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Inside the Greenhouse

Monthly Summaries

Issue 70, October 2022


“Increasingly ruling out fossil fuel projects”

Climate activists lie after painting "stop funding fossil fuels" on the square in front of the Euro sign in Frankfurt. Photo: Michael Probst/AP.

October media coverage of climate change or global warming in newspapers around the globe dipped 5% from September 2022 and 37% from September 2021 levels. Meanwhile, coverage in international wire services decreased 15%, as radio coverage rose 21% from September 2022. Compared to the previous month, coverage decreased in the European Union (EU) (-4%), Asia (-6%), , Oceania (-6%), the Middle East (-7%) and North America (-11%). But, coverage was up from the previous month in Africa (+14%), and Latin America (+19%). Figure 1 shows trends in newspaper media coverage at the global scale – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – from January 2004 through October 2022.   

Figure 1. Newspaper media coverage of climate change or global warming in print sources in seven different regions around the world, from January 2004 through October 2022.

At the country level, United States (US) print coverage decreased 18% while television coverage also decreased 33% from the previous month. Among other countries that we at the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) monitor, coverage increased in Spain (+6%), Canada (+7%), India (+11%), Denmark (+13%), and Norway (+76%). However, coverage in October 2022 decreased in Japan (-1%), Finland (-4%), New Zealand (-5%), the United Kingdom (UK) (-5%), Australia (-7%), Germany (-10%), Sweden (-12%), and Korea (-23%) (see Figure 2). You may note that we have added four new sources in Korea – Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Maeil Business Newspaper, and Hankyoreh – thanks to the work of our two new team members Dr. Kyungsun Lee and Dr. Kyotaek Hwang.

Figure 2. ­­Newspaper coverage of climate change or global warming in Korean newspapers Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Maeil Business Newspaper, and Hankyorehfrom January 2004 through October 2022.

Turning to the content of coverage, in October media coverage featured many cultural stories relating to climate change or global warming. Pro-climate action protesters in Europe garnered significant media attention through their slightly whimsical yet daring actions. For example, The Guardian journalist Damien Gayle noted, “There were gasps, roars and a shout of “Oh my gosh!” in room 43 of the gallery as two young supporters of the climate protest group threw the liquid over the painting, which is protected by glass, just after 11am. They removed jackets to reveal Just Stop Oil T-shirts before gluing themselves to the wall beneath the artwork, which is one of the gallery’s most important treasures. “What is worth more, art or life?” said one of the activists, Phoebe Plummer, 21, from London. She was accompanied by 20-year-old Anna Holland, from Newcastle. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”” These actions generated a debate among activists between angry protest and civil disobedience. For example, La Vanguardia journalist Antonio Cerrillo wrote, "Division of opinions before the launch of tomato soup against a VanGogh”. Meanwhile, Steven Duncombe opined in The Guardian, “Last week two activists from Just Stop Oil who threw tomato soup on a landscape painting by Vincent Van Gogh in the National Gallery and then glued themselves to the wall, symbolizing, um, well, ah… I’m really not quite sure. The head-scratching disconnect between the activists’ tactics and the message they were trying to convey – linking oil to the climate crisis, in case you hadn’t figured it out – has been widely discussed, and ridiculed, in the media”. Elsewhere, New York Times journalist Eduardo Medina reported, “Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet on Sunday inside a German museum, the latest art attack intended to draw attention to climate change”.

Later in October, protesters in London stopped traffic to draw attention to climate change. Many stories followed. For example, Guardian correspondent Sophie Zeldin-O'Neill reported, “Motorists dragged Just Stop Oil protesters out of the way as activists halted traffic flow across four central London roads on Saturday. The group said 61 Just Stop Oil supporters stopped traffic on Charing Cross Road, Kensington High Street, Kennington Road and Blackfriars Road, “demanding that the government halts all new oil and gas consents and licences”. They posted a series of videos on Twitter shortly after midday on Saturday, showing protesters in bright orange vests sitting across some of the city’s major roads. In several instances, members of the public shouted abuse and dragged the protesters on to the nearby pavement. Drivers dragged protesters out of the road, but they persistently returned to retake their places”. Meanwhile, Guardian journalist Damian Carrington noted, “A large majority of the UK public supports nonviolent direct action to protect the environment, according to an opinion poll. People also strongly backed solar power on farmland and opposed fracking. The poll indicates the unpopularity of a recent swathe of government policies, with more than twice as many people saying they trusted Labour to protect the environment as said they trusted the Conservatives…In the poll, 66% of people supported taking nonviolent direct action to protect the UK’s nature, with 34% opposed. Support for such action dropped to 44% among Tory supporters. Recent direct action has included protesters throwing soup at a Van Gogh painting and blocking the Dartford Crossing”.

And, European scientists announced actions of nonviolent civil disobedience. La Vanguardia journalist Antonio Cerrillo wrote, “Rebelión Científica (Scientist Rebellion), the branch made up of expert climatologists and ecologists related to the international movement Rebellion or Extinction, has announced a series of initiatives with protest actions and civil disobedience in protest against what it considers government inaction on climate change. The result is that more than 100 scientists and academics from 12 countries are going to risk arrest and imprisonment in Germany to demand that the government admit that staying below the 1.5°C global warming limit is no longer possible, set by the Paris Agreement, and call for the cancellation of the debt of the countries of the global south and the immediate decarbonization of their transport sector”.

Figure 3. ­­Newspaper front pages stories in October with links to climate change and climate risks.

The month of October was also marked by media coverage about climate change or global warming with ecological and meteorological themes. Early in October, Hurricane Roslyn made landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast as a Category 3 hurricane, and several stories made links between the storm and climate change. For example, Washington Post correspondent Matthew Cappucci noted, “Roslyn emerged after a group of thunderstorms off the west coast of Mexico congealed into a tropical depression and eventually a named storm on Thursday. It wasn’t until 11 p.m. Eastern time Friday that Rosslyn became a hurricane, but it rapidly intensified into a major hurricane, defined as Category 3 or higher, on Saturday morning, just six hours later. Rapid intensification, defined as a spike of 35 mph or more in a storm’s maximum sustained winds within 24 hours, is more likely in the presence of warmer waters and calm upper-level winds. There are emerging links between human-induced climate change and the frequency and severity of rapid intensification”.

In late October, Tropical Storm Nalgae slammed into the Philippines and several stories made connections to climate change as they described the devastation. For example, an Agence-France Presse story detailed, “The Philippines has significantly revised down the death toll from a tropical storm ravaging the country, saying only 45 people have been killed… The storm struck at the beginning of a long weekend in the Philippines, when millions return to their home towns to visit the graves of their relatives. The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 major storms a year that kill hundreds of people and keep vast regions in perpetual poverty. Scientists have warned that such storms, which also kill livestock and destroy key infrastructure, are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change”.

Several stories then took a wider look at recent ecological and meteorological events. For example, El País journalist Manuel Planelles wrote, “From the United States to China to Europe, the summer of 2022 has been marked by drought in much of the northern hemisphere. With a climate crisis that every two times three shows its most damaging face anywhere on the planet, the question is almost inevitable: is global warming behind this time too? A group of scientists specializing in the attribution of extreme phenomena to climate change - the World Weather Attribution (WWA) - has presented a study in which they explain that the high and unusual temperatures of June, July and August were the main cause of the enormous soil dryness. The researchers conclude that human-caused climate change has made these dry conditions at least 20 times more likely in the extratropical region of the Northern Hemisphere”. Furthermore, an editorial in El País, entitled ‘Drought and poverty’ noted, “Only in Europe, which has experienced the hottest summer since at least 1880, the European Drought Observatory estimates that 47% of the continental territory is in danger of suffering it and the 17% in serious alert conditions”. Drought is also present in Africa. Also, an editorial in La Vanguardia entitled ‘Famine in East Africa’ noted, “the increase in grain and fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine, the serious effects of the climate crisis, the economic consequences of the pandemic and the Tribal violence has caused famine to spread across East Africa, mainly affecting South Sudan.” This country is dying of starvation: “71% of the population needs urgent help”.

In October, there continued to be a steady stream of scientific themes that emerged in media stories. For example, NBC News reporter Evan Bush wrote, “Little relief is expected for farmers, ranchers and reservoirs this winter in the Western U.S., as extreme drought is forecast to continue plaguing the region. That’s according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who predict "widespread extreme drought to persist across much of the West," according to Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center… New research suggests climate change might be influencing circulation in a way that favors La Niña in the short term”.

Last, several political and economic themed media stories about climate change or global warming continued in October. To illustrate, a new report from Insure our Future generated media attention. For example, Guardian journalist Isabella Kaminski reported, “New coal power projects are becoming “effectively uninsurable” outside China because so many insurance companies have ruled out support for them, a report has found. Recent commitments to stop underwriting coal by prominent US insurers AIG and Travelers have brought the number of coal insurance exit policies to 41, according to the latest industry scorecard by the climate campaign Insure Our Future. The scorecard ranks the top global fossil fuel insurers on the quality of their fossil fuel exclusion policies. It shows that 62% of the reinsurance market and 39% of the primary insurance market are now covered by coal exclusions, with Allianz, Axa and Axis Capital ranking top for the robustness and breadth of their policies. Many of the remaining insurers without coal exclusions are not active in the fossil fuel sector”. Meanwhile, Associated Press correspondent Frank Jordans noted, “Insurance companies that have long said they’ll cover anything, at the right price, are increasingly ruling out fossil fuel projects because of climate change — to cheers from environmental campaigners. More than a dozen groups that track what policies insurers have on high-emissions activities say the industry is turning its back on oil, gas and coal…In part, investors are demanding it. But insurers have also begun to make the link between fossil fuel infrastructure, such as mines and pipelines, and the impact that greenhouse gas emissions are having on other parts of their business”.

Also, stories about the ongoing invasion in Ukraine, the economy, fossil fuel transport and climate change dotted the media landscape in October. For example, Expansión journalist Pedro Biurrun noted, “Criticism of the IMF and the World Bank, defections from the alliance for decarbonization... Governments, companies and organizations suffer from the tensions between the green revolution and the economic crisis”. According to the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilaine, “Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine and its economic repercussions have had a dramatic impact on countries around the world and widen the financing gap needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Public resources continue to play an important role, but they are not enough”.

With all this in mind, we thank you for your ongoing interest in our Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) work monitoring media coverage of these intersecting dimensions and themes associated with climate change and global warming. There simply are no comparable monitoring services for news coverage of climate change or global warming. We provide these monthly summaries, datasets and figures open source and downloadable so that they can be used widely; however, our ability to do so depends on financial support from those who can do so. If you are someone who can support MeCCO (any amount is helpful), follow this link:

- report prepared by Max Boykoff, Presley Church, Rogelio Fernández-Reyes, Jennifer Katzung, Ami Nacu-Schmidt and Olivia Pearman