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Connecting Extreme Weather Events to Climate Change: Media Coverage of Heat Waves and Wildfires

This research tests the popular press assumption that media are not discussing climate change in coverage of extreme weather. Change over time in English-language media coverage of heat waves and wildfires is assessed, from 2013 to 2018, including 37 news outlets from five countries, as well as Agence France-Presse and Climatewire. Mentions of climate issues increased both types of extreme weather. Climatewire provided the highest degree of climate change issue attention. For Canada and the United States, climate change issue attention was higher than would be expected by chance in heat wave coverage, while it was roughly equal to what would be expected by chance for China, and lower for India and the United Kingdom. For wildfire coverage, issue attention to climate issues was higher than expected by chance for Canada, India, and the United Kingdom; lower for China and the United States. Elite, climate-specialist news outlets gave more attention to climate issues in both heat wave and wildfire reporting across the years studied. The 2013 to 2018 time period also saw an uptick in media coverage of heat waves, particularly in Chinese English-language media.

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Jill Hopke
DePaul
University
(@jillhopke)
CONNECTING EXTREME
WEATHER EVENTS TO
CLIMATE CHANGE
COCE 2019
Vancouver, Canada
@jillhopke 2
GROWING
WILDFIRE
RISK
Image source: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/05/729720938/1-billion-
acres-at-risk-for-catastrophic-wildfires-u-s-forest-service-warns
@jillhopke 3
EXTREME
HEAT ON
THE RISE
Image sources: New York Times and NPR.
@jillhopke 4
CLIMATE
ATTRIBUTION
Image source: https://www.carbonbrief.org/northern-hemispheres-extreme-
heatwave-in-2018-impossible-without-climate-change
@jillhopke 5
MEDIA
ATTENTION
TO CLIMATE
LINKAGES IN
EXTREME
WEATHER
REPORTING?
Image source: https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/07/12/Major-broadcast-TV-
networks-mentioned-climate-change-just-once-during-two-weeks-of-heat-wa/220651
¡ People turn to media for
information about extreme weather
¡ To what extent do 37 media outlets
in six countries (Canada, China,
France, India, United States, and
the United Kingdom) mention
climate change in relation to heat
waves and wildfires?
Cross-
national
study of
climate
change
mentions
in media
coverage of
heat waves
and
wildfires
@jillhopke 6

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Connecting Extreme Weather Events to Climate Change: Media Coverage of Heat Waves and Wildfires

  • 1. Jill Hopke DePaul University (@jillhopke) CONNECTING EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS TO CLIMATE CHANGE COCE 2019 Vancouver, Canada
  • 2. @jillhopke 2 GROWING WILDFIRE RISK Image source: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/05/729720938/1-billion- acres-at-risk-for-catastrophic-wildfires-u-s-forest-service-warns
  • 3. @jillhopke 3 EXTREME HEAT ON THE RISE Image sources: New York Times and NPR.
  • 4. @jillhopke 4 CLIMATE ATTRIBUTION Image source: https://www.carbonbrief.org/northern-hemispheres-extreme- heatwave-in-2018-impossible-without-climate-change
  • 5. @jillhopke 5 MEDIA ATTENTION TO CLIMATE LINKAGES IN EXTREME WEATHER REPORTING? Image source: https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/07/12/Major-broadcast-TV- networks-mentioned-climate-change-just-once-during-two-weeks-of-heat-wa/220651
  • 6. ¡ People turn to media for information about extreme weather ¡ To what extent do 37 media outlets in six countries (Canada, China, France, India, United States, and the United Kingdom) mention climate change in relation to heat waves and wildfires? Cross- national study of climate change mentions in media coverage of heat waves and wildfires @jillhopke 6
  • 7. ¡ Data from Nexis Uni (Nexis Lexis), Northern Hemisphere summers 2013 to 2018 (June – August) ¡ Purposeful sample of English-language upmarket, midmarket, regional and newswire press outlets, + broadcast where available (US, UK, Canada) ¡ Compare elite, climate-specialist reporting (Climatewire, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, the Guardian, and the BBC) vs. general- interest news organizations @jillhopke 7 METHOD
  • 8. @jillhopke 8 EXAMPLE NEWS OUTLETS (N=37) Climate-specialist Climatewire U.S. print New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today U.S. broadcast Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR Canadian print The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star Canadian broadcast Canadian Television Network UK print Guardian, The Times, The Sun UK broadcast BBC European general Agence France-Presse Chinese print China Daily, Shanghai Daily Indian print Hindustan Times, The Times of India
  • 9. Selected Findings 9@jillhopke CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE ATTENTION IN HEAT WAVE AND WILDFIRE MEDIA COVERAGE
  • 10. @jillhopke 10 HEAT WAVES Climate change issue attention by category 2013 to 2018.
  • 11. @jillhopke 11 WILDFIRES Climate change issue attention by category 2013 to 2018.
  • 12. Climate change issue attention, 2013 compared to 2018 @jillhopke 12 To test for change in the level of climate change issue attention between summer 2013 and summer 2018 in heat wave and wildfire coverage, with the individual news outlet as the unit of analysis, two Wilcoxon signed-rank tests conducted. Percentages reported are the means of issue attention scores for N=37 news outlets. Year Heat wave coverage Wildfire coverage 2013 15.97% 7.98% 2018 20.81% 19.15% Z = -2.184, p = 0.05 Z = -4.001, p = 0.001
  • 13. Year Heat wave coverage Wildfire coverage 2013 -2.103* -2.917** 2014 -2.275* -2.37* 2015 -3.071*** -3.469*** 2016 -2.444* -3.547*** 2017 -2.804** -3.022** 2018 -2.764** -2.692** Elite, climate reporting * issue attention: Tests of difference by year, 2013-2018 @jillhopke 13 Mann-Whitney U tests conducted for hypotheses that national, elite climate-specialist media outlets would mention climate change extreme weather event coverage with greater frequency. Figures reported represent z-scores. *p<0.05, **p<0.01, ***p<0.001.
  • 14. ¡Climate mentions increased for both heat waves and wildfires; vary by country ¡Climatewire news service had highest degree of climate issue attention ¡Elite, climate-specialist news outlets gave more attention to climate issues in both heat wave and wildfire reporting @jillhopke 14 MAJOR TAKEAWAYS
  • 15. ¡Normative decisions by news organizations to invest in climate reporting matter ¡News consumers need to call for better, more extensive coverage ¡Look to successful models, e.g. NYT “ClimateFwd:” newsletter + nonprofit, digital newsrooms like CarbonBrief and InsideClimate News @jillhopke 15 IMPLICATIONS
  • 16. QUESTIONS? THANK YOU! DR. JILL HOPKE JHOPKE@DEPAUL.EDU