Competing Crises? Assessing the Social Bandwidth of Climate Change during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mark CJ Stoddart, Memorial University of Newfoundland

The COVID-19 global pandemic brought abrupt far-reaching impacts around the world. The pandemic emerged against the backdrop of the longer-term climate crisis and an increasing post-Paris agreement awareness of the imperative for climate action. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is a “landscape shock” that has disrupted the post-Paris trajectory of climate policy, energy transitions, media coverage, and public debate about climate change. We examine media coverage from September 2019-August 2020 from Canadian legacy newspapers and answer three research questions. First, how did the COVID-19 pandemic work as a critical event in its impacts on volume of media coverage and social bandwidth for climate change? Second, how has media framing of climate change shifted in response to this critical event? Third, are there notable differences between national and subnational media framing? Our results show that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical event that has altered the landscape of climate communication, both in terms of creating new challenges of reduced media visibility and social bandwidth. At the same time, this critical event has opened new spaces for news framing that connects environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability.

Funding: Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), through the project Future Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures.

Co-investigators: Karen Foster, Dalhousie University; Howard Ramos, University of Western Ontario; Tuomas Ylä-Anttila, University of Helsinki

Research Status: Research completed, preparing to publish/present

Contact: Mark Stoddart

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