An investigation into power of social media in shaping ideas about climate change and the environment.
Climate change; it’s a concept that’s frequented screens globally for the past twenty years. With social media becoming increasingly influential, the use of hashtags and movements to help spread awareness and campaign for the climate are gaining momentum rapidly (Boykoff, Katzung & Nacu-Schmidt, 2019).
Discussion surrounding climate change has swirled around global media for years, however despite evidence being provided by renowned experts, has remained an opinion piece of sorts. As an individual exposed to the debate surrounding climate change whilst growing up, I have both overseen and personally experienced the confusion created by conflicting reports on climate change.
A journal published by Shapiro at the national bureau of economic research, ‘Special interests and the media: theory and an application to climate change’ discusses sceptical perspectives on climate change and their broadcast in the media. Shapiro elaborates to identify that the large presence of sceptics in U.S. news media is a major contributor to confused ideas about climate change. The article supports this statement with a finding by Boykoff, “majority of articles in national newspapers and segments in nightly news broadcasts about climate change were “balanced” in the sense of giving “roughly equal attention” to both sides (climate change existing versus not existing)” (Boykoff, 2008).
In 2001, the International Panel on Climate Change stated “Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring” (IPCC, 2001) (NASA, 2019).
Trends to raise awareness surrounding climate change and the environment are becoming increasingly present on social media and as generations Y and Z emerge as adults, momentum is building. Those passionate about protecting the environment are utilising social media as a platform to unify in defence, as recently demonstrated by ‘School Strike for the Climate’.
‘School strike for the climate’ is a movement that began with 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg who is passionate about the importance of combatting climate change. In a 2018 TED conference, Greta discussed the confusion felt growing up in a world where climate change was an issue, however no carbon emission restrictions were in place and people appeared to be in denial. Thunberg expresses her frustration at society not implementing policy faster and emphasizes the importance on acting together, now, to reduce emission (Thunberg, 2018).
The power of social media in shaping ideas about climate change and the environment is demonstrated by the hashtag ‘#SchoolStrike4Climate’ by Greta Thunberg. Thunberg’s movement began with only a handful of students in Sweden and through the power of social media, students globally are now participating. On March 15th 2019, the biggest day (to date) of action against climate change occurred with strikes involving more than 1.4million people globally. The March ‘School strike for Climate’ partook in 2083 reported places and in 125 countries across all continents (Thunberg, 2019). ‘School Strike for Climate’ is directed towards policy makers demanding restrictions be placed on emissions and for immediate action.
Additionally, social media is being used to protest action being taken that may harm the environment, as demonstrated with the ‘#FightForTheBight’ movement against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight. ‘#FightForTheBight’ is protesting ‘Statoil’ having been granted approval to drill an exploration well (Greenpeace (AU), 2019). Activists are protesting due to “risk of catastrophic oil spill, the poorly understood effects of seismic testing, strike risk and noise pollution from drilling and boat traffic” (FightForTheBight.com, 2019). Oil drilling in the Bight will create increased noise pollution and holds the potential to do irreparable damage to marine ecosystems and species within the local environment.
On March 17th, more than 3000 people including Australian surf legend Mick Fanning participated in a ‘paddle out’ off North Burleigh Beach, QLD to protest Statoil commencing oil drilling in late 2019. The hashtag ‘#FightForTheBight’ was trending on Twitter throughout the day, and was present on several social and news media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter and 7 News.
In addition to rallies, the ‘Fight for the Bight’ campaign is being promoted through Vera Blue’s video clip ‘Like I remember you’ with Greenpeace. Blue’s video has been viewed more than 56,000 times on YouTube alone and has been successful in raising awareness among a younger audience through her Instagram account, in addition to Spotify where it has been streamed more than 1.5 million times in less than two months.
As a result of ‘#FightForTheBight’ protest efforts including those through social media, petitions to have Statoil’s approval revoked have exceeded 10,000 signatures.
Climate change and protecting the environment are issues not easily solved. Through social media, awareness can be spread globally, creating a sense of power and community between countries. Through unity and communication, movements can help reach solutions to complex issues such as global warming and environmental threats. This prompts me to investigate the research question ‘Can social media assist in creating unity in the fight against climate change?’
Personally, climate change and the environment impact my life in many ways and I consider this a relevant research topic as this issue may very well dictate the future. I see social media as presenting an immense opportunity in protecting our climate and research into the media’s influence will be enlightening on both an individual and larger-scale. Through this question I hope to investigate the conflicting opinions surrounding climate change and oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight and investigate whether social media can aid in creating unified approaches towards combatting these issues in the future.
Until next time, that’s this week Pinned.
Boykoff, M. 2007. From convergence to contention: United States mass media representations of anthropogenic climate change science. The Geographies of Knowledge. Vol.32. Issue 4. p 477-489
Boykoff, M. 2008. Lost in translation? United States television news coverage of anthropogenic climate change, 1995–2004. Climatic Change
Boykoff, M & Boykoff, J. 2004. Balance as bias: Global warming and the US prestige press. Global Environmental Change
Boykoff, M. Katzung, J. & Nacu-Schmidt, A. 2019. Media and Climate change observatory monthly summaries. ‘The Earth is facing a Climate Change deadline’. Issue 26.
Shapiro, J. 2016. Special Interests and the Media: Theory and an Application to Climate Change. Journal of Public Economics.
Watson, R. Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the resumed. Sixth Conference of Parties. 2001. Climate change.
FightForTheBight.org.au. The Great Australian Bight Alliance. 2017.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://www.fightforthebight.org.au
Greenpeace.org.au. What would happen if there was an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight? 2019.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/what-we-do/ending-the-oil-age/happen-oil-spill-great-australian-bight/
Greta Thunberg Twitter.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://twitter.com/search?q=greta%20thunberg&src=tyah
NASA. 2019. Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming. Global Climate Change: Vital signs of the planet.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
SchoolStrike4Climate.com.au. School Strike 4 Climate Australia. 2018.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com
TEDx Talks. School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules. Greta Thunberg. 2018. YouTube.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://youtu.be/EAmmUIEsN9A
Vera Blue. Like I Remember you. Vera Blue x Greenpeace. 2019. YouTube.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://youtu.be/IkMqDLOrmXw
‘350 dot org’ Twitter.
Accessed 19/03/19 online at: https://twitter.com/350?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor