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There Goes The Neighborhood...

Here's a trendy little phrase for you to share with your friends and neighbors: climate porn. That's what a (Labour-leaning) British think tank calls the U.K. media's extensive use of apocalyptic descriptions and images of climate change, which the organization views as commercially motivated. Simon Retellack, who commissioned the study, told BBC News: "It is appropriate to call [what some of these groups publish] 'climate porn', because on some level it is like a disaster movie. The public become disempowered because it's too big for them; and when it sounds like science fiction, there is an element of the unreal there." The report laments that while climate change has been covered exhaustively "there had been no analysis of what the coverage amounted to and what impact it might be having."

The Institute for Public Policy Research categorized the coverage as such:

  • Alarmism, characterised by images and words of catastrophe
  • Settlerdom, in which "common sense" is used to argue against the scientific consensus
  • Rhetorical scepticism, which argues the science is bad and the dangers hyped
  • Techno-optimism, the argument that technology can solve the problem
  • The news outlets criticized (criticised?) argue that they are simply calling attention to an important issue. Ian Birrell, deputy editor of the Independent – which was identified in the study as one of the "alarmist" publications – told the BBC: "You put on your front page what you deem important and what you think is important to your readers." He added that charges that the paper didn't include more solution-oriented stories are inaccurate: "while we're campaigning on big issues such as ice caps, we also do a large amount on how people can change their own lives, through cycling, installing energy-efficient lighting, recycling, food miles; we've been equally committed on these issues."

    Retallack argued otherwise: "Every newspaper is a commercial organization and when you have a terrifying image on the front of the paper, you are likely to sell more copies than when you write about solutions." Makes you wonder which of these two magazine covers sold more copies.

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