Ten years to prevent catastrophe? Discourses of climate change and international development in the UK press

Hugh Doulton, Katrina Brown (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


The science of climate change is full of uncertainty, but the greater vulnerability of poor countries to the impacts of climate change is one aspect that is widely acknowledged. This paper adapts Dryzek's ‘components’ approach to discourse analysis to explore the media construction of climate change and development in UK ‘quality’ newspapers between 1997 and 2007. Eight discourses are identified from more than 150 articles, based on the entities recognised, assumptions about natural relationships, agents and their motives, rhetorical devices and normative judgements. They show a wide range of opinions regarding the impacts of climate change on development and the appropriate action to be taken. Discourses concerned with likely severe impacts have dominated coverage in the Guardian and the Independent since 1997, and in all four papers since 2006. Previously discourses proposing that climate change was a low development priority had formed the coverage in the Times and the Telegraph. The classification of different discourses allows an inductive, nuanced analysis of the factors influencing representation of climate change and development issues; an analysis which highlights the role of key events, individual actors, newspaper ideology and wider social and political factors. Overall the findings demonstrate media perceptions of a rising sense of an impending catastrophe for the developing world that is defenceless without the help of the West, perpetuating to an extent views of the poor as victims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-202
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this