13 April 2010

Post-Rio and Post-Copenhagen Media Cliffs

The graph below is from the work of Max Boykoff, a friend and colleague from here at CU, and Maria Mansfield, University of Exeter. The graph shows a big drop off in media attention to climate change in the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference last December.
When I saw this graph it brought to mind a very similar graph of media attention from about 15 years ago, shown below from a paper that I did with Mickey Glantz in 1995 (on how to "sell" scientific programs to policy makers, PDF). Notice any similarities?


  1. Roger, why the sudden peaks during otherwise steady decline? Is there any explanation? I do not have time to go through the linked paper, unfortunately.

  2. Yes, the Iraq war style 'we are all going to die in 45 minutes' brain washing from the BBC website has dropped by almost 100%.

    The Guardian environment website has lost all its fossil fuel related advertising. Principally Royal Dutch Shell, but also E.On (coal), numerous car companies (usually high powered SUVs) and airlines.

    All of it to sell carbon credits / carbon trading to the masses. Without a climate deal, their criminally dispersed, free carbon credits are worthless.


    Sandbag which campaigns to restrict the number of credits traded on the ETS, last year published a report with the help of Carbon Market Data claiming that by 2012 the company would have 80m carbon credits that it does not need, and was given for free. If sold, the company stands to make £1bn in windfall profits, says Sandbag. A tidy profit for doing, well not much, made by a company led by Mittal, who also happens to be Europe's richest man.

  3. Wm Anderson's Ph.D dissertation -"Facts, Fiction and the Fourth Estate" showed the same response curve for acid rain media stories. Anderson also found the media narrative did not evolve with changes in the science. The initial media narrative controlled throughout the entire period of interest.

  4. I read in Mark Dowie's "Losing Ground" that many NGOs used direct mail marketing to test the viability of an environmental issue. Issues testing well were then developed into national campaigns. My question- are environmental scientists directly selling science policy or are they leveraging the public attention created by the NGOs marketing efforts.

  5. I notice the steep decline in publication after the first Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992 (the US then was not a signatory to any agreement). It’s that, or the hoopla about Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, published in June 1992, also died (likely commensurate with the sales volume). Poor weather (and poorer results on any binding agreement) likely drove reporters to flee Copenhagen quickly thereby contributing to a similar decline. Perhaps, the warmer, sunnier clime of Cancun this winter will more "normalize" a decline in the publication curve.

  6. I think the fact of a large political event like Copenhagen gathering together many world leaders will always result in many news articles on the topic of the event. Many NGO's and interest groups are aware of this and amplify their own campaigns to influence the outcome of the gatherhing.

    Once the political event is over, the number of articles naturally dies down and the NGO's and interest groups spend time regrouping, developing strategies for the next campaign.

    Like Brian, I anticipate more news articles as the Cancun meeting approaches.