• Keevan Kearns

The Media’s Portrayal of Climate Change: Wealthy vs. Indigent Countries

By Keevan Kearns

Between wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and heatwaves, climate change affects countries all around the world regardless of their economic status. But how does the media play a role in that? The media frames the way we see the world. The way different countries portray climate change through their media has massive global effects. A country’s economic status plays a crucial role in how they portray climate change through the media. While richer countries mainly portray climate change as a political issue, poorer countries tend to portray climate change as an issue that needs to be addressed globally, and focus on the natural consequences.

Economically advanced countries tend to frame climate change as a political issue. In the US, because climate change is viewed as such, it is difficult to see the empirical data from a scientific perspective. While the government must address climate change, it should not be a controversial issue that distinguishes the two political parties. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of people who consider themselves liberal democrats trust climate scientists to "give full and accurate information about the causes of climate change". Meanwhile, 15% of those who identify as conservative republicans trust climate scientists. 57% of conservative Republicans said that climate scientists' research was influenced by their urge to advance their careers, and 54% of conservative Republicans have said that climate scientists' political leaning influences their work. Because climate change is a political issue in the US, the increase in partisanship is polarizing climate change. Additionally, Nature Communications, a scientific journal focused on climate, recently did a study which found that between 2000 and 2016, those questioning climate change were featured in 50% more articles than hundreds of scientists. The interest people have in reading articles by those who say climate change is a myth is decreasing visibility to nonpartisan information about climate change. If climate change were to be viewed as a scientific problem rather than a political one in economically advanced countries, the constantly changing political climate of those countries would not determine the future of the climatic earth.

Additionally, more developed countries often fear their economy will weaken from limiting the effects of climate change through policy. Not only does investing in technology to fight climate change impose a financial burden on the economy, but restricting the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere by restricting mass production also harms the economy. For example, while limiting greenhouse gas emissions would adjourn, at the least, climate change, it would also decrease the production and consumption of products from corporations, which would damage the economy and GDP. In order for the earth, as we know it, to survive, we must prioritize it over the economy. The economy is constantly changing and while economic growth is important, changes to prevent climate change cannot wait any longer. The US reflects many rich countries globally, as it prioritizes economic growth.

Economically struggling countries view climate change as an issue that needs to be addressed globally. Because indigent countries do not have ample resources, their impact on climate change is minuscule compared to the world as a whole, and their voices are heard less because of their economic standing. However, poorer countries are still affected by climate change just as much as richer countries, with fewer resources to restore damage after it’s devastation. Haiti has limited access to resources, yet there have been many significant earthquakes, hurricanes, and intense storms that harm Haiti's food supply. Additionally, deforestation has been a significant issue in Haiti. According to Haiti's environmental Minister Joseph Jouthe, "Haiti is not responsible for what is going on with climate change, but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community." Understandably, many countries around the world feel the same way. Countries like Haiti do not economically benefit as much as countries like the US from mass production, which produces harmful greenhouse gases, yet the effects of climate change from the production of these gases destroys their land and restricts their access to resources. Developing countries have no other option than to ask for international support for a problem that was caused globally.

Becoming aware of how the media portrays climate change is crucial in order to prioritize the health of the planet and view it from a scientific standpoint. Climate change is itself a scientific issue, so we must look at it from a scientific perspective rather than a political one. Instead of letting it separate us, we must come together to find a solution. Solving climate change starts with approaching the issue from a nonpartisan standpoint and exposing people around the world to the truths of climate change.


Inter Press Service. “Haiti’s cry for help as climate change is compared to an act of violence against the island nation.” ReliefWeb, 13 December 2019, https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-s-cry-help-climate-change-compared-act-violence-against-island-nation. Accessed 27 November 2020.

Johnson, Stephen. “Climate change is less politicized in poor nations — they focus on natural impacts.” Big Think, 15 August 2019, https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/climate-change-coverage?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1. Accessed 27 November 2020.

Pew Research Center. “The Politics of Climate.” Pew Research Center, 4 October 2016, https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2016/10/04/the-politics-of-climate/. Accessed 27 November 2020.

Pope, Kyle, and Mark Hertsgaard. “Why are the US news media so bad at covering climate change?” The Guardian, 22 April 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/22/why-is-the-us-news-media-so-bad-at-covering-climate-change. Accessed 27 November 2020.

University of Kansas. "How media around the world frame climate change news: Rich

countries politicize issue, while poor countries present climate change as international concern." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 August 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190813130431.htm>.

Yoder, Kate. “How do countries cover climate change? Depends how rich they are.” Grist, 15 August 2019, https://grist.org/article/how-do-countries-cover-climate-change-depends-how-rich-they-are/. Accessed 27 November 2020.


We seek to tell the untold stories about the climate crisis and the sustainability crisis, uplift young voices, and educate young people.


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