Master Thesis Media & Journalism

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Sam: Well, the media are pretty important, I guess.
Do you think there is a climate change debate going on in the first place?
Sam: Not that I heard of.

Paul: I think everyone agrees on that the natural resources, like oil and steel or whatever, are diminishing, and that all of it will be gone in twenty years or something. Everyone agrees on that.

Sam: What do they don’t agree on then?

Paul: I think the question whether we can or cannot do anything about it.
There’s lots of debate going on: about causes, about solutions, about who’s causing it and about who should solve it. There’s just one thing everyone agrees on, and that is that humans do influence climate change. But tell me, didn’t you notice a debate?
Sam: No, not on a daily basis. Sometimes there’s something on the news about global warming, but not every day. Maybe there should be, like, a channel…

George: Like the weather channel.

Sam: Some channel that pays constant attention to climate change and to these debates. Now there’s the economic crisis and here’s the CNN climate change channel to constantly create awareness. My opinion still is that there’s simply too little attention for climate change.
In your view, do the media clarify or confuse the image of climate change?
George: It’s both. It depends on the media source. Good ones… I don’t know… I read the BBC website, which has some really interesting articles that presents maybe both sides. But there are some really conservative newspapers or channels here in the US, sometimes it’s really politically oriented and they just say that climate change has a minimal impact on how we live or whatever. I also think that the bigger issue, like, at large, there are normal people just walking around that don’t have that much of an interest in climate change. They are like, it’s not gonna effect me, maybe my grandkids, but I’ll be dead by then. It doesn’t grab the media attention, because it’s not about the presence, but more about the future.
Well, that’s it I guess. One final, interesting question, especially for you guys. As US citizens: In your opinion, should the US solve climate change?
Sam: In my opinion the US always claims to be a world ruler, so as a world ruler they should make the first, big step to actually make a change.

Paul: Yeah, that would be nice… With Obama and all, now there’s a real chance.

Sam: Yes, we can! LOL

George: Yeah, a good first step would be signing Kyoto.

Sam: But they only didn’t sign it, because they can’t pull it together to live by the rules.
Paul: Off course they can, they just don’t want to.

Sam: Well, they’re not able to, because it will effect the country. They want to rule the world.

Paul: But still, off course they can!

George: I just feel like Americans want to be good at what they wanna be good at. And so they don’t care about climate change, because, how’s that gonna help me? How am I gonna profit from that?

Sam: The US is ignoring it.

George: Yeah, most people do. The big companies are trying to push it down through lobbying and everything. Really, the power system is really entrenched and it’s hard to get people moving. Like, on the streets, make the people change.

Paul: That’s why now is a good time. Obama is gonna do good. I’m sure.
Any last comments?

Sam: Keep the planet alive! LOL


Appendix V

Interview Erasmus 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?
Bianca: Climate change… Climate change is the increase in temperature, referring to the degrees of the seas, the rainfall…

Melanie: To me it’s gotta do with global warming. The higher degree of CO2, the pollution in the air. The whole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, I don’t know if you say it like that in English… But global warming, or climate change, to me it’s a big topic. Because, I don’t know, I’m not an expert on it, but I saw this documentary about it.

Naomi: The one with Leonarde DiCaprio?

Melanie: That the gulf stream is gonna stop in a few years time and that there’s gonna be a whole new climate and that Europe will again be an ice age, so… I kind of believed it…

I don’t know, what’s your view?

Naomi: To me, the same words come to mind actually. Especially the warming of the earth, and the hole in the ozone layer. It’s getting more dangerous to lie in the sun

Bianca: Because of the UV rates, which are now getting through the ozone layer…

Noami: Yeah, the UV radiation is very dangerous

Melanie: And also the extension of animal species. Because, their whole existence is based on the way of life now, but with the gulf stream, the mating and the fish come in a certain period of time, and when they don’t come other species are unable to eat and that’s the end of their existence. That is, I think, a major part of the problem. Not only humans, but also animal species will stop to exist.

Bianca: You can also see the impact of climate change a lot in the Netherlands. With respect to the building of dikes and the special projects that are being set up to help with the increase of the water level. So that Holland can still survive in the next few years. And there’s been an increase in the media as well, about climate change. The Incovenient Truth, which was released by Al Gore and the other movie, which was presented by Leonarde Dicaprio, what was it again?

Melanie: The 11th Hour.

Bianca: Yeah, the 11th Hour…

Naomi: But Bianca, do you really think that if we don’t take these measures here in Holland, that we don’t have a country anymore in a few years?

Bianca: It’s just that some measures have to be taken to make sure..

Melanie: But I don’t think it depends on the Netherlands though. It’s about doing it globally. Because the Netherlands, we’re such a small country, and we can do something about it, but we won’t, because the rest of the world doesn’t.

Naomi: But there are some big initiatives, for example, Earth Hour, when they switch of the lights for an hour…

Melanie: When was that?

Naomi: That was like two months ago, or something… and we participated in that, and that was against global warming.

Bianca: Yeah, it got a lot of media attention.

Naomi: Not that an hour will reduce the impact.

Bianca: Well, a little bit perhaps.

Naomi: Well…

Bianca: You don’t think so?

Melanie: I don’t think it has that much effect though, cause, I mean we can switch off everything for one hour, but it’s happening daily every hour in the world, so one hour wouldn’t make a difference.

Bianca: But just maybe changing the mentality of the people, so that they become more aware…

Melanie: Yeah, but I don’t think that by switching off the light for one hour, people will change their mentality. People will go on using the car, instead of public transport.

Bianca: Sure, but if we become more and more aware of how important it is to consider the climate change aspects, especially being said that the Netherlands is one of the countries which will be affected the most…

Melanie: True, but I think people are too selfish though…

Bianca: It’s just that the growing awareness has a big impact. You can see it in the media, I mean, the attention going out, the projects being set up, the initiatives being made, you know, there’s a lot more attention being paid to this, because it’s taken a lot more serious now.
You already mentioned the Netherlands as being affected by climate change. And so one could argue that climate change only occurs in some parts of the world. However, one could also argue climate change is a global phenomenon. In your view, where does climate change take place?
Melanie: Well, I think the Kyoto Protocol is already a step towards making it. And I know the US didn’t participate in it. I don’t know what the deal is now with the US, but I think that since Obama is president… he wants to take the step to sign the Protocol, which he didn’t at first, so that’s already a big step, because the US is one of the major players in, like, CO2 emmisions. So, I don’t know, to take it globally, it takes a lot, because I think people are just not willing to give up their profit and their businesses for the climate. I think they pay the bills for the pollution they cause, but I don’t think they really want to quit what they’re doing now though. Quit their processes, their manufacturing.

Bianca: But looking back at your question specifically, I think the whole climate change problem is a global problem. So, I mean, it affects the whole world. There are different areas in the world which are affected more, like the North Pole, the South Pole, where the ice is melting the most, which would then have effect on, say Alaska, where the water… there was something with a lake, you know...

Melanie: Yeah, with the gulf stream…

Bianca: The stream of the water, the cold water which melts in the North is gonna interfere with the stream, which is gonna die down, like you said…

Melanie: Yeah, it was something with the salt level…

Bianca: So it’s gonna have a lot of impact on those areas, and, like you said, the Netherlands is also one of the areas that has to pay a lot more attention… But, I mean, it’s global. In some parts of the world it will get so warm, in for instance Australia, and some parts of the world will have problems with the water and some parts of the world, like in Africa, it’s too hot or too cold. I think it mainly is a global problem. You can’t really specifiy, OK, the problem is worse in this area, because it’s all different kinds of problems all over the world

Melanie: I think that, on the one hand, we are not that affected. Because, I mean, we observe that today is a nice day, while last year it was bloody hot or cold, but we don’t really… It doesn’t really have effect on us, whereas in Africa, with their crops, if they have a bad year of harvest they know the consequences. They know it’s another year of no food, no income. So, I think that… I talked to a person who was an investor in Africa, who wanted to change… Well actually, I’m not gonna go into that… Anyway, he told me that he was pretty into that, and he was analyzing the situation there, and that they’ve been experiencing the global warming for years now. Because, if one year they have a bad harvest, they just don’t have income and people will starve to death. So, they’ve been experiencing it a lot more, because they really depend on it. We can get food anywhere, but they really depend on it, so they’ve been experiencing climate change a lot more. So is it a global problem? I think it is. I think that we’re not experiencing it and dealing with the consequences as much as the people in other parts of the world.

Bianca: So what you’re basically saying is that in developing countries the effect is much greater than in developed countries.

Melanie: I think so.

Bianca: Yeah, because we have the technology, the knowledge and everything to be able to…

Melanie: Take more steps to it…

Bianca: Yeah, so the effects would be much harsher there
OK, so now we’re talking about places, but let’s look at the time frame… Some say climate change has always existed. On the other hand, some say climate change is a relatively recent development.

In your view, when does climate change take place?
Bianca: Well, I think it was the industrial revolution that started to have an effect on climate change… But then they weren’t aware of the consequences of what they were doing. They weren’t aware of what effect their operations were having on the climate. I think that a few years ago it finally became an awareness thing, that people got more involved, like, OK, what are the consequences, what is gonna happen if it goes on like this. So I think it started a long time ago, but people weren’t really into seeing it.

Melanie: True, but if you look much further though, at the ice age and how it melted and how it became now. I think it had to do with the CO2 level as well and the global warming phenomenon. I mean, the ice didn’t just melt like that. So I think that has do with it as well. I don’t know, I’m not an expert on that, but I’ve read some articles on it, and I think it’s definitely a factor which should be taken into consideration.

Naomi: That it’s a natural cause?

Melanie: Exactly, and that it occurs every, I don’t know, ten thousand years. But that it happens though, I mean, there were more ice ages over the past thousands of years. So I think it’s natural that it will happen again. But I don’t think though, that people had such a huge influence on another ice age, like we have now. The influence on the CO2 level in the air.

Bianca: So you think that whatever we are contributing to the climate change, is not that much of a contribution?

Melanie: I think it is now. But I don’t think it was in the past. I think in the past it was a natural cause, but now we are contributing much more, so that it’s not natural anymore.

Naomi: I think we are aware of the situation and the problem we have. But I don’t think people live sustainable and will never live sustainable. Because, they don’t think about future generations. Well, they say they do, but again, they’re selfish.

Bianca: You don’t think that there’s a possibility that we would reach a level of sustainability? That we could reach it?

Naomi: Well, we can, like, our children, we have to educate them some way, in order to make them consciously aware of this huge problem we have. But in order to do that, to live more sustainable, we have to develop another way of living

Bianca: But is that not what they are doing now? Making people aware of the problem?

Naomi: Well, are you aware?

Bianca: Well, at school you have subjects that are involved with climate change. Like, is it a natural cause or is it not.

Naomi: But still you drive your car…

Bianca: True, but I’m just saying that they’re making the subject so aware, because they say, if we don’t start changing things now, it’s gonna be fatal.

Melanie: The thing is, for example with the Toyota Prius, which is a car that also runs on electricity, as it is on a gas engine. I think it is a good car, which diminishes the CO2 emission, but perhaps the production of the care produces as much CO2 as the car itself. So that in the end, you’re not better of. I don’t know, it’s a theory.

Naomi: Maybe if you produce it on a mass scale, everyone will drive a Toyota Prius…

Melanie: Yeah, perhaps, but maybe it costs more energy to make it, as to drive it, so you’re of at the same thing, because it costs more energy to make the Prius than to make a normal car, so you already have more gas emissions than with a normal, but you use up less gas, so in the end it’s like…

Bianca: Is that a theory or is it what you think?

Melanie: Well, I don’t know, it’s something I heard, but I agree.
Causes of Climate Change
We already talked a little bit about what causes climate change, and you also already mentioned some specific countries, but maybe we can go a little deeper into who is causing climate change.

The scientific debate has moved on from skepticism to a scientific consensus on climate change. That is scientists now agree on human activity being the probable cause for the rapid changes in the Earth’s climate during the past couple of decades. If indeed climate change is caused by human beings, who would that be? Who do you think causes climate change?
Melanie: I just think industries in general. If you want to produce, if you want to be profitable, you have to produce and you have to use energy and CO2.

Naomi: But who produces?

Melanie: Well, anybody. From car manufacturers to Microsoft, to anybody. Electricity, coal mines, everything. Every company that wants to be profitable has something to do with CO2 emissions.

Naomi: And developed countries mostly outsource to less developed countries. So there’s the problem again.

Bianca: So would you say that developed countries produce more than others?

Naomi: Well, developed countries have more industry, so they produce more, but they outsource to less developed countries.

Bianca: OK, but this is more industry specific. But you could also see it as developed countries using a lot more energy, because their development is obviously far more greater than less developed countries. So the use of energy is much higher, the use of cars, the use of you know, the buildings…

Melanie: True, but take the Netherlands for example. Like last years, we didn’t invest in windmills and stuff. We invested in, what was it, electrical coal mines again. I don’t know. Anyway, something with huge CO2 emissions. So instead of taking a proactive approach, we took a step back again, because it was cheaper. I don’t know what they made again, something with coals. So instead of being proactive, and saying like, yeah, it’s more expensive, but it’s better for the environment, they just took the cheaper way, which is worse for the environment.

Bianca: That is also true for most of the companies, like with Shell. It was really obvious that they would put a lot of effort into marketing the idea of a sustainable company, that was really involved in making a change. That’s it. If you see them doing that, putting that image out there, that they’re trying to do as much as they can, behind the scenes they go for the cheap way. At the end of the day that’s any business’ best interest.
Do you think that is why the US didn’t sign the Kyoto Protocol? The Kyoto Protocol, which was by the way 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 or one with an economy in transition, 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?
Melanie: Well, it was mainly because they couldn’t stick to it. Because, they had to diminish their CO2 emissions by such a huge amount, and they couldn’t do it. And that’s why I think Bush didn’t want sign the contract. A lot of companies wouldn’t be profitable anymore.

Naomi: But they couldn’t do it, or they wouldn’t do it?

Melanie: Well, couldn’t do it and didn’t want to, because then they would go broke. There wouldn’t be any businesses anymore. Everyone would have to stick to it. I’m not sure, but I think that in the Netherlands they have a certain amount of CO2 per company that have on disposal, that they can use up…

Bianca: Yeah, they can sell that rate…

Melanie: Exactly, and if they don’t use up anything, they can sell the rest. And I think that such a large amount of that went to the US, that they just couldn’t stick to it.

Bianca: Yeah, exactly. Because, normally in a country you would have to make a trade of, and I mean I think the trade of rule led to saying, OK, seeing the US as a country with companies that are so profitable, and then saying OK, if we were to cut these emissions to the degree that we could stick to the Protocol, it would render not at all profitable, so it would have left the US in a worse state than it actually is. I think they can take smaller steps to maybe in the future being able to apply to the Protocol. I think it was too fast. The time was too fast to actually be able to do it profitable.
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, or even the changed weather conditions in your own local surroundings. 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 else, that you know of, is the effect of climate change?
Bianca: Weather changes. Huge weather changes. Floods, droughts, like you said, hurricanes. What else…

Melanie: I don’t know if my sources are correct, but I saw this movie, something with the Day Before Tomorrow… Anyway, it was on climate change and at a certain point you saw the whole climate change within one week. Like, in just one day New York turned into another ice age and you also saw huge hailstones, in the size of tennis balls, coming down… I think that’s gonna be a huge effect…
It’s obvious that the effects of climate change on the environment and human life are numerous and varied. And we also established that, climate change affects everyone (though some more than others) throughout the entire world. In the end everyone rather burns because of global warming, than benefits from it. 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?
Bianca: Well, everyone really focuses on what the disadvantages of climate change are, so it’s not really a topic of which you can say, hey, what are the advantages.

Melanie: I don’t know, what are the advantages?

Bianca: Well, the weather is hotter now.

Melanie: It is, but it’s also more dangerous, because the UV radiation is only gonna get worse, plus the North Pole and the South Pole are melting, so the water level is going up, so land is disappearing.

Bianca: Yeah, coral reefs are dying out.

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