Public Release:  Climate change deflecting attention from biodiversity loss

University of Kent

New research from the University of Kent suggests that recent high levels of media coverage for climate change may have deflected attention and funding from biodiversity loss.

In a paper published by the journal Bioscience, Kent conservationists also recommend that, to prevent biodiversity from becoming a declining priority, conservationists need to leverage the importance of climate change to obtain more funds and draw attention to other research areas such as biodiversity conservation.

For the study, the team conducted a content analysis of newspaper coverage in four US broadsheets (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today) and four UK broadsheets (the Guardian, The Independent, The Times, and the Financial Times). Academic peer-reviewed coverage and project funding by the World Bank and National Science Foundation were also examined.

Among their findings the team discovered that:

  • Press attention devoted to biodiversity has remained stable since 1990, but the proportion of climate change reports rose before 2007 and has stayed substantially higher than biodiversity since 2005
  • In scientific journals, papers on biodiversity loss and conservation have increased at a steady pace, but publication of papers on climate change accelerated markedly around 2006 and overtook them
  • Funding by the World Bank shows no evident change over the past 20 years, with climate change projects funded at a much greater rate than biodiversity projects. The US National Science Foundation's investments directed toward climate change research have increased substantially since 1987, but biodiversity expenditures have increased much less and have held steady since 2004.

The researchers further recommend that, given that many human influences are driving both climate change and biodiversity loss, conservationists should aim for win-win solutions such as the United Nations program REDD+ (an extension of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation programme) - an initiative that protects forests while also creating benefits for local communities and biodiversity.

Dr Diogo Verissimo, a postdoctoral researcher at Kent's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), said: 'Our findings suggest that while climate change could be deflecting attention from biodiversity loss in terms of funding, in other areas the sentiment shared by many conservationists that biodiversity loss is now a secondary issue could be a result of a comparatively quicker rise in prominence of climate change.'

Dr Zoe Davies, Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity Conservation at DICE, added: 'Conservationists must continue to be proactive, and use the growing interest in climate change as a flagship to leverage more support and action to prevent further biodiversity loss.'

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'Has Climate Change Taken Prominence over Biodiversity Conservation?' (Diogo Verissimo, Zoe G. Davies, Robert J. Smith, Jennifer Crees, and Douglas C, Macmillan) was published in the June issue of Bioscience.

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