Climate change in the UK press: Examining discourse fluctuation over time

Mathew Gillings, Carmen Dayrell

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article examines the discourses around climate change in the UK press from 2003 to 2019. Our main goal is to investigate how the media discourse developed during a period of significant world events, whilst also exploring the change in the UK public’s perception of the problem. We combine the novel technique of Usage Fluctuation Analysis (UFA, McEnery et al. 2019) with corpus-assisted discourse analysis to track the fluctuation in the usage of the phrases climate change and global warming over this 17-year period. Thus, in addition to offering a methodological contribution by applying UFA to a relatively small specialized diachronic corpus, this article offers new insights on how the discourse evolved. Results indicate that the tabloids and broadsheets offer a surprisingly similar image of climate change discourse, both showing two major discoursal shifts. From an overall prevalence of articles advocating for the climate change cause, the discourse incorporated voices of climate sceptics from 2008 onwards, moving on to increased coverage and awareness of the problem in recent years when the public started to engage in it more heavily.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-133
Number of pages23
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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