A Glaring Absence
The Climate Crisis is Virtually Nonexistent in Scripted Entertainment
A USC Norman Lear Center Media Impact Project
In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that climate change is now accelerating faster than we can adapt to it. Despite its long history of being politicized in the United States, research suggests a large majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, and this concern is increasing.
Entertainment narratives have the power to shape our understanding of the world around us and mobilize us to take action. Research has examined the prevalence and impact of a wide range of health and social issues in scripted entertainment (e.g., immigration, criminal justice, gun safety), but little is known about how often climate change is acknowledged, nor the extent to which entertainment audiences are interested in these kinds of portrayals. To address this gap, the USC Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project (MIP) conducted a research project with support from Good Energy, a story consultancy for the age of climate change.
To establish a baseline for representation of the climate crisis in scripted entertainment, we first monitored the frequency of mentions of 36 keywords related to climate change in 37,453 scripted TV episodes and films from 2016-2020.