Author: Linda J. Pfeiffer – Purdue University, USA
Erica M. Ballmer – Purdue University
Media scholars have struggled to effectively communicate the risks of climate change to the American public. In 2016, less than half of all Americans accepted anthropogenic causes of climate change, and only one-third considered themselves personally at risk. Health framing has provided one promising avenue to increase personal relevance and motivate public concern. Potentially, climate risks to food could inspire similar engagement. Public opinion polling shows that Americans correlate food insecurity with climate change – primarily in distant developing countries. No known studies have examined how journalists characterize climate risks to food and agriculture in U.S. news.A national news search of climate, agriculture, and/or food (January 1 through June 30, 2016) yielded 124 news stories. This study addressed: How do journalists frame climate risks to food and agriculture in the U.S.? Are food frames paired with proximity cues to inspire personal relevance? Who are the primary sources that journalists use to characterize climate risks to food and agriculture, and what frames do they utilize? Findings reflected an emphasis on economics, agriculture, sustainability, energy and health, followed by concern for future generations, with food solution and food risk frames being the least prominent. A significant association between food frames and geographic proximity cues was found, with food risk frames being associated with global impacts, and food solution frames reflecting national focus. Respectively, sources included scientists, government agencies, the public, NGOs, and politicians. A source by frame analysis identified a significant association (Chi-square, p <. 001). Of interest, food risk and solution frames diverged. Source utilization of agriculture and food risk frames was in the expected range. Yet, scientists employed significantly more food solution frames, while government agencies, the public, and politicians utilized significantly less discussion of food solutions. Combined findings demonstrate relatively minimal reporting of proximate food risks to U.S. citizens. The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.
Presentation type: Individual paper
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice