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Media and Climate Change: Engage the Audiences

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Public perception and understanding of climate change were varies. The public wrongly perceives climate change as weather. They think ozone hole also causes climate change. And there are many misperceptions among the public.

The media plays a critical role in communicating the climate change to the public. If the media workers or reporters and editors also understand climate change wrongly, it will transfer the incorrectness to the public. Meanwhile, media has important role to inform, and even more to raise public awareness on climate change.

It’s not easy to answer how media can increase public awareness and understanding on climate change and on the same time to encourage citizen to become more involve with environmental issues, especially climate change.

Researches have shown that their surrounding environment can influence beliefs about climate change or global warming. Global warming correlated positively with outdoor temperature. Respondents who thought that the day was warmer than usual expressed a stronger belief and a greated concern about global warming than respondents who thought that the day was colder than usual. Even they also donated more money to a global warming charity if they thought that the day seemed warmer than usual (Li, Johnson, and Zaval, 2011).

In an experimental condition showed that participants were more likely to believe in global warming in presence of the tree without foliage in the room (Gueguen, 2012). This belief increased in presence of three rather than one tree without foliage. Other beliefs not related to global warming were not affected by the present of plant without foliage or with foliage. These researches revealed that surrounding physical cues do affect beliefs about global warming. And media – as the main source of information on climate change – should aware of this.

Media has limitations.

  1. Media coverage on climate change was driven by event as shown in monitoring data done by Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado at Boulder. [1]
  2. Numbers of environmental journalists around the world is decreasing
  3. It’s not easy for journalists to understand complicated and complex issues such as climate change. It implies to low interest among journalists to cover climate change issues
  4. Climate change issues do not touch everyday lives. Therefore it’s difficult for media trying make connection from experiences and observation. It’s also difficult for media audiences to comprehend climate change.
  5. Media has follow journalistic norms such as: objectivity, fairness, accuracy, balance, dramatization, personalization, novelty, and authority order.
  6. Mainstream media, especially in developing countries, only serve 30% of people on the top of population pyramid and neglect about 50% people on the bottom of the pyramid

Then, what media should do.

  1. Media or journalists should use global warming term rather than climate change
  2. Media should answer four important questions from audiences: why is it important; what does it mean to me (audiences); what can/should I do about it; and what is the point.
  3. Journalists should take position
  4. Media should use the new trend in journalism that is data journalism to produce interactive and easy to understand stories
  5. Journalists should frame the climate change or global warming issues in “sustainable consumption and production” that will keep the issue down to earth
  6. Media should engage the audiences more with two ways:
  7. Open access for 50% people on the bottom of population pyramid. The last three years, I developed the climate change communication model for grass-root community in West Kalimantan.[2]
  8. Engage media audiences in activities such as environmental expeditions


Li, Y., Johnson, E., & Zaval, L. 2011. Local warming: Daily temperature change influences belief in global warming. Psychological Science, 22: 454459

Guéguen, Nicolas. 2012. Dead indoor plants strengthen belief in global warming. Journal of Environmental Psychology 32: 173177

[1] See: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/icecaps/research/media_coverage/world/index.html. Accessed 20 November 2014

[2] See https://harrysurjadi.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/information-broker-communicating-and-monitoring-climate-change/ Accessed 20 November 2014


Written by Harry Surjadi

20 November 2014 at 12:14

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