It is tried and true that when two friends met, the most common question they use to ask to each other is: “What’s the weather like?” or something like “How good is the weather?”. Weather forecasts and conditions are the most common argument of discussion and everybody is concerned about that.
“Last summer was not summer at all. It was rainy and cold. A disaster!” a friend of mine told me about last italian summer. It is so weird! Italian summers, indeed, use to be really hot and dry. Something is changing. Yes, climate change is not just a scientific concern. It is a big issue for everybody.
Climate change is already affecting the planet and society and will continue to do so for generations to come. The physical and chemical changes of human activities are being felt in natural ecosystems on land and at sea, on farms and ranches, and in cities and suburbs, but the changes are not happening uniformly. Differences in how regions are affected by varying degrees of warming, precipitation, and changes of animal and plant species are likely to get even more extreme as climate change continues. Some areas may actually get a bit cooler for a while! Similarly for rainfall, some parts of the planet will get drier, while others will get more precipitation in more extreme events. A lot of associations are committed in warning people about climate change issues. One of the most important is the Pacific Calling Partnership, whose aim is raising global awareness about global changes issues which are especially affecting the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the world (as shown in the map below).
Climate change issues are known through the media. The way media frame these issues is the way the audience know them.
“Framing spans several social science disciplines. Frames are interpretive storylines that set a specific train of thought in motion, communicating why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible for it, and what should be done about it” (Nisbet: 2011).
Framing is an unavoidable reality of the communication process, especially as applied to public affairs and policy. There is no such thing as unframed information, and most successful communicators are adept at framing, whether using frames intentionally or intuitively. Audiences rely on frames to make sense of and discuss an issue; journalists use frames to craft interesting and appealing news reports; policymakers apply frames to define policy options and reach decisions; and experts employ frames to simplify technical details and make them persuasive. Thus, as the scholar Cottle argues, one of the biggest challenge is to work cooperatively, because it is a heated and ongoing debate (Cottle: 2011). In order to realize this cooperation, it is necessary to “give voice to the voiceless” (Ward, 2009: 14), which entails the idea of balance: voiceless are scientists and experts of climate change. Media, indeed, are supposed to give the same weight to those who are concerned with a certain issue. Consequently, media should give the same weight not only to politicians and elites, but also to climate change’s scientists. “Journalists have profound ethical responsibilities covering issues as expansive and critical (not many are, perhaps) as climate change” (Ward, 2009: 15).
However, a recent global poll of attitudes to climate change and sustainability issues more generally presented a complex international picture. Taking all nations together, 69% of the citizens in 51 nations are concerned about climate change. However, in the US, only 48% are concerned compared to 51% in 2009 and 62% in 2007, while in China levels of concern have also reduced from 77% in 2009 to 64% in 2011. The most concerned region of the world was Latin America (90%), in India, concern about global warming is at 86% (a rise from 80% in 2007), and in Europe concern has risen from 58% to 68% since 2009 (Fischhoff, B and Pidgeon, N.F. 2011: 35–41).
As Jari Lyytimäki expounds in his article, media should educate people and mostly the young generations to deeply understand climate change issues and uncover the truths by discovering unique ways to challenge and question content. A media education on climate change to allow the audience to form their own conclusions.
Cottle, S., 2011. ‘Taking global crises in the news seriously: notes from the dark side of globalization’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 7. no. 2, pp. 77–95, viewed 11 October 2014, http://gmc.sagepub.com/content/7/2/77.short?rss=1&ssource=mfc
Fischhoff, B & Pidgeon, N.F 2011. The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks. Nature Climate Change. 1, 35–41
Lyytimäki, J. 2009. Mulling over the climate debate: Media education on climate change. Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 2, no. 3.
Nisbet, M.C. 2011, ‘A Primer and FAQ on framing and the Climate Change debate: Understanding the perceptions of the Public and of the Experts’, Big Think, 14 January, viewed 11 October 2014, http://bigthink.com/age-of-engagement/a-primer-and-faq-on-framing-and-the-climate-change-debate-understanding-the-perceptions-of-the-public-and-of-experts
Ward, B. 2009. ‘Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty’, Ethics in science and environmental policy, vol. 9, pp. 13-15