Climate change between bite-size nuggets and revolution

09-11-2009 00:30
Thursday morning, Chris Nash talked about a revolution which has to take place in the field of journalism in order to cover the issue of climate change more properly.

However, in the afternoon sessions of the journalism track, a lot of the obstacles in the revolutionary road became visible when Chinese, British and American journalists from the Erasmus Mundus programme (with help from Norway) presented.

Tainted heroes
As Andreas Ytterstad and Elisabeth Eide observed, Norway's approach to fighting climate change involves buying high amounts of carbon dioxide offsets in order the country's footprint.

The Norwegian media presents the prime minister in his heroic missions when contributing to the preservation of rain forests, but in the domestic sphere, oil companies continue to pollute. One inherent problem of the lack of criticism in Norwegian media lies in the fact that 80 percent of the coverage about climate change uses national sources for reference.

Climate Change – who cares?
In Britain, according to Cassie Werber, climate change is unfortunately only the middle classes' cup of tea.

She observed that there is an inconsistency in British media leading to a failed reporting as the information are unevenly spread across the population.

For example, major papers such as the Sun, privately owned by Rupert Murdoch and circulated over 3 million copies a day, uses mainly the language of apocalypse in its coverage, thus leaving the more consistent coverage to the middle class press, but this continues to confine the issue to the leftist or activist part of society.

Small green revolutions in China
According to Nash, the future of journalism is located in the emerging countries and the regions which are more immediately (physically) concerned with results of climate change.

Diao Ying felt the responsibility to provide the audience with insights about the media system in her home country. In between the state-owned and market-oriented-but-nevertheless-state-controlled media, there is a "small" community of 160 million bloggers.

Some of them started civil movements against different environmental plans of the government, however mostly in regional contexts, such as preventing air polluting factories from being built near cities. Anyway, there is change coming from below. If you are more interested, visit
Backyard gatekeepers
Finally, Jeanette Jordan addressed another severe problem about climate change coverage with is acute in any Western-based commercial media: it doesn't sell, simply because it is still perceived as remote and abstract instead of local and concrete.

As "Americans want to know if this is happening in [their] backyard", media has to draw a connection to the audience, address them directly and present the information in "bite-size nuggets". Since climate change requires a higher effort productively, temporally and thus monetarily, it is simply not happening today.

So, we see that there are huge obstacles to overcome, but also hope for at least small revolutions, and getting back to Nash, mostly coming from the new media.

by Torsten Müller

Category: Conference news


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