What’s on : Lectures

Climate Change and Future Generations

25 Feb 2020
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Professor Hilary Graham, University of York
Climate Change and Future Generations

Event Information

Climate Change and Future Generations
Professor Hilary Graham, Department of Health Sciences, University of York

Climate change is unfolding – and accelerating – across generations. Without urgent action by today’s adults, we will leave behind a planet in which no one would want to live. The media plays a key role in shaping public debate, including Britain’s national newspapers which, via their multi-media platforms, continue to reach large audiences. The lecture briefly outlines why the Earth’s climate is changing so rapidly. It then focuses on how future generations – both today’s children and those yet to be born – are represented in newspaper coverage of climate change. It looks at coverage since 2010 – and whether the emergence of a global youth climate movement is reframing how climate change is covered by the British press.

Image credit: Frank Dwyer, courtesy of York Press

Member’s report

The particular focus of this lecture was on how future generations are represented in the press. Despite the importance of intergenerational solidarity, children and young people, have rarely been part of the public debate about climate change, and future generations hardly at all.

Scientific press releases taken by the press to package for public consumption contain very little reporting from young people. Only about 8% of climate science reports in the media mention future generations, even though it is often in moral terms, as a call for action to protect the futures of children and grandchildren. Two thirds of science reports in the social media are recycled from those in the press but when young people speak for themselves – in about 2% of reports – they vividly express their concerns about the immediacy of the threat in terms of personal time, ‘when I retire’, rather than in calendar timescales, such as ‘the end of the century’.

The school strikes and the influence of Greta Thunberg has led to increased reporting of the voices of young people speaking about the threat in their lifetimes. This has implications for future policy decisions on climate policy enforcement, financial market measures, infrastructure investment, transport, food systems and the education system itself.

Catherine Brophy

(See also the Lancet report which Professor Graham co-authored https://www.thelancet.com/climate-and-health)