Is German Climate Coverage driven by extreme temperatures? Partly.

Joana Kollert, Manuel Kreutle, Michael Brüggemann

Recent weeks have not only brought about record-breaking temperatures, but also a rise in climate coverage, as clearly shown by our Online Media Monitor (OMM) on Climate Change Coverage around the world [1]. But are higher-than-usual temperatures really the main trigger of climate change reporting? We had a closer look at the case of Germany: climate change has recently spread from science sections onto front pages. Not only the leading intellectual weekly Die Zeit printed it on the first page; climate scientists also made headlines in the tabloid BILD, and the popular evening TV Show Anne Will raised the question of how we should act in the face of climate change. Going beyond these anecdotal observations of the last few weeks, we examined the correlation of maximum temperatures and climate change media coverage in Germany between the 2nd of August 2017 and the 6th of August 2018.

The weather data stems from different weather stations in Germany, operated by the Deutscher Wetterdienst [2]. For every day, the data from the station that measured the highest temperature was chosen. The temperature data were compared with the daily share of climate-relevant articles in three major German news outlets (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel Online, Tagesschau.de) [3]. Figure 1 shows the percentage of climate change coverage in blue and the maximum temperature in red.

The percentage of climate-relevant articles between August 2017 and August 2018 ranged from 0% on several dates to 7.4% on November 5th, 2017, with a mean of about 1.13%.

First of all, this emphasizes that even in these leading news outlets, attention for one of the biggest challenges of our time is fairly limited. Secondly, the maximum in climate-change reporting was recorded in the winter – extreme summer heat, apparently, is not the most powerful driver of coverage. Thirdly, thresholds may play a role: while journalists seem to have enjoyed the warm spring and early summer and the absence of rain without intensifying their coverage of climate change, after weeks with temperatures frequently exceeding 30 degrees, [4] the issue of a problematic drought and heat wave could no longer be ignored.

The heat: we examined the dates on which climate change-relevant articles exceeded 3.39% (twice the standard deviation). On these dates, the correlation between maximum daily temperatures and media coverage is considered to be statistically significant, i.e. linked to genuine effects or associations rather than random error or measurements in variation. Therefore, temperatures do play a role as triggers of coverage. But there are also other triggers.

Other extreme weather events: the first date of interest is the 02.09.2017, with 5.1% of the total articles published on this date related to climate change. This date marks the occurrence of Hurricane Harvey and associated strong rainfalls. Hurricane Harvey likely triggered climate change reporting because climate models indicate that the general frequency and the rainfall rates of such events will possibly increase in the future [5]. A similar but more protracted reaction can be observed on the 17th (4.4%) and 19th September 2017 (3.9%), shortly after the formation of Hurricane Maria.

Politics: on the 4th of November 2017, 5.2% of the total articles published were climate change-related. This was linked to the preparations of the United Nations climate conference COP23 and anti-coal protests in Bonn. Climate change reporting remained high (4.5-7.4%) until the 18th of November 2017, encompassing reports about COP23 and general climate change coverage triggered by the international event. The One-Planet-Climate-Summit in Paris on December 12th 2017 caused a 3.9% climate change media coverage. UN Secretary General Guterres’ speech on December 31st 2017, issuing a ‘red alter’ for planet Earth while mentioning climate change as a major threat, caused another reporting peak of 4.5%.

And again, the heat: on July 25th 2018, wildfires in Greece killed dozens of people, and resulted in 3.5% climate-change relevant articles. In Germany, temperatures already frequently exceeded 30°C at the beginning of June – considerably higher than the average June temperature of 15.7°C recorded between 1901 and 2015 [6]. At the end of July, Germany experienced temperatures over 34°C (see green line in Figure 1). This lengthy heat wave led to a sustained period of more frequent climate-relevant media coverage, with peaks on 29.07.2018 (4.3%) and 03.08.2018 (6%), and over-average media coverage in between these dates.

We can therefore infer that extreme temperatures and other weather events that are becoming more likely in times of climate change do trigger coverage, but political events like the UN climate summits still raise more short-term attention. Even with the current drought and heat wave, the problem of weather events is that their duration exceeds the attention span of media coverage, which is addicted to short-term events.

Yet, journalists are not like frogs sitting in the pot that gradually heats until it boils. At some point, they started writing about climate change – let us hope that attention for this problem is sustained even after it is has cooled down.

 

References:

[1]: https://icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de/omm/EU.html

[2]: Free climate station data for Germany, Deutscher Wetterdienst; https://www.dwd.de/DE/leistungen/klimadatendeutschland/klimadatendeutschland.html

[3]: https://icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de/omm/EU.html

[4]: Free climate station data for Germany, Deutscher Wetterdienst; https://www.dwd.de/DE/leistungen/klimadatendeutschland/klimadatendeutschland.html

[5]: Christensen et al.; “Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change” (IPCC AR5 Chapter 14); Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Cambridge University Press (2013)

„Sustainable Food Choices as Politics and Lifestyle“ – start-up funding for new project approved

The Center for a Sustainable University at the University of Hamburg has approved funding for the new research project “Sustainable Food Choices as Politics and Lifestyle”, which will start in spring 2018. The project investigates the drivers of food choices and how changing discourses, norms and attitudes about food relate to actual patterns of food consumption: What drives food choices and how are they influenced by ideas and discourses related to more sustainable lifestyles? This question will be tackled in a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach that looks at both, discourses about food and the everyday practices of food consumption. The researchers will analyze local media outlets and conduct surveys and experiments (in the WISO research lab).

Project board members: Michael Brüggemann (speaker), Jannis Androutsopoulos, Imke Hoppe, Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw, Stefanie Kley, Grischa Perino and Anke Strüver

Project coordinator / researcher: Dr. Radhika Mittal

New paper published: Echo Chambers of Denial: Explaining User Comments on Climate Change

The paper “Echo Chambers of Denial: Explaining User Comments on Climate Change” was published in Environmental Communication. The study identifies factors that foster comments that are sceptical or supportive of basic assumptions of anthropogenic climate change, drawing on online news in the US, the UK, Germany, India, and Switzerland. The results show that users adapt to the dominant opinion within the respective media outlet: user comment sections serve as echo chambers rather than as corrective mechanisms. Climate change denial is more visible in user comment sections in countries where the climate change debate reflects the scientific consensus on climate change and user comments create niches of denial.

The full paper is available online.

The paper was published by Stefanie Walter, PhD, Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann and Prof. Dr. Sven Engesser.

New paper published: From “Knowledge Brokers” to Opinion Makers: How Physical Presence Affected Scientists’ Twitter Use During the COP21 Climate Change Conference

The paper “From “Knowledge Brokers” to Opinion Makers: How Physical Presence Affected Scientists’ Twitter Use During the COP21 Climate Change Conference” was published in the International Journal of Communication. This study investigates the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference summit and examines scientists’ social media use by analyzing “digital traces” that scientists left on social media during the summit. Using geolocated tweets, we compare the Twitter use of scientists who attended the conference with those who did not. Combining automated, quantitative, and qualitative content analysis, the study shows how scientists participating in the conference provided live reporting and formed a transnational network. Scientists at the conference and elsewhere engaged in political advocacy, indicating a shift toward a new pattern of hybrid science communication, which includes characteristics that have formerly been attributed to journalism and advocacy.

The full paper is available online.

The paper was published by Stefanie Walter, PhD, Fenja De Silva-Schmidt, M.A., and Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann.

One Year of Climate Change on Twitter – One Year of Trump Arousing Attention?

Review of Twitter communication on climate change in 2017: Which events triggered tweets about climate change and to which domains do these tweets link to?

The analysis of our online media monitor (OMM) reveals that the number of climate change-related tweets has risen compared to 2016. Still – and this year even more – Donald Trump’s statements and action trigger most Twitter communication on climate change. This year’s highest peaks of attention were related to climate political events in the USA. Most tweets were published on 2nd June 2017, one day after US-president Donald Trump declared that the USA will quit Paris climate agreement. The second most discussed event was Trump’s order to review Obama’s clean power plan, in which he lifted the ban on coal leases and discarded expert thinking on true cost of carbon emissions. The third event triggering climate change related tweets was the inauguration of Donald Trump as US-president. In contrast, other political events like the climate summit in Bonn received only little attention. Besides events from the political sphere, also extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey in August and Hurricane Irma in September triggered a huge amount of climate change-related tweets. One peak of Twitter communication in August 2017 was provoked by the release of a scientific report which concludes that Americans already feel the effects of climate change. This means that also scientific events have the potential to trigger debate, although in 2017 mainly political issues seem to have caused communication. Generally, it bears mentioning that almost exclusively US-American events received a lot of attention. This is remarkable against the backdrop that the online media monitor does not only capture tweets with the hashtags or key words #climatechange or “climate change” or “global warming”, but also the German word “Klimawandel”.

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We also analysed the domains climate change-related tweets link to, i.e., which sources they use. A look to the Top 10 domains reveals that most tweets link to other tweets or other content published on Twitter, e.g. photos. Apart from that, journalistic news websites are the main source of reference. Especially the British newspaper “The Guardian” plays a leading role, followed by other rather liberal and progressive outlets like the “New York Times”, “The Independent” and “Washington Post”. Interestingly, conservative news outlets only appear in the Top 20 sources of reference, e.g. Breitbart. Not only classic journalistic outlets, but also innovative journalistic websites are among the Top 10 sources, e.g. “Inside Climate News” – a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment, or “Thinkprogress”, an editorially independent news site of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Interestingly, also the hybrid outlet “Climatecentral” belongs to the Top 10 sources of reference. It is edited by leading scientists as well as journalists researching and reporting facts about climate change and its impact on the public.

Top 10 domains of the latest 365 days (state: 19 December 2017) that Tweets about climate change link to.

Domain Count
1.     twitter.com 107891
2.     www.theguardian.com 10606
3.     www.nytimes.com 6071
4.     www.independent.co.uk 5042
5.     www.washingtonpost.com 4577
6.     www.youtube.com 2448
7.     insideclimatenews.org 2309
8.     www.climatecentral.org 1756
9.     thinkprogress.org 1401
10.  nyti.ms 1289

Our online media monitor (OMM) provides ongoing monitoring of the transnational online media debate on climate change by searching for related tweets. For already two years, the OMM collects Tweets if they contain the following hashtags or key words: #climatechange OR “climate change” OR “global warming” OR “Klimawandel”. Additional criteria are that the tweets got at least 5 retweets and contain at least one link.

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Ein Jahr Klimawandel auf Twitter, ein Jahr Trump im Zentrum der Aufmerksamkeit?

Jahresrückblick auf die Twitter-Kommunikation zum Klimawandel 2017: Welche Ereignisse traten Tweets zum Klimawandel los und auf welche Domains verlinken diese Tweets?

Eine Analyse unseres Online Media Monitors (OMM) zeigt, dass die Zahl der Tweets zum Klimawandel  im Vergleich zum Vorjahr gestiegen ist. Auch im Jahr 2017 entfachen Donald Trumps Äußerungen und Amtshandlungen größtenteils die Kommunikation. Die Jahres-Spitzenwerte korrelieren vor allem mit klimapolitischen Ereignissen in den USA. Die meisten Tweets wurden am 2. Juni 2017 abgesetzt, einen Tag, nachdem US-Präsident Donald Trump den Ausstieg aus dem Pariser Klima-Abkommen verkündete. Am zweithäufigsten wurde nach Trumps Dekret, Obamas „Clean Power Plan“ für saubere Energie zu überprüfen, getwittert. Damit kippte der neue Präsident das Verbot der Kohleförderung und strich Expertenaussagen zu den wahren Kosten der Kohle-Emissionen. Als dritter Auslöser klimabezogener Tweets sticht Donald Trumps Amtseinführung heraus. Andere politische Ereignisse wie beispielsweise der Bonner Klimagipfel erregten im Gegensatz dazu kaum Aufmerksamkeit.
Neben politischen Ereignissen triggerten Extremwetterereignisse wie die Hurrikane Harvey und Irma im August und September viele Tweets. Ebenfalls im August provozierte die Veröffentlichung eines wissenschaftlichen Berichts eine Spitzenflut an Tweets. Die Studie zeigte, dass die Amerikaner bereits Auswirkungen des Klimawandels wahrnehmen. Dies verdeutlicht, dass wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse ebenfalls Twitterdebatten anstoßen können, wenngleich politische Ereignisse überwiegen.

Insgesamt ist bemerkenswert, dass fast ausschließlich US-amerikanische Ereignisse Beachtung fanden. Dies ist vor allem interessant, wenn man berücksichtigt, dass der Online Media Monitor nicht nur Tweets mit den Hashtags „#climatechange“, „climate change” oder „global warming“ erfasst, sondern auch das deutsche Wort „Klimawandel“.

Ein Jahr Twitter 2017

Wir untersuchten zudem, auf welche Quellen bzw. Domains die Tweets zum Klimawandel  verlinken. Ein Blick auf die Top-Ten-Domains zeigt, dass das Gros der Tweets auf andere Tweets verlinkt. Abgesehen hiervon dienen journalistische Nachrichten-Webseiten als Informationsquellen. Die britische Tageszeitung Guardian nimmt dabei eine Hauptrolle ein, gefolgt von weiteren liberalen und progressiven Zeitungen wie die New York Times, The Independent und Washington Post.
Konservative Nachrichtenseiten wie zum Beispiel Breitbart schaffen es interessanterweise nur in die Top 20. Unter den zehn Topquellen finden sich nicht nur klassische journalistische Medien, sondern auch innovative Nachrichten-Webseiten. Darunter ist Inside Climate News, eine pulitzerpreisgekrönte, überparteiliche Non-Profit-Nachrichtenorganisation, die sich der Berichterstattung über Klimawandel, Energie und Umwelt widmet. Oder Thinkprogress, eine redaktionell unabhängige Nachrichtenseite des Center for American Progress Action Fund. Auch Climatecentral zählt zu den zehn Topquellen. Sie wird sowohl von führenden Wissenschaftlern als auch Journalisten herausgegeben, die Fakten zum Klimawandel und seinen Folgen auf die Öffentlichkeit erforschen und berichten.

Top-Ten-Domains der vergangenen 365 Tage, auf die Tweets zum Thema Klimawandel verlinken. Stand: 19. Dezember 2017.

Domain Anzahl
1.      twitter.com 107891
2.      www.theguardian.com 10606
3.      www.nytimes.com 6071
4.      www.independent.co.uk 5042
5.      www.washingtonpost.com 4577
6.      www.youtube.com 2448
7.      insideclimatenews.org 2309
8.      www.climatecentral.org 1756
9.      thinkprogress.org 1401
10.   nyti.ms 1289

Unser Online Media Monitor (OMM) verfolgt laufend die länderübergreifende Diskussion über den Klimawandel in Onlinemedien. Seit fast zwei Jahren sammelt der OMM Tweets, die folgende Hashtags oder Stichworte enthalten: „#climatechange“ ODER „climate change“ ODER „global warming“ ODER „Klimawandel“. Weitere Kriterien sind, dass die Tweets mindestens 5 Retweets erhalten und wenigstens einen Link aufweisen.

New paper published in nature climate change

The paper `The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public´ was published in the current issue of the journal nature climate change. It presents first findings from the research project `Down to Earth´, directed by Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann and funded by the cluster of Excellence `CliSAP´.

The article analyses if and to what extend the media coverage of the UN climate summit in Paris 2015 influences knowledge or problem awareness of climate Change in the German public. The results of a three-wave panel survey show that media coverage increases knowledge and problem awareness in the public only in certain aspects.

The full paper is available online.

The Paper was published by Michael Brüggemann, Professor of climate and science communication at the University of Hamburg, Fenja De Silva-Schmidt, Imke Hoppe as well as Dorothee Arlt and Josephine B. Schmitt.

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Der Artikel „The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public” ist in der aktuellen Ausgabe des Journals nature climate change erschienen. Er enthält erste Ergebnisse aus dem von Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann geleiteten Forschungsprojekt „Down to Earth“ und wurde durch das Hamburger Exzellenzcluster CliSAP finanziert.

Der Artikel untersucht, inwieweit die Berichterstattung über die UN-Klimakonferenz 2015 in Paris den Wissensstand der deutschen Bevölkerung beeinflusst und sie für das Thema Klimawandel sensibilisiert. Die Ergebnisse einer Panelbefragung in drei Wellen zeigen, dass die Berichterstattung das Wissen und die Sensibilität für das Thema in der Bevölkerung nur in bestimmten Aspekten vergrößert.

Das Paper ist online lesbar. Eine gute Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch gibt es bei klimafakten.de.

Publiziert wurde die Arbeit durch Michael Brüggemann, Professor für Klima- und Wissenschaftskommunikation an der Universität Hamburg, Fenja De Silva-Schmidt, Imke Hoppe sowie Dorothee Arlt und Josephine B. Schmitt.

Down to Earth – Publications

Dorothee Arlt, Imke Hoppe, Josephine B. Schmitt, Fenja De Silva-Schmidt & Michael Brüggemann (2018). Climate Engagement in a Digital Age: Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21. Environmental Communication, 12:1, 84-98, DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2017.1394892 –> manuscript

Michael Brüggemann, Fenja De Silva-Schmidt, Imke Hoppe, Dorothee Arlt, Josephine B. Schmitt (2017). The Appeasement Effect of a United Nations Climate Summit on the German Public. Nature Climate Change, 7, 783–787, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3409 –> manuscript

Schmitt, Josephine B., Arlt, Dorothee, Hoppe, Imke, Schmidt, Fenja & Brüggemann, Michael (2015). UN-Klimakonferenz 2015 – Wissen, Einstellungen und Zweifel der Deutschen zum Thema Klimapolitik. CliSAP Working Paper.

New team member: Ines Lörcher

Our research group welcomes Ines Lörcher in our team. Since July 2017, Ines Lörcher is working as a research associate in our project on “Redefining the Boundaries of Science and Journalism”. She previously worked in a research project on “Climate change from the Audience Perspective” (funded by the German Research Foundation) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Irene Neverla at the University of Hamburg from 2012-2017. She holds M.A. degrees in Communications, Political Science and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Mainz, Germany. She is currently working on a PhD project on the public’s appropriation of climate change. MORE

Ines Lörcher - klein

Workshop: Redefining the Boundaries of Science and Journalism in the Debate on Climate Change

As a kick-off for a new research project, the research team of Prof. Michael Brüggemann organized a workshop at the University of Hamburg from June 21 to 23. The team discussed the changing roles of science and politics in times of post-normal science communication with national and international guests.

After an introduction into the debate of post-normal climate science by Hans von Storch, Stefanie Walter and Michael Brüggemann presented the planned research project. As external experts on their respective countries, Lance Bennett (University of Washington, Seattle, USA), Maxwell Boykoff (University of Colorado-Boulder, USA), Risto Kunelius (University of Tampere, Finnland), Saffron O’Neill (University of Exeter, UK), Hartmut Wessler (University of Mannheim) and Radhika Mittal (National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Indien) provided their feedback.

The last day of the workshop was open to the academic public. The program included a diverse mixture of presentations on different aspects of climate communication – e.g. climate change and humour, the focus on economics in the climate debate and audience perceptions of climate change around the world – and attracted many interested guests; some international participants also followed the event via Skype.

ICA conference participation and video interview

At the International Communication Associations’ annual conference, which took place in San Diego/USA this year, researchers from our team presented first results from the Down to Earth project (“Climate Engagement in a Digital Age: Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21”) as well as research on how the COP21 was reported on Twitter (“Opportunity Makes Opinion Leaders: Analyzing the Role of First-Hand Information for Opinion Leadership in Social Media Networks”).

Besides, Michael Brüggemann was invited to a spontaneous interview with the online video literary magazine GuerillaReads, who “invited ICA presenters to share their work guerrilla-style. ”

More information and all other interviews can be found on their site.