Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
Issue 3, March 2017
March 2017 coverage on climate change has increased again during the past month. Numbers across all sources in twenty-eight countries showed a 13% increase from February 2017 overall. Coverage of political, scientific, ecological/meteorological, and cultural dimensions of climate change issues increased most prominently in the United States (US) up 35% from February 2017, and a 60% increase from March in the previous year.
Daily newspapers from the Middle East covered climate change topics up 48% compared to the previous month. Climate coverage in South America also increased across all sources by 47% from February 2017. African coverage increased as well from February but was still down 13% from the previous March.
As for political themes, US and some United Kingdom (UK) sources continue to focus on US President Donald J. Trump and his climate politics. Clearly, Trump's executive order promoting energy independence and economic growth mainly through reduced regulatory constraints on coal production spurred some of the coverage, but it was preceded in Australia and other places too in March. Another topic largely covered discusses EPA budget cuts alongside Pruitt's statements about the allegedly negligible role of CO2 in climate change.
Also, emergent in March were a number of discussions across sources about the future of coal in the context of economics of energy and effects on climate change. For example, besides articles on Trump's climate policies in German and US newspapers, China's promises to stick to the Paris Climate Agreements has popped up in several sources throughout the month.
For German newspapers, climate coverage went up relating to Trump's plans to dismantle former US President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan. German newspaper coverage portrayed opposition to Trump's support of coal as a pathway to job creative and decreased unemployment.
Stories connected to cultural themes populated articles on Earth Hour 2017. The WWF for example announced that 2017 has been the biggest Earth Hour event so far with 7000 cities and 184 countries participating in switching off the light for one hour on March 25 to set an example for climate protection.
In ecological/meteorological news, stories about the death of coral reefs due to ocean acidification and warming, and unusual high temperatures and rapid ice melt in the Arctic were published throughout the month of March around the world. For example a photo exhibition from James Balog tracks the worldwide melting of glaciers and shows results of his work on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry showing that "more than 90 percent of the world's glaciers are melting".
As 2017 takes hold, it remains to be seen to what extent the previously detected 'Trump Dump' - where where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold in this month - will give way to sustained and substantive media engagement with climate change. March 2017 trends show mixed signals.