Telling one story, or many? An ecolinguistic analysis of climate change stories in UK national newspaper editorials

This article, co-written with one of my Master’s students from King’s College London–Cherry Norton, has been published today in the journal Geoforum. The abstract is reproduced below.

Media reporting of climate change plays a key role in shaping public perceptions and influencing climate policy. Scholarly debates about the representation of climate change in the mass media have largely concentrated on journalistic norms, expertise and ideology, on the role of imagery or on narrow aspects of language use. This study takes a different approach by focusing on how the story of climate change is told in the UK through mainstream newspaper editorials. Four climate change stories that have shaped the UK’s national conversation on climate change are identified as Lukewarmer, Ecoactivist, Smart Growth Reformer and Ecomodernist. The narrative representation of climate change of these four stories as captured in the editorials of five UK national newspapers in 2001, 2007 and 2015 is then analysed using a multi-faceted ecolinguistic framework. Our analysis shows that the partisan divide on climate change between politically ‘left’ and ‘right’ broadsheets is much less in 2015 when compared with 2001. It identifies the salience of the Ecomodernist story across a broad political spectrum of print media in 2015. The Ecomodernist story emphasises technology and energy innovation responses to climate change, whilst also recognising that adaptation to extreme weather events is necessary. These two story-elements are present across different climate change stories, thus highlighting investment in climate adaptation and in energy R&D as responses to climate change that are less exposed to ideological contention.