Category Science Radar
13 March 2024

Learning from Climate Reporting in the Global South

Tag Research
Tag Media Coverage
Tag Globalization

Learning from Climate Reporting in the Global South

Media in Global North can learn from the most vulnerable countries’ sophisticated reporting

Countries least responsible for anthropogenic climate change are most impacted by our changing climate. A new study in Environmental Research Letters demonstrates that the countries most vulnerable to climate change uniquely report on the breadth, complexity, and interconnected nature of climatic impacts, despite climate communication literature that implies news coverage of climate change from the Global South is severely constrained by fewer journalistic resources and scientific training.


An international, interdisciplinary team of researchers from Denison University, the Technical University of Munich, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Colorado Boulder analyzed almost 100,000 news articles from 50 sources across 26 non-Annex I countries (2010-2020). The term 'non-Annex I' countries is derived from the text of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, where 35 countries from Europe and North America agreed on targets and timetables for emissions reductions; while these countries were listed in 'Annex I' of the treaty, other countries were referred to as 'non-Annex I' parties. The study is the first to examine the reporting on climate change of lower-middle and upper-middle-income countries. These countries face the most severe impacts of climate change but have been often overlooked in prior academic studies on media and climate change.


“As people increasingly experience overlapping climate impacts, it is critical that the media articulately convey the interconnected nature of climate change,” said Lucy McAllister, lead author and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Denison University, former postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Energy Markets at the TUM School of Management. “There is a biased and even Western colonial narrative that reporting in the Global South is less comprehensive, but we found the opposite: Media in the Global North has much to learn from media in the most vulnerable countries, for example, emphasizing the connections  between health, deforestation, urbanization, gender equality and climate change. Making these connections explicit matters because it shapes understandings of climate change and illustrates the breadth of actions that can be taken to address impacts.”


To analyze a decade of coverage from 50 sources, researchers employed a mixed methodology drawing on machine learning, rigorous statistical analyses, and a qualitative content analysis of news articles to exclusively examine how countries in the Global South covered climatic changes.


Particularly noteworthy, the paper found that the media coverage of climate change in the subcontinent (e.g. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) was more topically similar to that in Southern African countries, than South East Asian countries. This could have implications for finding areas of mutual interest between countries as they face increasing climatic challenges and impacts.


A key limitation of the study included studying only English language sources. This was the first study to exclusively study a significant number of countries exclusively from the Global South, but future studies should build on this work to further analyze reporting of climate change in the vernacular languages of countries most vulnerable to and impacted by climate change. 


 “We often discuss these countries in broad strokes, as ‘emerging countries’ or those from the ‘Global South’” said Siddharth Vedula, Associate Professor at the TUM School of Management and lead co-author of the study. “However, our analysis shows that there is substantial variability between these countries in terms of how the news media covers climate change.”


To the research paper