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Media’s social construction of environmental issues: focus on global warming – a comparative study

Jaclyn Marisa Dispensa (Drexel University)
Robert J. Brulle (Drexel University)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 October 2003



Global warming has been a well recognized environmental issue in the United States for the past ten years, even though scientists had identified it as a potential problem years before in 1896. We find debate about the issue in the United States media coverage while controversy among the majority of scientists is rare. The role that media plays in constructing the norms and ideas in society is researched to understand how they socially construct global warming and other environmental issues. To identify if the U.S. Media presents a biased view of global warming, the following are discussed (1) the theoretical perspective of media and the environment; (2) scientific overview and history of global warming; (3) media coverage of global warming, and (4) research findings from the content analysis of three countries’ newspaper articles and two international scientific journals produced in 2000 with comparison of these countries economies, industries, and environments. In conclusion, our research demonstrates that the U.S. with differing industries, predominantly dominated by the fossil fuel industry, in comparison to New Zealand and Finland has a significant impact on the media coverage of global warming. The U.S’s media states that global warming is controversial and theoretical, yet the other two countries portray the story that is commonly found in the international scientific journals. Therefore, media, acting as one driving force, is providing citizens with piecemeal information that is necessary to assess the social, environmental and political conditions of the country and world.



Marisa Dispensa, J. and Brulle, R.J. (2003), "Media’s social construction of environmental issues: focus on global warming – a comparative study", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 23 No. 10, pp. 74-105.




Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

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