From “Climate Change” to “Climate Crisis”?
Analyzing Changes in Global News Nomenclature from 1996 to 2021
AbstractClimate change is one of the core challenges of humankind – and legacy news media continue to be important sources of information about the issue for many people around the globe. Accordingly, how news media portray climate change is important for public awareness and perceptions of the issue. The labeling of the topic – which may rely on more neutral terms like “climate change” or “global warming” or more alarming terms like “climate crisis”, “climate emergency” or “global heating” – is an important facet in this respect. In step with the increasing importance of the issue, outlets such as the British “Guardian” have switched to these more urgent terms in their coverage of climate change. But it is unclear, so far, how pronounced this switch is, and which media have followed suit. Relying on an automated content analysis of climate change coverage from 16 news outlets in eight countries around the world between 1996 and 2021 (N = 89,887), our study investigates the use and proliferation of “climate change compounds” such as “climate crisis”, “global heating”, or “global warming” used to describe the phenomenon. We find that news media still use neutral terms – especially “climate change” – more often than alarming labels. However, the use of the latter has increased strongly since 2019, presumably due to country-specific events and changes in editorial guidelines of national outlets.
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