Media Reporting of the IPCC AR5

This project ‘Media and the cultural politics of climate change: tracking the coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’ was funded through a University of Exeter HASS (Humanities and Social Science) seed grant in 2015. It supported an interdisciplinary research collaboration between social and physical scientists (co-investigators included Social Psychologist Tim Kurz, Political Scientist Duncan Russel and Complexity Scientist Hywel Williams). The project also involved collaborator Max Boykoff at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

The project aimed to understand how climate change was represented in both mass and new media, and what this may mean for public engagement with climate change. Specifically, we examined the discourse surrounding the release of the three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group reports arising from the Fifth Assessment Report. The project integrated findings from a variety of news sources – newspapers, TV news and Twitter. We investigated both both UK and US media sources.


Ottmar Edenhofer speaking to the Authors’ Plenary in Changwon. Credit: Benjamin Kriemann/IPCC

As part of the project, the team linked up with other researchers exploring the mediatisation of the AR5 IPCC reports through a meeting ‘Media, the IPCC and the Cultural Politics of Climate Change’ as a side-event at the University of Exeter’s Transformational Climate Science conference, in May 2014. Saffron was subsequently invited by the Nature Climate Change editorial team to lead a Focus Issue for the journal on climate change communication. She brought together the diverse insights from the experts at the side-event meeting, as well as publishing an Article resulting from the project discussed above. The Focus Issue was published in 2015 ‘IPCC and media coverage of climate reports’ with contribution from academics and journalists (including Carbon Brief’s (ex-Guardian journalist) Leo Hickman; ECIU (ex-BBC reporter) Richard Black; and media expert and University of Oxford/Reuters Institute academic Dr James Painter. Our Article, summarising the project described above, was also published in the Focus Issue (O’Neill et al. 2015).