Reporting on Climate Change: An Australian Perspective

By Mary Debrett.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Reporting on the topic of climate change and the findings of climate scientists raises specific difficulties for journalists, because of the disjuncture between scientific precision, and its language of ‘probability and percentages, significant difference and estimation of error’ (Thwaites 2006), and the media’s hunger for an easily communicable truth. This paper discusses the findings of a research project in which frame analysis was applied to a sample of Australian newspaper stories on climate change from 2006 and 2009. The sample was taken from these two key years because several events of special significance occurred: the release of the documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, in which former US vice president, Al Gore presented the key evidence and arguments underlying anthropogenic climate change, and British economist, Sir Nicholas Sterne’s report on the Review of the Economics of Climate Change which identified the high economic cost of global warming in 2006; and the international climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009, which drew considerable discussion regarding an emissions trading scheme. Sampling stories from three Australian metropolitan daily newspapers - two broadsheets and a tabloid - this analysis compares and contrasts how anthropogenic climate change is being framed by the Australian print media sector. The paper argues that certain tenets of contemporary news media practice present obstacles to public communication on climate change (Thwaites 2006).

Keywords: Science Communication, Science in the Media, Media and Climate Change, Environmental Journalism, Environmental Communication

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.149-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 565.338KB).

Dr. Mary Debrett

Senior Lecturer, Media and Cinema Studies Program, School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I teach students in the Bachelor of Media Studies and the Bachelor of Journalism at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Prior to my current position I worked in broadcasting in New Zealand for a decade before moving into the educational sector to teach television production and produce documentaries. My research interests are documentary theory, media representation of climate change and broadcasting policy. I recently completed a book - Reinventing Public Service Broadcasting for the Digital Future - published in July 2010.