A study in the Latin Journal of Social Communication says the media tends play up the conflict and dire potential of the climate change debate in its reporting.
According to a Science Daily summary of the piece, researchers studied stories related to the environmental summit held in Bali in 2007:
“According to the research by the UBC, alarmist and catastrophist news focusing on the risk of natural disasters and the urgency of political and economic action “places the emphasis on the heroic efforts of abstract and distant individuals whose motives are not always clear”. This approach, they say, appears to lack references to or be based on citizen’s everyday life.”
The study further says “the news agenda” that the media developed around the summit focused on scientific evidence of climate change, but “avoided addressing the real reasons behind the political argument in detail, by means of a narrative strategy in which dramatising conflicts, threats and delays regarding CO2 quotas prevailed… ”
I don’t know much about the academic credibility of this journal, but I’m a bit surprised they would only look at coverage of one particular event. The climate summits tend to be particularly charged events since they’re the annual gathering of world leaders where they’re expected to make big decisions. It’s kind of like the G8 Summit with a few less anarchist protestors.
Of course, the media has plenty of help in finding voices willing to create a conflict story.