Date of Award

Fall 9-14-2020


Dr. John van Buren


This thesis explores why traditional climate change communication often fails in the mainstream news media and how late-night comedy television circumvents these problems. These late-night shows provide humorous news coverage that holds politicians and the press accountable for enabling denialist rhetoric. The first chapter sources data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication to outline the issues of climate change and public understanding of climate science. The second chapter describes how rhetorical analysis can identify effective or ineffective climate communication strategies. It also discusses the emotional factors that surround climate change, and how humor strengthens communication and unifies individuals toward a common goal. The third chapter addresses the issue of politically spun news and information biases in climate reporting. It details how political figures influence news coverage of climate change and spin the news to reinforce their own agendas. The fourth chapter provides examples and analysis of climate change related segments from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.” The fifth chapter applies the principles of late-night comedy and climate change communication to potential government policy and more mainstream television news.