Report: The media’s gender bias extends to climate coverage

Women are quoted on climate change less than 15 percent of the time

Topics: gender bias, Media, Climate Change, Gina McCarthy, Lisa Jackson, , ,

Solely based on the scant amount of time it dedicates to the issue, the media’s coverage of climate change could already be characterized as a major disappointment. When you start looking more closely at whom major news networks and print publications turn to as expert sources, the picture is even more disheartening.

This is according to Media Matters, which delved into its previous reports on media coverage of the U.N. climate reports, and on broadcast news’ general coverage of climate change, to find that when the media does decide to talk about these issues, the conversation is overwhelmingly dominated by men. The gender gap looks something like this:

This is despite the fact that some of the leading figures talking about climate change today are female: They include the U.N. climate chief, Christiana Figueres, along with the current and former heads of the EPA, Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson.

Of course, as Media Matters acknowledges, this representation problem goes beyond the media: There’s a significant female brain drain in the climate sciences. In many cases, the biases are subtle, but it doesn’t help that Rush Limbaugh has dismissed two prominent female climate scientists as “babes,” or that women targeted for their climate-based research are often the recipients of gender-specific abuse.



Allison Chin, the former president of the Sierra Club, pointed out one of the most unfortunate implications of this disparity: It’s women who are going to disproportionately suffer many of the effects of climate change. Chin told Media Matters:

The gender imbalance among those quoted on the climate crisis is striking, particularly since women around the world are more vulnerable to the dangers of climate disruption and among the most active in the movement for solutions. Globally, existing inequalities give women less access and less control over resources and make them more susceptible to the worst effects of extreme weather. The last thing the media should do is amplify that divide by only covering one set of perspectives.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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