Research Highlights

Media coverage: Portraying indigenous peoples

Climatic Change (2017)

Indigenous peoples inhabit regions already experiencing effects of climate change. Because Indigenous peoples are often absent from climate-change research and policy, and tend to be geographically isolated with less access to institutional power, media portrayals may be particularly important for shaping public understanding of Indigenous issues and generating public pressure to support these communities.

Ella Belfer from McGill University and colleagues analysed articles focused on both climate change and Indigenous peoples published in the period 1995–2015 in the two newspapers with the largest national circulation from each of Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. Indigenous peoples were framed as victims of climate change, but coverage ignored legacies of colonialism and marginalization that has made them especially vulnerable. Impacts were typically discussed at the regional level, whereas mitigation and adaptation were described at the national level, notably neglecting community impacts and responses. Indigenous knowledge was most valued when it corroborated scientific knowledge or conformed to romanticized stereotypes. Thus, coverage of Indigenous peoples is used to promote the importance of broader mitigation efforts to the general public, rather than initiatives that would directly support Indigenous communities.


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