How do Canadian media report climate change impacts on health? A newspaper review

Abstract

Research on climate change media coverage is growing. Few studies, however, have investigated how the media portrays climate change impacts on human health. This review, therefore, presents a quantitative spatiotemporal analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage of climate change impacts on health between 2005 and 2015. Using the ProQuest® and Eureka® databases, a multiphase systematic review strategy was employed to identify relevant English and French articles from two national and six regional high-circulation newspapers. Quantitative and qualitative data were extracted from 145 articles and analyzed to characterize the range, extent, and nature of climate-health newspaper coverage in Canada and to compare these characteristics by region and over time. Coverage varied by region, with the highest proportion of climate-health coverage in Northern Territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut). Over time, there was a decreasing publication frequency trend. Almost all articles described negative climate change impacts on health, with a predominant focus on infectious and chronic noninfectious diseases; however, less than half of the articles discussed climate change solutions. These trends suggest that current media coverage might not drive widespread public support for policies and actions needed to protect against projected climate-health risks. Consequently, as climate change continues to challenge human health, increasing media emphasis on climate change impacts on human health, as well as a shift toward enabling and empowering climate change communication, in which viable mitigation and adaptation options are emphasized, could help to spur action to reduce climate change health risks.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For the purposes of this paper, we consider “coverage” to include articles that focused on climate change impacts on health, reflected by its mention within the first paragraph of the article.

  2. 2.

    \( \kappa =\frac{p_o-{p}_e}{1-{p}_e} \) where po is the relative observed agreement between reviewers, and pe is the hypothetical probability of chance agreement, using the observed data to calculate the probabilities of each reviewer randomly seeing each category.

  3. 3.

    The Kappa value for full article screening was low compared to that for the other two stages due to the high percentage of agreement for this stage. Due to the First Paradox of Kappa, a high percentage of agreement, which inherently occurs when the outcome (i.e., inclusion) is rare, can convert a high percentage of observed agreement into a low value of Kappa (Feinstein and Cicchetti 1990). Consequently, this lower Kappa score does not necessarily indicate low overall agreement between reviewers (Feinstein and Cicchetti 1990).

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Acknowledgments

Thank you to Taysham Shaw for her help in article screening, Judy Wanner and Ali Versluis for their help developing the search string, and Carlee Wright for creating Fig. 2.

Funding

This work was financially supported by a CIHR Team Grant under the Environments and Health Signature Initiative, as well as ArcticNet. Funding provided by an Ontario Veterinary College scholarship (KBW), and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (KBW) also contributed to this project.

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IHACC Research Team:

Cesar Carcamo, School of Public Health and Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), Lima, Peru

Victoria L. Edge, Office of the Chief Science Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada, Guelph, Canada

Alejandro Llanos, School of Public Health and Administration, UPCH, Lima, Peru

Shuaib Lwasa, Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Didacus Namanya, Ugandan Ministry of Health, Kampala, Uganda

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Correspondence to Nia King or Sherilee L. Harper.

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King, N., Bishop-Williams, K.E., Beauchamp, S. et al. How do Canadian media report climate change impacts on health? A newspaper review. Climatic Change 152, 581–596 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2311-2

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