Master Thesis Media & Journalism

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participate in the debate on climate change?

Prompt: In your view, do the media stir up the debate on climate change?

Prompt: In your view, do the media cause the debate on climate change?
Solution of Climate Change
16. Now that we’ve established climate change is a problem, whether problematized or not, we can turn to a solution. The broad agreement among climate scientists that global temperatures will continue to increase has led some nations, states, corporations and individuals to implement responses. These responses to global warming include mitigation of the causes and/or effects of global warming, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol, and adaptation to the changing global environment, such as the construction of flood defenses, but also the installation of air-conditioning equipment. One could also argue that these are nice efforts, but that in the end, there is no solution to climate change. Do you think there is a solution to climate change?

Prompt: In your view, what would be the solution to climate change?

Prompt: Who do you think should solve climate change? (Which part of the world, which countries, which companies, which people?)
17. The U.S. is supposed to be one of the major causers of climate change.

In your opinion, should the U.S. solve climate change?

Prompt: How do you think should the U.S. solve climate change?

Prompt: Why do you think should the U.S. solve climate change?
Opinion on Climate Change
18. Just to recapitulate... What do you think of climate change?

Prompt: Do you think climate change is indeed critical or highly exaggerated?
19. Just to recapitulate… What do you think of the coverage concerning climate change?

Prompt: Do you think the coverage concerning climate change is truthful, misleading or confusing?
20. Just to recapitulate… What do you think of the current climate change debate?

Prompt: Do you think there is a debate going on in the first place, and if so, how do the media take part in this?
21. Are there any final comments?

Appendix IV

Interview Berkeley University Students
Definition Climate Change
Lately there’s been an increased interest in climate change. Friends, family, random people in the street, at the grocery store, at the dentist waiting room, the media. Everyone’s talking about it. Climate change literally is a hot topic. But what if you had to describe climate change… In your view, what is climate change?
George: For me… In my view… climate change is a cycle that has been happening for maybe tens or hundreds or thousands of years. We’ve had ice ages before and before that, in the age of dinosaurs, it was, like, really hot. The average temperature was something, like, I don’t know, 20 or 30 degrees Celsius. I’m just pulling it of the top of my head. Personally, I view it as a greater cycle in the earth’s natural history. But right now everyone in the world is industrializing and the carbon emissions have gone up, so a lot of people are now concerned whether, like, are we speeding up the pace of climate change? So it’s really debatable in my opinion.

Paul: I think I agree. It’s a cycle, but the CO2 emissions are definitely pacing up global warming. We’re helping the cycle.

Sam: I think climate change is caused all because of the human race, let’s call it that way. Yes, we are speeding it up, because we are exploiting all the resources the earth offers us. We are using so much that the earth will eventually break down. The ice caps will melt. I have to say, it’s kind of difficult to create your own opinion, because there is so much going on with what everyone is telling you. You really have to put your mind to it and investigate yourself, to come to the right conclusions. That’s how I feel about. How about you guys?

George: Well, I think the big question right now is: are we as humans adding to, like, the pace of change? Are we speeding it up or is it gonna happen anyway? And if we are speeding it up, how much are we effecting climate change?

Paul: And can we do something about it? Or is it just a cycle which we cannot do anything about?

George: Yes, by cutting down carbon emissions, are we slowing it down enough? Like, when the next generation grows up, will they see the sea flooding their homes? I don’t know. In my opinion humans have a minimal impact. I’m like a big cycle guy. I think, yes, we are speeding it up, but I think that in the long run it doesn’t matter that much by how much we speed it up.

Paul: In the big cycle a hundred years is nothing.

Sam: But if you watch the television or listen to the radio, for example, in my opinion they try to create a vision that it’s our fault. That everything, all the problems, we can fix it. But can we fix it? Or is it just a commercial thing for businesses to make money?

George: Like green technology?

Paul: Yeah, the green mafia.

Sam: I think it is.

George: You mean, that it’s fixable?

Sam: No, I think that the media are creating this attention just to make money. To create a problem that is there, but that is not so much there… Like, for example, they’re saying that certain parts of the world, like your country, the Netherlands, will flood in ten years.

George: Really?

Paul: Ten? No… that’s not possible.

Sam: No really. I saw it in a some movie. They created a vision of the earth, and they created the melting of the ice caps in the next ten years. And then you see that the Netherlands will flood. And also Norway and the more northern countries. Eventually, the whole of Europe will be gone.

Paul: So the lowlands. Bangladesh…?

Sam: But when you’re here, sitting on the grass in the sun, you don’t feel like that, do you?

Paul: No…

Sam: So then, what is it?
Well, maybe we can find an answer to that later. I already heard you say something about the Netherlands and Bangladesh. And so, one could argue climate change is a global phenomenon. But one could also argue that climate change only occurs in some parts of the world. In your view, where does climate change take place? Is it everywhere, or does the climate change more or less in certain parts of the world or specific countries?
George: I think it’s everywhere, because, the atmosphere is, like, connected throughout the entire world. It’s one big atmosphere surrounding the earth. So definitely, the polar ice cap melting issue is a really big topic. Because, right now, most of the world’s biggest cities are close to the coast line. Whether it’s in Asia, North America or Europe, they’re always close to the coast line. So there are definitely people out there that are genuinely concerned, they really believe it’s gonna happen. Maybe not in ten years, but in sixty years or something. And then so, they’re trying now to slow down the pace of global warming, so hopefully, like, their children won’t see the cities flooding or something like that, you know.

Paul: I think this global warming is one big connection. However, in Europe you read it’s gonna be hot, but then you read that maybe this warm gulf stream that’s causing climate change is going to change, so no, it’s getting cooler again. So all this global warming, I don’t really care. But if the sea level is gonna rise, the entire world will suffer. Especially Bangladesh. How about New York? No it’s on a hill, right? Manhatten is a rock, right?

George: No, it’s not that high I think. It’s still gonna be flooded.

Sam: Well, everyone will just have to live on the first floor.

George: You mean like in Venice?

Sam: Yeah, and just get out with your boat.
Causes of Climate Change
So I already heard you guys say something about what’s causing climate change. That some say it’s a natural phenomenon, caused by, for example, the dynamic processes of the Earth itself or external forces, such as sunlight intensity, that some say global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gases, and that the next says it’s an interplay of both these natural forces and human influences. Do you want to say anything else about what you think causes climate change?
Sam: What causes it… I think some parts in the world create huge amounts of pollution, and it affects other countries that do not. So actually it’s not fair, that the pace of climate change is speeding up. Certain parts in the world are clean and the people live on the same level with nature. But there are other, bad parts that ruin it for the good parts. I think that’s a shame. I think that the polluting countries should take responsibility and take action. Let’s say that for everything they build they have to replace something to make it right. And maybe a little bit better than just right.
But when you talk about some countries causing more climate change…

Sam: More pollution…

Yes, some countries causing more pollution… Do you have any examples of which parts in the world, which specific countries, which companies or which people even, you think cause climate change?
George: Right now, the focus is on developing countries, like China or Brazil.

Paul: Or Indonesia.

George: Yeah, there a lot of other countries like that. But China has a very big impact. Because right now, I’m taking this course on the Chinese economy, and it’s talking about this transmission process. China is trying to develop from a developing nation into a developed nation. And the argument that China makes is that, all you Western nations in, like, Europe or America, you’ve already industrialized in the past 100 years, in the 19th century. Like, England has done its pollution a 100 years ago. So right now, we’re just trying to catch up. It’s part of the process and we can’t do anything to stop it. And I think that’s a pretty valid argument.

Because, I feel like the industrialized countries can’t really blame the developing countries right now. Because they have done the same thing in the past. But then, people were just less aware of it.

Sam: That’s a good point.

Paul: Yeah. It’s the poor countries that do it. Like Indonesia, that burns their woods…

George: Or Brazil…

Paul: Yeah, or Brazil. They’re poor and that’s why they burn their woods.

George: They have no other option. They can’t see any other option.

Sam: Well, the other option is to just not do it. But that’s not possible. Because every country wants to be big and wealthy. So I think the leaders of those countries, and especially to polluting countries, they should unite and make one pact or one rule or one place that they pollute and let the rest just be.

Paul: Or somehow the world leaders from America and Europe and Russia and so on, they must somehow regulate the price of wood. The market price should go up. It’s so stupid to burn it, because it’s very valuable. the same goes for the price of oil and so on. It has to go up.
But that’s part of the solution. However, we haven’t quite figured out the causes of climate change yet. Let’s talk about the Kyoto Protocol. But first a little history lesson: The Kyoto Protocol was produced during the Earth Summit in 1992 and adopted for use on December 11th 1997 in… what a surprise… Kyoto. It intends to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. In brief, it’s aimed at combating global warming. As of now 181 states have signed and ratified the Protocol. Signing is optional, indicating an intention to ratify. Ratification means that an Annex I party, that is a developed country, such as the ones we live in, or one with an economy in transition, such as the ones we talked about earlier, has agreed to cap emissions in accordance with the Protocol. 38 of the 39 Annex I parties have agreed to cap their emissions in this way. The US being the only one who hasn’t. It has signed the Protocol, but it’s not intending to ratify. What, do you think, does this mean?
Paul: Didn’t Obama intent to ratify the Protocol?

George: I don’t know actually. Because all the news is on the economy right now. They don’t talk about climate change too much.
But why do you think the US hasn’t ratified the Protocol? When we’re talking about countries causing climate change… Why do you think the US hasn’t done this?
George: I’m a liberal. Like, my political view is liberal. So I think America contributes to big businesses, and so big business interests, like oil companies. They spend a lot of money on lobbying the government to pass laws that favor them, or like, not pass laws that are bad for them. I feel like that’s a big part in the US’ foreign policy, or regarding Kyoto. That’s what I think. But a lot of people argue against this.
So do you think the US causes climate change? Like, a lot? More than other countries?
Paul: I think so, yes.

Sam: And do you believe that the US is destroying the earth this way?
Well, do you?
Sam: I think that because of the many people that live here, the US has to. But we just have to see the light. If it gets really bad, then eventually it will get better. Right now, all the government does is talk, not act.

Paul: And now is the moment. With General Motors and Chrysler being bankrupt and all. You see, the government puts money in it… but they have to say, we help you, but you have to make smaller cars or cars that are less polluting. That’s just very difficult. I think Chrystler will do OK, but General Motors, they’re so stubborn. They fired the CEO this week, right?
George: Yeah, somewhere this last couple of the days. But I think the bigger social problem is the way America’s suburbs are structured. Like, everyone has to drive around and every family has two or three cars. One for every person. I feel that plays a big part. Northern California is better, but I’m from Southern California, Orange County, Los Angeles. There’s no public transport there, you have to drive everywhere. So I feel that with driving everywhere, everyone’s consuming so much fuel. And gasoline prices here are cheaper than in Asia or Europe, so they just spend more on gas. I feel like that plays a big part, the gas consumption here.
Yes, I’ve noticed. San Francisco is OK, but…
George: Once you get out of the city, everyone drives. And Americans like to drive big cars too.
Effects of Climate Change
Now that we’ve established what climate change is and who and what is causing it, we can turn to the effects. We all know about (some of) the physical impacts of climate change.

Just think of hurricane Katrina in the US, the rising water level in the Netherlands…
Paul: Was Katrina caused by climate change?

Sam: Off course. The climate change leads to more and bigger storms.

Paul: Mmm… OK…
Or even the changed weather conditions in your own local surroundings.
George: I don’t know. The weather in Berkeley doesn’t really follow the seasons. Sometimes in November it can be really warm, like right now. And sometimes in August it can be freezing. So I’m not sure… In Orange County it’s definitely warmer. As far as I know the winters are a lot warmer then they are here.
But there’s an enormous amount of other consequences as well. Think of the less visible physical impacts, or the social and economic effects on for instance agriculture, development and migration. Or the effect of rising temperatures on the spread of diseases. What, that you know of, is the effect of climate change?
Sam: Actually, I don’t know. Except for the storms and the sea level rising. Those two are the biggest issues there are. I mean, that’s what everyone’s talking about. And for the rest, I would know. Do you?

George: Not really. In the industrializing countries maybe. But apart from that, no.
Would you say there are any positive effects, besides all these negative effects that we’ve been talking about?
George: Uhm… Warmer weather. I like warm weather.

Sam: That’s it I guess. And maybe swim in my backyard in a few years.

Paul: Yeah, the shipping industry…

Sam: Yeah, we should invest.
Looks like in the end everyone rather burns because of global warming, than benefits from it. I mean, it’s hard to mean positive effects, right?
Paul: Well, I think people will be creative.
However, one could argue that some countries didn’t sign the Kyoto Protocol, such as the US, but also China and Iraq, because they somehow might actually benefit from climate change. If any, who would you suppose might benefit from climate change? The US perhaps?
George: Not particularly, no. If we’re talking about global warming and sea level rising, it’s pretty bad. Have you guys seen the documentary by All Gore, An Inconvenient Truth? He shows a pretty gloomy picture. It covers, like, the entire East Coast. San Francisco, LA. No, I don’t really see any benefits. All these big cities are being covered up.

Sam: I don’t think there are countries that benefit, but I do think there will be companies that benefit enormously from climate change. Think about the Toyota Prius, for example. Or the electro or hybrid cars. These are the future. The only problem is, and maybe that’s also because of the US, the oil that is needed. The money these projects need to accomplish their goals, with the hybrid or electro cars, they try to hold it back, by paying a lot of money. That’s what you said, they break and change the laws.

George: They lobby.

Sam: So yeah, there will be big benefits. It’s just hard to change it. You have to change the people’s minds. All the people at once.
Climate change is probably more a problem, than something which we can benefit from.

You mentioned An Inconvenient Truth…
Sam: There’s also The 11th Hour

George: I haven’t seen that one.

Sam: With Leonarde Dicaprio.

Paul: And with the same message?

Sam: Same sort of message, yeah.
So yes, we all watch the news and read the papers, which often do dramatic reports on another natural disaster. And we’ve all heard scientists, politicians, teachers and fellow students speaking of a climate crisis. Some say the term climate crisis is highly exaggerated. Some say it’s hardly exaggerated enough. What would be your opinion on this?

Do you think climate change is being problematized?
Paul: I think that us, cycle fans, think that it doesn’t have to be stressed any more. I would like to see a bigger creativity on how to solve things. So the prices of oil and wood should rise, and everyone has to buy a Prius.
But do you think the media…

Sam: have to make the problem bigger than it actually is?
Yes, do they have to make it bigger or do they already make it too big?

Sam: To make a change or to benefit?
Whatever you like…
Sam: I don’t think they are exaggerating it.

George: And somehow you have to exaggerate it to get the people’s attention. Especially in the US, because people have really short attention spans. They won’t be aware of such issues until it’s big enough on the covers of newspapers or, like, on the TV news. It’s just a good attention grabber to make them maybe possible stop and think about where we’re heading the next generation.

Sam: I think in that movie, that’s a good thing. To just show the people what will happen. He made it perfectly clear what will happen.

That there will be big problems, there will be floods, there will be bigger storms, there will be diseases, because of the disasters of the global warming. Just by saying that, like, really saying that, and maybe exaggerating it, it will get to your attention.

Did it?
Sam: Well, I still drive my car. So in that sense, no.

Paul: Your eight cylinder. Oh no, six.

Sam: But maybe it did a little bit. After the movie you walk outside and you start paying attention to it. But it did not drastically change my lifestyle. Absolutely not

Paul: I think it would be nice, now that we have this economical crisis, that the leaders of the world would gather together, in their G20 or whatever, and decide that, come on, we now have this other crisis, so when we invest, just invest in sustainable cars or whatever. Or again, make the prices of wood higher. Because I want to buy a bush.

George: Right now Obama is talking about, to jumpstart the economy by investing in infrastructure. So I think that would be a really good opportunity to invest in more energy efficient infrastructure. Maybe, like, solar or renewable sources of energy.

Sam: I think solar power is a very good solution. Not long ago I was thinking, there are so many roofs in the world that are flat. Why not put solar power all over the roofs. Every company then has its own power

Paul: But they don’t do it.

Sam: Nope.

Paul: Yeah, a little bit. Some five percent or whatever. And that’s too little. Still, I think the lobby power is too big.

Sam: But the government, they have the power. They have to obligate the people to have certain lifestyles. Like, if you don’t take your bicycle out tomorrow, you get a fine. Or I don’t know, make it as crazy as you like. That’s the only way. By maybe making so many rules, that everything will cost money if you don’t obey the rules. I mean, everyone is always greedy on their own money and so people will change.

Paul: For instance, now that we have this economical crisis and this bonus hype… These bank people don’t get it, they’re really crazy. But also, and that’s a shame, the CEO of Shell cut of the investments to stop climate change. It’s crisis and we cut of investments. No more wind energy, no more solar energy. The only thing they still do is bio diesel and bio gas.

But nobody talks about that… And that’s just too bad. I hate Shell. I’m a liberal as well, a fan of the free market, but this… I just hate this… So actually, media attention should increase. That’s what I think.

George: Yep, when the economy goes bad, all companies usually cut down on investments.
Media on Climate Change
Let’s get a little deeper into the media. Because, after all, my thesis is about public opinions being formed according to the media. Indeed, there was Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which shows humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. Although generally the documentary has been well received, there has been quite a lot of criticism as well. Politicians on television, journalists in the papers, skeptical scientists through documentaries, such as The Great Global Warming Swindle… They all responded on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and thus the debate on climate change was born. What would you say is the role of the media within the climate change debate?

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