How COVID-19 Displaced Climate Change: Mediated Climate Change Activism and Issue Attention in the Swiss Media and Online Sphere
Issues continuously compete for attention in the news media and on social media. Climate change is one of the most urgent problems for society and (re)gained wide public attention in 2019 through the global climate strike protest movement. However, we hypothesize that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 challenged the role of climate change as a routine issue. We use extensive news media and Twitter data to explore if and how the pandemic as a so-called killer issue has shifted public attention away from the issue of climate change in Switzerland. Results show that the climate debate fell victim to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the news media and the Twitter-sphere. Given the vast dominance of the pandemic, there is a strong indication this finding applies similarly to various other issues. Additional hashtag co-occurrence analysis shows that some climate activists react to this development and try to connect the issue of climate change to the pandemic. We argue that suppression of climate change by the pandemic is a problem for its long-term resolution, as it seems to have turned climate change back into a struggling issue.