Media’s Interest in Climate Change: Reactions Similar in the EU and USA


The number of articles in the press on "climate change" have grown four to 8 times over around the world since 1996. A study by the KlimaCampus at the University of Hamburg shows that European and North American medias’ interest in climate change followed a very similar course of development. For other countries in Asia, Africa, South America, or the Arabian Peninsula, few such international similarities are apparent.

Among the 23 countries studied, the presence of climate change as a subject of reporting in the news increased over the last 15 years by somewhere between four and eight times over, according to the results of a study by Mike S. Schäfer, Ana Ivanova, and Andreas Schmidt, Communications Researchers from the KlimaCampus at the University of Hamburg. For the study, which is being published in the journal Studies in Communication/Media, the researchers analyzed more than 80,000 newspaper articles. "The topic is strongly winning meaning in all countries - however, some countries are more similar," wrote Schäfer in his conclusion.


For the first time, the researchers studied a mix of countries from all continents in the study, which also included many non-English speaking media. A conscious decision was also made to include both the "instigators" of climate change, like the USA, Australia or France, and also its potential "victims" such as Namibia, Indonesia, or Mexico. Similar studies have until now focused primarily on the western and Englishspeaking press.


The team evaluated newspaper articles from 1996 to 2010 for the study. For each country, the researchers chose a nationally dominant medium that appeared daily across regions, and which satisfied particular qualitative standards. They investigated how many published articles, as a percent of the total, focused on the topic of climate change.


The results? Similar patterns in the attention climate change garnered were apparent in European and North American countries. "Events in international climate politics appear to have been setting the rhythm here," clarified Schäfer. The media clearly orient themselves towards societal occasions, such as climate conferences or the progress reports from the IPCC, the world’s climate council. That´s not the case in the rest of world: When one looks at the global press, there are far fewer similarities. In sub-groups like the Asian press, including Brunei, Indonesien, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China, India, Yemen, and Jordan, the researchers found almost no similarities. Even in neighboring states that have gone through significantly similar processes of economic development, like the Asian Tigers in the Far East, no clear correlations are apparent in press coverage on climate.


The media in developing and emerging nations act with greater autonomy, orienting themselves less towards their neighbors or supposedly global climate events. Their interests appear to be more clearly influenced by the national or regional effects of climate change, by which many developing and emerging nations are particularly heavily affected. Schäfer and his colleagues are on the trail of the reasons for such country specific pat-terns of attention, which they will present in their upcoming work.


Results from the study are available online, country by country, at:



Stephanie Janssen, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, media relations
Tel.: 040-428 38-45 23

Mike S. Schäfer, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, Media Constructions of Climate Change

Andreas Schmidt, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, Media Constructions of Climate Change
Tel.: 040-428 38-77 75