The Daily Aztec

Time to act on climate change

It’s been suggested if the media alters the way they present information regarding climate change, it can influence the way we comprehend information on climate change and its effects. 

by Catherine Van Weele, Staff Writer

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The United Nations came out with a report in October warning us if we don’t get our act together soon, the damage climate change will have on our planet will become irreversible. 

The evidence of climate change has been mounting throughout the last several decades, and yet we remain apathetic and complacent to the slow destruction of our home planet.

We are already beginning to see the harmful effects climate change has on our planet.  

Global warming is triggering the ice caps in the Arctic to melt which, in turn, is causing sea levels to rise.

As a coastal city, the consequences of this matter will likely be seen significantly here in San Diego. 

The homes and businesses located by the shoreline will eventually be underwater as the ocean moves further inland.

It would hurt the environment, and the economy as well.

This is not the only repercussion that we have seen. 

The massive fires in California over the past few years were caused by heat and drought — both brought on by climate change. 

An increase in extreme weather and irregularity in precipitation patterns could also cause a decline in agricultural production, leading to food shortages.  

Higher annual global temperatures may result in an increase of heat-related illnesses and cause longer allergy seasons.  

We are already witnessing the damages of climate change, but our willingness to actively promote and support the well-being of the planet is as low as ever.

Our indifference may be attributed to the way our brains evolved to process information and danger.

 The human brain is wired to respond to immediate and direct threats. 

Climate change is a gradual, cumulative danger that has no visible effect on our day-to-day lives; our brains are unable to fully comprehend to this issue of great quantity and complexity.  

Most people understand climate change can negatively affect others, but do not believe it will harm them personally. 

Thus, we are left feeling impartial to climate change.

We need to find a way to overcome this impartiality. 

It’s been suggested if the media alters the way they present information regarding climate change, it can influence the way we comprehend information on climate change and its effects. 

 Instead of the narrative that we are all doomed and incapable of reversing our fate, the use of selective framing will help people believe they have the ability and duty to take action.

This means that media organizations, like television networks and news outlets, should take steps to frame climate change differently when presenting to various demographics. 

Tailoring how drastically climate change will impact specific demographics will make them more responsive.

In a study conducted by the Social Science Quarterly, they found the way an article framed climate change to address different moral values of various ideological groups influenced the level of support toward environmental issues. 

For example, presenting climate change as a security risk or a human rights risk, then individuals will assign it great importance.

The study used several different framing perspectives centering around science, religion and economics.

 A positive scientific framing focused on what we can do to improve the planet as opposed to negative scientific framing expressing how we will continue damaging the planet through our actions. 

Religious framing equated preserving the earth to protecting God’s creation. 

Economic framing emphasized socioeconomic equity and the potentially heavy costs in response to climate change in the future and that it would be more cost effective to invest in the environment now.  

The study found positive scientific and economic framing reduces the polarization of climate change and garners more support.

 The Trump administration continues to roll back on important environmental policies, and it is our responsibility to push back. 

If not, the effects of climate change will only worsen and if the recent UN report is accurate, our time to fix our ways is running out. 

We must find a way to care enough to take action by changing our habits and supporting environmentalist legislation to protect our home planet. 

Catherine Van Weele is a freshman studying political science.

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