New paper: Representation of future generations in UK newspaper coverage of climate change

Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world today. It is also a problem that will disproportionately affect future generations. Yet children – both today’s, who are unable to vote, and those who are yet to be born – lack direct representation in society, relying on adults to speak for them.

Public understanding of climate change is shaped by the mainstream media. This occurs directly through the media’s influence on its audience and indirectly via its influence on the wider political agenda. New research from Hilary Graham at the University of York and Sian de Bell at ECEHH explores how future generations are represented in climate change coverage in the UK national press.

The research focused on four newspapers covering a social and political spectrum – the Mail, the Mirror, the Guardian, and the Telegraph – from 2010 to March 2019, during periods where increased media coverage of climate change might be expected such as the annual UN Climate Change conference. The analysis considered the attention given to future generations, who spoke for them e.g. young people or adults, and how they were described.

References to future generations in media coverage of climate change were rare, with fewer than 1 in 10 articles referring to them. In these articles, future generations received little attention and were usually mentioned in stand-alone comments. Only 4% of articles gave 20% or more of the article to future generations. Young people rarely spoke; only 1 article was authored by young people, written by Greta Thunberg and colleagues. Typically, future generations were discussed by those already in the public eye e.g. politicians. This representation of young people obscures the temporal and social inequalities of climate change.

You can read the full paper at Children and Society using the link below:
Graham, H, de Bell, S. The representation of future generations in newspaper coverage of climate change: A study of the UK press. Child Soc. 2020; 00: 1– 16. https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12411

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