The climate change research that makes the front page: Is it fit to engage societal action?

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Abstract: “By growing awareness for and interest in climate change, media coverage enlarges the window of opportunity by which research can engage individuals and collectives in climate actions. However, we question whether the climate change research that gets mediatized is fit for this challenge. From a survey of the 51,230 scientific articles published in 2020 on climate change, we show that the news media preferentially publicizes research outputs found in multidisciplinary journals and journals perceived as top-tier. An in-depth analysis of the content of the top-100 mediatized papers, in comparison to a random subset, reveals that news media showcases a narrow and limited facet of climate change knowledge (i.e., natural science and health). News media selectivity reduces climate change research to the role of a sentinel and whistleblower for the large-scale, observed, or end-of-century consequences of climate change for natural Earth system components. The social, economic, technological, and energy aspects of climate change are curtailed through mediatization, as well as local and short-term scales of processes and solutions. Reviewing the social psychological mechanisms that underlie behavioral change, we challenge the current criteria used to judge newsworthiness and argue that the consequent mediatization of climate change research fails to breed real society engagement in actions. A transformative agenda for the mediatization of climate change research implies aligning newsworthiness with news effectiveness, i.e., addressing the extent to which communication is effective in presenting research that is likely to produce behavioral change.”

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