How we Can Affect Climate Change

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Updated: Nov 19, 2021
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How we Can Affect Climate Change essay

Research shows that climate change presents a major threat and challenge to society as it is proceeding at an unprecedented rate and can be attributed in part to human activity (Adger, Huq, Brown, Declan, & Mike, 2003; Bajayo, 2012; NASA, 2018). A changing climate can lead to accelerated sea level rises (e.g., Adger et al., 2003) and stronger heat waves (e.g., S. E. L. Burke, Sanson, & Van Hoorn, 2018); these problems will continue to worsen over time as temperatures rise, causing extended drought periods and intense hurricane seasons (Clayton et al., 2015; Mann & Emanuel, 2006). Since human-produced pollution is a major factor in climate change (e.g., Mann, Rahmstorf, Steinman, Tingley, & Miller, 2016), it is crucial to take action on a global scale in order to prevent additional climate change, to adapt to unavoidable climate change, and to invest in renewable energy. While seven in ten Americans (around 73%) think climate change is real, one in seven Americans (14%) think it is not happening (Leiserowitz et al., 2018). The acceptance of climate change as a reality has been rising within the last decade, but an existing challenge is to motivate individuals to engage in climate change action (Bajayo, 2012; Feldman & Hart, 2016). As a consequence, interdisciplinary research in social science examines how positive climate attitudes can be encouraged through specific communication approaches (M. Burke, Ockwell, & Whitmarsh, 2018)

Many researchers have examined the determinants of individual beliefs regarding climate change, and how to change them. The attitudes toward climate change in the general population seem to depend, among others, on gender (Beiser-McGrath & Huber, 2018; Dickinson, McLeod, Bloomfield, & Allred, 2016; Liem & Martin, 2015), political views (Carmichael, Brulle, & Huxster, 2017), and personality traits (Findlater, Donner, Satterfield, & Kandlikar, 2018). It is important to take these factors into account to find out which messages reach individuals and make it more likely that they may take an active role in preventing further climate change. In the current study, we focus on the influence of personality traits as predictors of climate change attitudes formed by information sources such as social media platforms.

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Climate Change Knowledge and Social Media

Understanding and being aware of the impacts of climate change can help the public adapt to new climate change related trends and necessary actions (Berbés-Blázquez, Mitchell, Burch, & Wandel, 2017; Clayton et al., 2015) and can aid in igniting pro-environmental and sustainable behaviors. Many people gain knowledge about climate change through conventional news stories (Anderson & Becker, 2018; Capstick, Whitmarsh, Poortinga, Pidgeon, & Upham, 2015). However, another way to increase climate change awareness can be via social media platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook (Anderson & Becker, 2018; Anderson & Huntington, 2017).

Indeed, social media can have a positive impact on increasing knowledge on climate change through online discussion (Anderson & Becker, 2018; Capstick et al., 2015). One form of social media communication is a “meme.” The term meme was first introduced and defined as a ‘unit of conceptual replication’ – an idea, topic or style that spreads from person to person within a community of practice. Since then, the term has evolved from its original concept to visual information passed rapidly from person to person online. Specifically, an internet meme is defined as any fad, joke or memorable piece of content in the form of short videos or images accompanied by a caption (Ireland, 2018). Memes are often sarcastic, cynical, and satiric (Anderson & Becker, 2018; Bebi? & Volarevic, 2018) and successful in conveying a message because they are highly iconic and memorable (Ireland, 2018). Anderson and Becker (2018) specifically analyzed the sarcasm used in memes about climate change. They looked at one sided versus two sided sarcastic messages in memes. These memes often use comedy and satire in their messages, which helps to engage the audience in political topics (e.g., climate change).

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How We Can Affect Climate Change. (2021, Nov 19). Retrieved from