A long-running project from the University of Colorado Boulder, is tracking the quantity of coverage of climate change across many countries, and the most recent data highlights a major drop in coverage across 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, alongside an increase in coverage in the final months of the year.
The group monitors 120 sources of outlets across the world, in 54 countries, and use a range of databases that tend to favour outlets with higher circulation and more consistent logging in those databases. Outlets like RenewEconomy, along with other digital-only outlets like Guardian Australia and The New Daily, were not included.
The resulting database published up to the end of November 2020 shows a very significant rise in coverage during the 2019 climate strikes, a slight increase after the bushfires in Australia in the summer of 2019-2020, and a major drop after that. However, midway through 2020, mentions of climate change in articles began to recover to relatively high levels, and will likely continue this trend into 2021 as COVID19 recovery accelerates and the November COP26 meeting looms.
In terms of the number of articles published mentioning climate change, per media outlet, Australia ranked fifth in the world, just before the US and just higher than Germany. England saw the highest number of climate articles per media outlet, with an average of 154 articles per outlet published in 2020 (up to November). For 2019, Australia ranked fourth in the same metrics.
This did not change much during the period of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, where Australia did briefly move higher in climate-focused media output, but fell rapidly back down in the subsequent months, as the impacts of COVID19 drew focus away from climate in Australia much faster than in other countries like England and the US.
The database also drills down into specific outlets. News Corp outlets have a high prominence in Australia, and their share of coverage has remained relatively steady. As previously covered at RenewEconomy, these outlets may focus on climate frequently, but this has often been to express doubt or scepticism about the science or solutions of the problem.
Interestingly, some significant changes have occurred in climate coverage in other countries similar to Australia. The New York Times, for instance, has significantly increased its climate coverage since 2010. In India, 2015 saw a major increase in coverage of climate. And in Sweden, the homeland of widely known climate activist Greta Thunberg, 2019 saw the highest number of articles published on record.
These datasets are not exhaustive, and television, radio and digital media are covered intermittently (with US television available on their site, here). However, they show that media focus on climate has remained somewhat resilient to the impacts of the pandemic, suggesting that the scale and attention of COP26, to be held later this year, will likely spur a spike that we saw for the 2009 and 2015 climate conferences.