The world we live in is one of innovation and growth. Technology has expanded and grown significantly over the past several decades. At the forefront of this evolution is the media. Over the past several hundred years, the media has seen substantial growth. While print media has been a staple of society for many decades, the internet and other forms of media have revolutionized the way we receive information. These range from social media, to television, to movies, among others. Yet, in regards to climate change, the focus is on television. While much of what people see and hear is accurate and valid, one must recognize the underlying purpose of all media outlets; the media aims to convey a message to attract viewers. For many unfamiliar to academic settings, the media represents the primary source of information. The media can use various techniques such as framing in order to convey their message. By definition, framing is the media’s attempt to draw the public’s attention to certain issues. The media decides the stance they want to take, and then structures it in an attempt to influence the perception of the news. Rather than telling the audience what to think about, it tells the audience how to think about it.
This is so in the case of climate change. Climate change is a controversial and complex topic that has not seen a victor in the debate it has become. Many scientists are perplexed as to how some do not accept the science of the issue. For this reason, many in science shy away from the media’s attention. However, the issue of climate change was not always seen in this perspective. At the turning point of the twentieth century, climate change was as foreign to humans as cancer was during the early twentieth century. The transformation of climate change from an unbeknownst issue to one of the most controversial media topics is amazing. Media outlets today, such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, among others all report on the issue with different viewpoints. This has caused much uproar among scientists who believe these reports are often both inaccurate and bias. (Boykoff 2007) As a result, it is evident the media has a significant impact on the general public’s perception of climate change.
The Beginning of the Twentieth Century
Who speaks for climate? The question might seem simple, but the answer is anything but. In fact, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the term climate change merely existed. The public understanding of climate change was that of nonexistence. Similar to cancer or cigarettes at the time, our knowledge was nowhere near what it is today. “A historical look at how climate has been communicated through mass media is comparably shorter and much less developed. In fact, before the late 1980’s, media portrayals of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ were sporadic, compared to the amount of coverage in most regions around the world today.” (Boykoff 2011) This lack of coverage can be partially attributed to cultural...