Climatic Change

, Volume 153, Issue 1–2, pp 165–179 | Cite as

Missed opportunities: the absence of climate change in media coverage of forest fire events in Alberta

  • Debra J. DavidsonEmail author
  • Anthony Fisher
  • Gwendolyn Blue


Extreme weather events that may be associated with climate change drivers offer valuable opportunities for public discussion of climate change. Such events tend to draw a high level of public attention, and they represent acute and personal impacts of climate change, unlike most climate-related information to which members of the public are exposed. Media coverage of such extreme events, however, appears to avoid linking such events to climate change. In one of few media analyses of the inclusion of climate change discussion in coverage of extreme events that are linked to climate change, we provide the results of an analysis of media coverage of climate-related threats to forests, including in particular forest fires in the Province of Alberta. This is a region in which forests, which are threatened by the impacts of climate change, are an important contributor to the regional economy, livelihoods, and lifestyles. Newspaper articles were collected from Alberta’s two largest regional papers, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. Our findings show that coverage of forest issues in the media is dominated by fires, while discussion of pest outbreaks and forest sustainability are far less prevalent. While climate change is a topic that is covered in these newspapers as frequently as forest-related issues, there is very little overlap in this coverage and the articles that do discuss both forests and climate change are not associated with extreme events. In subsequent thematic analysis, we find that forest fire coverage tends to be restricted to discussion of single themes, particularly, risk or the economy, while avoiding discussion of multiple themes and their interactions. Mention of the causes of climate change is rare in coverage of either of these forest-related issues. Possible explanations for avoidance of climate change discussion in forest fire media coverage are discussed.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Resource Economics and Environmental SociologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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