media

April 2023


19 Reads

The current study employs psychological distance theory and the co-benefit frame to explore message framing strategies on social media to promote public support in climate change mitigation during the COVID-19 pandemic. This online 2 × 2 × 2 experiment recruited 708 Chinese college students to examine the effect of temporal distance (2025 vs. 2050), spatial distance (China vs. the global), and the co-benefit frame (present vs. absent) on behavioral intentions to mitigate climate change and policy support in climate change mitigation. Unexpectedly, the MANOVA results showed that the co-benefit frame of COVID-19 and climate change did not have main or interaction that affect behavioral intention and policy support. However, close temporal distance increases support for climate change mitigation. Meanwhile, temporal and spatial distance have an interaction on behavioral intention. Our results suggest that strategies to reduce psychological distance on social media are effective, especially on temporal distance, but bonding two events through psychological distance to promote support for climate change mitigation must be reconsidered.

We Are (Not) the Virus: Competing Online Discourses of Human-Environment Interaction in the Era of COVID-19

October 2021


31 Reads

Previous research has found that social media may be a particularly influential means of circulating ideologies about climate justice. In this article, we analyze social media discourses of universal human responsibility for pollution and ecosystem destruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, epitomized by the viral hashtag #WeAreTheVirus. We then examine three types of counterdiscourses that oppose misinformation and false universalization of human responsibility. These counterdiscourses include: (1) metadiscourses of ecofascism and racial injustice, (2) counterslogans that ascribe responsibility to systemic injustice rather than individual humans (e.g. “Capitalism is the virus,” “The system is the virus”), and (3) memes that parody the #WeAreTheVirus discourses (as in the sarcastic phrase “Nature is healing, we are the virus”). We demonstrate that the former two nonparodic counterdiscourses emerged in part in the comments of #WeAreTheVirus Tweets, while the parodic memes emerged in separate Tweets, which were a site of shared humor rather than controversy. We further demonstrate that, while both #WeAreTheVirus discourses and counterdiscourses have occurred relatively rarely since their period of virality and have broadened to a range of domains outside of human-environment interaction, counterdiscourses have nevertheless had a wide-ranging impact, increasing metadiscourses of ecofascism and permeating material landscapes through graffiti and signage.

Figure 1. Taking climate change seriously like COVID-19.
Figure 2. Attacks on the Left.
Figure 3. Attacks on the Right.
Figure 4. Apolitical humor and Other.
Figure 5. COVID-19 and climate change are hoaxes and/or conspiracies.


COVID-19 in the Time of Climate Change: Memetic Discourses on Social Media
  • Article
  • Full-text available

April 2022


125 Reads

This paper analyzes the proliferation of memes linked to COVID-19 and climate change online discussions, looking particularly at how themes related to these two issues intersect with each other. To better understand the intersections, cross-pollinations, and mutations between these different but related forms of information dissemination, our research is based on applied thematic analysis and empirically analyzes memes deployed through two popular social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). Both issues pose existential threats to humans, and studying the connection between the two through social media memetic discourses offers important empirical insight into ordinary users’ views. The findings reveal eight themes that show different kinds of relations between COVID-19 and climate change. Memes present COVID-19 either as a solution or as a problem to climate change; they portray different effects between COVID-19 and climate change, and some consider both of them as hoaxes and/or conspiracies. Similarly, to previous studies, we see a relationship between political ideologies and views on climate change and COVID-19. Additionally, our findings show that believing climate change as a hoax and/or conspiracy is also linked to the same view that COVID-19 is fake. We also found a reasonably even spread of themes across both Instagram and Facebook, indicating that these social platforms do not harbor a clear ideological split.

Figure 1. Top: Daily number of articles in the Swiss news media about COVID-19 and climate change. Middle: Daily number of tweets in the Swiss Twitter-sphere about COVID-19 and climate change. Bottom: Scaled volume for daily volume of articles and tweets about climate change
How COVID-19 Displaced Climate Change: Mediated Climate Change Activism and Issue Attention in the Swiss Media and Online Sphere

November 2021


44 Reads

Issues continuously compete for attention in the news media and on social media. Climate change is one of the most urgent problems for society and (re)gained wide public attention in 2019 through the global climate strike protest movement. However, we hypothesize that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 challenged the role of climate change as a routine issue. We use extensive news media and Twitter data to explore if and how the pandemic as a so-called killer issue has shifted public attention away from the issue of climate change in Switzerland. Results show that the climate debate fell victim to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the news media and the Twitter-sphere. Given the vast dominance of the pandemic, there is a strong indication this finding applies similarly to various other issues. Additional hashtag co-occurrence analysis shows that some climate activists react to this development and try to connect the issue of climate change to the pandemic. We argue that suppression of climate change by the pandemic is a problem for its long-term resolution, as it seems to have turned climate change back into a struggling issue.

“Hello, garden eel here:” insights from emerging humanature relations at the aquarium during COVID-19

January 2022


68 Reads

Over one billion people worldwide were under social isolation restrictions between April and May 2020. While humans felt the weight of being isolated under lockdown, nonhuman animals accustomed to continuous human connection had minimized exposure at different animal tourism sites and institutions – such as zoos and aquariums. One interesting case comes from garden eels, which according to their caretakers, were particularly susceptible to isolation from humans and required immediate action: Facetime calls with humans. In this research insight, I explore the new technologically mediated humanimal communication practice between humans and garden eels at the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan. “Remembering humans” is explored as a humanature cultural discourse that emerged from humanity’s social distancing phenomena, seemingly bridging humanature connection amidst the multitude of discourses that removed humanity from nature. This discourse also functions within a form of tourist gaze in tourism institutions. Even though small in scope, this cultural discourse analysis brings to surface one way we have discursively engaged with our solitude during quarantine: mirroring it on more-than-human animals’ experiences. Further investigations about this, and other humanature emerging communication practices, are needed to better understand how the social isolation phenomena impacted communication meanings about humanature relations.

How environment-focused communities discuss COVID-19 online: an analysis of social (risk) amplification and ripple effects on Reddit

April 2022


21 Reads

This study investigated what (risk) information related to COVID-19 was most amplified through online discussions in environment-focused communities and how amplification and ripple effects evolved over time. The population of posts and comments (N = 14,156 observations) posted to 135 environment-focused subreddits from Dec. 1, 2019-Aug. 31, 2020 containing key terms related to COVID-19 was downloaded and subjected to computational content analysis via Leximancer to observe conceptual phenomena that emerged in the data and extract themes based on word-like associations. To examine how online discussion evolved over time, stepwise segmented regression was employed to identify revolutionary breakpoints – significant changes in the volume of conversation over time. Analysis revealed five time periods in the dataset, and concept maps were generated to understand prominent themes in each. Omnibus results revealed themes highlighting positive and negative environmental consequences associated with COVID-19. Analysis revealed a more nuanced trajectory of how the frequency and content of conversations evolved over time.

Media Context and Reporting Opportunities on Climate Change: 2012 versus 1988

May 2014


111 Reads

This paper asks why the extreme real-world weather events of the summer of 1988 created a social scare in the USA while the comparable weather impacts of 2012 did not. It uses these two summers to exemplify the importance of the broader context surrounding the media. The key background factors are: the dominant issue culture in which the media function; grassroots environmental social movements; and both political and scientific claims-making on climate change. The paper seeks to show that these factors affected reporting opportunities related to the formation of reproducing stories and the (investigative) stance assumed by the media.

Imagining the Future at the Global and National Scale: A Comparative Study of British and Dutch Press Coverage of Rio 1992 and Rio 2012

April 2014


70 Reads

Climate change and imagined futures are intricately linked, discussed by policy-makers and reported in the media. In this article we focus on the construction of future expectations in the press coverage of the 1992 and 2012 United Nations conferences in Rio de Janeiro in British and Dutch national newspapers. We use a novel combination of methods, semantic co-word networks and metaphor analysis, to study imagined futures. Our findings show that between 1992 and 2012 there was an overall shift from future-oriented hope to past-oriented disappointment regarding implementing international agreements on climate change policy, but with subtle and interesting differences between the UK and The Netherlands. Certain national differences seem to be stable over time and are indicative of rather dissimilar policy cultures in two nations which are geographically quite close.

Figure 2. Tone of reporting over time. Source: Own presentation based on dataset.
Figure 4. Intensity of reporting over time in the general press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.
Figure 5. Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results. Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on consumer issues, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.
The Swedish Media Debate on GMO Between 1994 and 2018: What Attention was Given to Farmers’ Perspectives?

August 2021


86 Reads

This paper presents a longitudinal study of the debate on GMO in the Swedish media, comparing coverage of the topic in the general press and agricultural press. We studied 1399 articles about GMO in food and agriculture published between 1994 and 2018 in Sweden’s daily and evening newspapers and agricultural publications. A combination of content analysis and statistical simulation techniques was used to identify structural breaks in the dataset and contribute understanding about how the debate shifted over time. Particular attention was paid to issues of importance to farmers in the Swedish media discourse. Our findings indicate that the debate was most intense in the mid-1990s, after which the frequency of reporting on GMOs declined overall and the debate steadily became less negative. Farmers’ perspectives were given more attention than expected in the general media but, surprisingly, smallholder farming and food security in the Global South, which has been central to global and elite debates on GMO, did not appear to substantially affect media discourses in Sweden.

Figure 1. Distribution of the PD reports containing "climate change" or "global warming" (1995-2018, N = 7379) and climate change reports during COPs (COP1-24, N = 550).
Figure 2. Percentage of sustainability ideas in the PD climate reports in three periods respectively (N = 550).
Figure 3. Percentage of news frames in the PD climate reports in three periods respectively (N = 550).
China’s Pathway to Climate Sustainability: A Diachronic Framing Analysis of People’s Daily ’s Coverage of Climate Change (1995–2018)

November 2020


283 Reads

This study explores the evolution of the climate discourses of China’s flagship party paper People’s Daily. Climate reports during COP1-24 (1995–2018) are analyzed in terms of the underlying development ideas and framings of climate change. It is found that climate change received increasing attention, with the years 2007 and 2015 representing two historical hallmarks of reporting. In tandem, the official discourses underwent noticeable shifts, treating climate action no longer as a hindrance to economic growth, but an opportunity for healthier and more sustainable economic development. What remained unchanged was the persistent emphasis on economic growth, the resort to technology as an ultimate solution, and the attribution of most responsibilities to the developed countries. The findings suggest that China’s approach to addressing climate change fits in with the development trajectory of an authoritarian emerging economy.

Figure 1. The share of climate change media coverage in Times of India and Hindu from 1997 to 2016.
Figure 2. Absolute occurrences by overarching theme.
Figure 3. Percentage of total coverage by overarching theme. Note: Percentages do not sum up to 100% due to the omission of background topics.
Themes and topics within climate change coverage in India, N = 18,244.
News Media Coverage of Climate Change in India 1997–2016: Using Automated Content Analysis to Assess Themes and Topics

August 2019


1,672 Reads

News media play an important role for public awareness and perception of climate change – and thus citizens’ behavior. Few studies focus on media coverage in poor and developing countries such as India – the third-largest polluter and an important player in global climate change policies. Further, even these few studies on Indian media coverage span short time periods, focus on specific events, and evaluate pre-defined themes. Applying LDA topic modeling on 18,224 climate change articles published between 1997 and 2016 in two Indian newspapers, we find that climate change coverage in India has increased substantially in the last 20 years. We categorized the coverage into 28 different topics related to four overarching themes: “Climate Change Impacts”, “Climate Science”, “Climate Politics”, and “Climate Change and Society”. Climate change has gained more media attention since 2007 in general with a particular increase in focus on the theme “Climate Change Impacts”. Implications about shifting media discourses and its potential to educate people and change policies are discussed.

Australian Newspaper Framing of Renewables: The Case of Snowy Hydro 2.0

September 2021


291 Reads

Australian media reporting of climate change and renewable energy, along with public perceptions of the science and solutions of climate change, have shifted in ways that have increased pressure on politicians and policy makers. With the promotion of renewable energy central to ending Australia's heavy reliance on fossil fuels, it is critical to understand how this complex intersection of media and politics is evolving with regard to Australia's renewable energy options. Therefore, this paper examines Australian newspaper reporting of a pivotal moment in Australia's renewable energy discourse: the Australian Government's announcement, in March 2017 to expand the seventy-year-old Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme (known as Snowy 2.0), which marked a turning point in conservative energy policy. Qualitative content analysis reveals that, while political discourse delimited newspaper narratives, the sentiment of the framing was most strongly associated with the partisan alignment of the publishing organization. Regional influences also had a minor association with the framing of renewable energy. Through close analysis of this decisive moment in Australian media's political representation of renewable energy, this paper offers insights that can be used to inform media strategies for renewable energy policy in Australia, and to track changes in framing over time.

Food System Innovations, Science Communication, and Deficit Model 2.0: Implications for Cellular Agriculture

October 2022


28 Reads

This commentary examines the emerging field of cellular agriculture, which aims to use the tools of synthetic biology to create a world of abundant, nutritious, sustainable, and ethical meat and other animal products without animal slaughter. Concerned that a lack of public acceptance could present an obstacle to success, the field has coalesced around a set of communicative practices – based not only in sharing information, but also in communicating shared values – that industry leaders believe will prove effective at persuading the public. We term this paradigm “Deficit Model 2.0,” a hybrid framework that retains essential elements of the traditional deficit model of science communication while incorporating new understandings of culture and public engagement into the approach. We outline the deficiencies of this perspective and offer suggestions for a more sustainable approach to cellular agricultural and its food system communication strategy.

Materialist Ecofeminist “Holding” Activity and “Feminine Ecological Attunement” in the Formal Features of Perrin, Cluzaud and Debats's Winged Migration (2001)

July 2020


27 Reads

While materialist ecofeminism is arguably more transversal than social ecology or deep ecology, its transversality has historically been limited by its eschewal of technicism, which has reduced the range of domains it has been able to work across. This orientation is also mirrored in certain variants of ecofeminist film criticism, which accordingly prioritize thematic over formal considerations. However, reflections of materialist ecofeminism can also be found in the formal features of an emerging minor tradition of nature documentary that includes Winged Migration, and this article explores this issue with a view to augmenting the ambit of ecofeminist film criticism, and correlatively the transversal parameters of materialist ecofeminism itself.

Climate Change Coverage in Greek Newspapers: 2001–2008

July 2015


186 Reads

This paper's aim is to identify the debate and document the coverage of climate change (CC) in the Greek national press and to assess to what extent this reporting exhibits the traits anticipated by the “polarized pluralist” character of the Greek “media system.” In order to do this, we analyzed articles published in three Greek quality newspapers (Kathimerini, Ta NEA, and Eleftherotypia) over the period 2001–2008 (N =2072). Our findings suggest a mixed picture: the Greek media debate is characterized by consensus on the anthropogenic causes of CC and on the promotion of renewable energy sources as a means for tackling Greek CC-related emissions. However when examining more specific/controversial CC-policy decisions, there is less evidence supporting a close link with the national character of Greek media reporting, with newspapers appearing to align themselves along partisan lines.

Belligerent broadcasting, male anti-authoritarianism and anti-environmentalism: the case of Top Gear (BBC, 2002–2015)

August 2016


268 Reads

This article considers the format and cultural politics of the hugely successful UK television program Top Gear (BBC 2002–2015). It analyzes how—through its presenting team—it constructed an informal address predicated around anti-authoritarian or contrarian banter and protest masculinity. Regular targets for Top Gear presenter’s protest—curtailed by broadcast guidelines in terms of gender and ethnicity—are deflected onto the “soft” targets of government legislation on environmental issues or various forms of regulation “red tape. Repeated references to speed cameras, central London congestion charges and “excessive” signage are all anti-authoritarian, libertarian discourses delivered through a comedic form of performance address. Thus, the BBC’s primary response to complaints made about this program was to defend the program’s political views as being part of the humor. The article draws on critical discourse analysis and conversation analysis to consider how the program licensed a particular form of engagement that helped it to deflect criticisms, and considers the limits to such discursive positioning. We conclude by examining the controversies that finally led, in 2015, to the removal of the main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, and the ending of this version of the program through the departure of the team to an on-demand online television service.

Prolepsis and the Environmental Rhetoric of Congressional Politics: Defeating the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003

June 2012


51 Reads

As a device of argumentative anticipation, prolepsis use generally is considered a positive rhetorical strategy. Turning to the Climate Stewardship Act (CSA) of 2003, this article contributes to our understanding of environmental communication, political argumentation, and rhetorical theory by examining how proleptic miscalculation can actually produce devastating consequences against one's cause when used as a source of invention. Proponents of the CSA relied on creating proleptic arguments grounded in a scientific understanding of climate change to such an extent that they mistakenly downplayed the economic arguments against the Act. This orchestrated miscalculation was encouraged and strengthened by key US senators. This article concludes by discussing contributions to scholarly understanding of prolepsis use in public policymaking and offers practical suggestions for improving communication in future considerations of environmental legislation.

Figure 1. Methodological summary guide.
Fifteen most recurrent substantive topics in the Irish broadsheet newspapers 2004-2019.
Percentage of total articles referring to National Statements Strategic Policy Objectives.
Framing the Circular Bioeconomy in Ireland’s Broadsheet Media, 2004–2019

April 2021


95 Reads

The development of the circular bioeconomy is perceived as important in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its success depends on systemic changes involving all societal actors with public perception being of central significance. Using content analysis, this paper explores the framing of the circular bioeconomy in the Irish broadsheet media during the period 2004–2019. The results indicate that the development of the circular bioeconomy in Ireland has been framed in largely informational terms. The paper concludes that Irish broadsheet media coverage should widen in scope to reflect the multi-sectoral nature of the circular bioeconomy and be more critically incisive in its approach. It argues that the media should also be less uncritical in its acceptance of the top-down discourse on the circular bioeconomy economy that has been presented by government and industry.

Storylines of Geoengineering in the Australian Media: An Analysis of Online Coverage 2006–2018

November 2022


18 Reads

In the light of inadequate global emissions mitigation, geoengineering – solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal – is increasingly being positioned and problematized by some researchers, policymakers, and advocates as a partial solution for avoiding catastrophic levels of warming. However, there are concerns that geoengineering may serve as a rhetorical tactic for delaying emissions reduction. As the news media field is an important space in which storylines surrounding geoengineering are created and circulated, the manner in which media actors discuss these topics is an important factor that can legitimate some policy pathways and close off others. In this paper, we analyze patterns in news media coverage of geoengineering in Australia to identify four dominant storylines: “a symptom of systems failure”, “silver buckshot”, “the Faustian bargain”, and “time for plan B”. We consider the implication of these storylines for the role that geoengineering may play in the Australian climate policy regime. We identify a risk geoengineering may be positioned as a rhetorical tactic for delaying emissions reduction. However, we note that the storylines in the public sphere provide a basis for public debate that engages critically with geoengineering, engaging with risks and differentiating solar radiation management from carbon dioxide removal.

An “Asymmetric Threat” That Should Have Been Anticipated: Political Discourse on 2007 Wildfires in Greece

April 2014


47 Reads

This paper examines the pre-election interpretative repertoires employed by the two main political parties in Greece regarding the 2007 summer wildfires, which have been recorded as the worst natural disaster in contemporary Greek history. This involved a discourse analysis of press releases, interviews, and press conference statements. While the New Democracy governing party initially followed a “business-as-usual” scenario, comparing the situation with past wildfires under the administration of PASOK (the biggest opposition party), the increasing number of deaths over time rendered any such comparison invalid. In order to regain momentum, the government launched the interpretative repertoire of “asymmetric threat”, which proved instrumental in helping the government to get re-elected. This political discourse lacked any consideration of broad socioeconomic changes in rural areas in Greece which might have contributed substantially to the severity of the disaster. Implications for wildfire policy are discussed.

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