Climate Change Communication in Canada
- Candis CallisonCandis CallisonUniversity of British Columbia School of Journalism
- and D. B. TindallD. B. TindallUniversity of British Columbia
The immense geographical and cultural breadth of Canada includes a significant Arctic region and many distinct indigenous and rurally located peoples who are profoundly affected by climate change. However, most of Canada’s population is located in the urban south, in major cities. While Canadian media coverage of climate change has been more than the global average, it has generally tended to focus on policymaking at the national level, with a secondary focus on energy and economics. Unlike its close neighbor, the United States, Canada has had consistently positive public attitudes and media coverage toward climate change, but this hasn’t necessarily translated to policy or action. Canada’s steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest per capita in the world.
Canada is the home base for highly visible environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the David Suzuki Foundation, which have successfully framed and mobilized on many issues, including climate change. Canada’s resource-based economy includes the controversial oil sands in the western province of Alberta. Scholars note that media coverage of both the oil sands and the proposed and existing pipelines through British Columbia to tidewater are complex because of the way that oil interests have been represented by think tanks and aligned politicians, and, in some regions, because of lingering skepticism and doubts about the ability of political institutions to address climate change. Regional differences on all these points matter immensely, as does framing by environmental groups, indigenous groups, media, and industry proponents.
A further complication for Canadian media coverage relates to both the Arctic and indigenous peoples. The Arctic has not been central to Canadian coverage of climate change, nor have the climate justice issues associated with the disproportionate impacts that this region will experience. Most of the Canadian north is inhabited by indigenous peoples, who have been the primary representatives of climate justice and human rights as frames for media coverage. However, Canadian media has usually either not represented or misrepresented indigenous peoples. Emerging self-representation through Internet-based media provides some hopeful alternatives. In general, taking into account the vast structural changes that are sweeping Canadian media is a key area that new scholarship should attend to, particularly given that most scholarship to date on climate change and media in Canada has focused on national newspapers.