NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 4, 2006

Apocalyptic visions of climate change used by newspapers, environmental groups and the government of the United Kingdom amount to "climate porn," says the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Moreover, the IPPR says overuse of alarming images is a "counsel of despair" that makes people feel helpless and is partly commercially motivated. 

  • The IPPR report also criticizes the reporting of individual climate-friendly acts as mundane, domestic and uncompelling. 
  • The climate change discourse in the United Kingdom today, says IPPR, looks confusing, contradictory and chaotic; moreover, it seems likely that the overarching message for the lay public is that in fact, nobody really knows.

The IPPR analyzed 600 newspaper and magazine articles, as well as broadcast news and advertisements.  Coverage breaks down, it concluded, into several distinct areas, including:

  • Alarmism, characterized by images and words of catastrophe.
  • Settlerdom, in which "common sense" is used to argue against the scientific consensus.
  • Rhetorical skepticism, which argues the science is bad and the dangers hyped.
  • Techno-optimism, the argument that technology can solve the problem.

"It is appropriate to call what some of these groups publish 'climate porn,' because on some level it is like a disaster movie," says Simon Retallack, IPPR's head of climate change.  "The public becomes disempowered because it's too big for them; and when it sounds like science fiction, there is an element of the unreal there."

Source: Richard Black, "Media attacked for 'climate porn,'" BBC News, August 2, 2006.

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