Study Denounces 'Climate Porn' in News Coverage

A new study says the media have engaged in "climate porn" in its coverage of global warming. The motives are financial as well as ideological.

Reports BBC:

Apocalyptic visions of climate change used by newspapers, environmental groups and the UK government amount to "climate porn", a think-tank says.

The report from the Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says over-use of alarming images is a "counsel of despair".

It says they make people feel helpless and says the use of cataclysmic imagery is partly commercially motivated.

However, newspapers have defended their coverage of a "crucial issue".

'Nobody knows'

The IPPR report also criticises the reporting of individual climate-friendly acts as "mundane, domestic and uncompelling".

"The climate change discourse in the UK today looks confusing, contradictory and chaotic," says the report, entitled Warm Words.

"It seems likely that the overarching message for the lay public is that in fact, nobody really knows."

Alarm and rhetoric

IPPR's head of climate change Simon Retallack, who commissioned the report from communication specialists Gill Ereaut and Nat Segnit, said: "We were conscious of the fact that the amount of climate change coverage has increased significantly over the last few years, but there had been no analysis of what the coverage amounted to and what impact it might be having."

They analysed 600 newspaper and magazine articles, as well as broadcast news and adverts.

Coverage breaks down, they concluded, into several distinct areas, including:

  • Alarmism, characterised by images and words of catastrophe
  • Settlerdom, in which "common sense" is used to argue against the scientific consensus
  • Rhetorical scepticism, which argues the science is bad and the dangers hyped
  • Techno-optimism, the argument that technology can solve the problem