City Research Online

Global Issue, Global Coverage? How climate change is reported in African countries and countries in the Global North with regard to national issues and international relations

Van Berkum, M. E. (2023). Global Issue, Global Coverage? How climate change is reported in African countries and countries in the Global North with regard to national issues and international relations. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This research investigates how the global challenge of climate change is portrayed in five African countries, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa, along with Germany, the UK, and the US. Several studies have investigated climate change reporting; this research adds to the literature by focusing on a comparative analysis of media coverage and including questions of historic responsibility and international relations.

Following an emerging trend of diversification, this thesis contributes to a growing interest in media coverage of countries in the Global South, especially Africa. And while this study cannot account for an entire continent, by “reach[ing] generalised conclusions about ‘the news coverage of Africa’” (Bunce, Franks & Paterson 2017: 8), the countries selected represent a range of economy sizes, and geographic areas, as well as varying contributions and vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change.

The overarching question guiding this research is: How do the different countries report climate change in comparison to each other, and with regard to international dynamics? From this, the project investigates three sets of more nuanced research questions diving deeper into the analysis of climate change reporting and the influence of structural or content-related issues on the reporting. The thesis draws on sociological approaches to journalism studies as well as postcolonial perspectives. It combines a quantitative content analysis of 1,348 news articles with 18 semi-structured interviews with environmental journalists to highlight the different viewpoints and experiences as a lens on global debates.

The study finds that to a large extent climate change reporting demonstrates a strong national and sometimes even local focus, while covering an issue of global scale. Contradicting the familiar ‘Africa is a country’ trope, the research reveals the extent to which climate change reporting in Africa covers a global issue but is reported through a particular national lens of each country, led by the common news values of relevance and proximity. International (power) relations are mostly only reproduced indirectly through a conscious or unconscious focus on specific voices and regions. Additionally, the distinction between ‘active’ countries who contribute to the rising greenhouse gas emissions and ‘passive’ countries that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change is no longer a reflection of the media coverage. Instead, the simplified classification does not do justice to the complex world that we live in today.

Overall, the thesis contributes to the emerging discussion of approaching climate journalism from a critical perspective and relating it to international (power) structures. This approach is not limited to the analysis of climate change reporting but can be applied to other issues, as well.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
J Political Science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Van Berkum thesis 2023.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (3MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login