The scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth's climate system is unequivocally warming, and it is more than 90% certain that humans are causing a significant amount of it through activities that increase concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels. Wikipedia
Climate change is a controversial topic. The mainstream scientific assessment above is denied or downplayed by several scientists and groups like the energy lobby, industry advocates and free market think tanks.
While I do not doubt that climate change is happening and humans are the main driving force behind it, I wanted to see what media coverage may reveal about it. To do so I aggregated data on climate change, global warming, natural disaster, extreme weather, pollution and deforestation using the Guardian Open Platform. Specifically, I queried the Content Search API for each of these 6 phrases/words for the past decade (1 April 2003 until 31 March 2013).
The first chart shows the aggregated counts of articles containing the phrases for each month within the last 10 years. By default, all 6 phrases are displayed in a stacked bar chart. You can deselect or select phrases by clicking on them in the legend on top of the chart and switch between the stacked and a grouped bar display.
Moreover, you can click on a single bar to update the 2 charts and article listing below. By default, details for "climate change" articles published in March 2013 are displayed. The 1st bar chart shows the up to 20 most frequent words in article headlines, not counting stopwords, numbers and single character words. The 2nd bar chart shows the up to 20 most frequent article sections, articles were published in.
The listing on the right shows all articles where the article content matches the given query in the given month. Click on the headline or thumbnail to go to the article page on the Guardian Web site.
Notice, that a single article can contain more than one of the search phrases. Thus, the maximum value of 1078 articles in September 2009 does not necessarily mean that these are 1078 distinct articles, but that the total number of distinct articles containing at least one of the 6 phrases can be lower.
All the charts show a snapshot of the data collected on 4 April 2013, while the article listings are queried live from the Guardian Web service. Hence, any changes made to the articles after 4 April 2013, that would affect aggregated counts, will not be reflected in the charts, but in the article listing. The live querying is done to comply with the Guardian API Terms and Conditions, which do not allow to store headlines for more than 24 hours.
Another thing to keep in mind is, that articles containing the search phrases do not necessarily relate to environment issues. One can easily imagine occurrences of the word pollution in other contexts, but the creative power of human language also allows for other somewhat deviant usages. See for example the article Global warming to blame for Fernando Torres goal drought, which may be a serious issue for Chelsea F.C. and its fans, but certainly not for the state of the planet we live on.
I regard this interactive visualization as an exploratory tool, which allows you to spot environmental events, that had a significant effect on media coverage. For example, you see spikes of increased coverage after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, around the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, and after Hurricane Katrina.
It certainly does not confirm or deny one or the other opinion, but hopefully serves as a means to dig deeper into these topics. One thing I'm sure about is that our environment deserves more attention and better treatment.
April 05, 2013 by Ramiro Gómez.