Social Media Helping People Understand Climate Change Globally

In today’s technologically advancing world, social media is
transforming the way we share news and information. More than 300
million people spend at least 5 hours every day on different social
networking platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,
Youtube and Instagram.

In addition to staying in touch with their friends, family, and
professional contacts, people are also using these social media
platforms to shed light on pressing global issues of climate
change, biodiversity loss and food security.

While the preliminary studies on climate change communication
have been centered around traditional media, for example, news
coverage of pro-environmental drives and campaigns,
a recent Oxford study
found that researchers are more
interested in probing into the contribution of social media
platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Role of Experiential Cognitive Processing

Social media promotes a greater understanding of climate change,
by providing a space for everyone—from scientists, journalists,
and policymakers to academicians, activists, and ordinary
citizens—to discuss their concerns about the environment. Since
climate change can be an abstract topic, it’s difficult for most
people to psychologically connect with the issue, especially, when
they’re not offered information in a more personalizing way.
According to experiential cognitive processing, people are more
likely to engage with content that’s relatable and appeals to
their emotional quotient. For example, a 2014 study found that when
people correlate weather-related events, like rising temperatures,
with climate change, they have a greater chance of perceiving risks
and mobilizing prevention measures.

On social media platforms, your feed is curated with news
stories, images, or videos that filter through friends, people you
may know, or brands you follow. Most of this information aligns
with your interests and offers a personal context. Therefore,
platforms like Facebook and Twitter are effective for creating a
grassroots movement around climate change.

Sentiment Analysis

With social media, you can also examine the exact
opinions—positive or negative— people have about climate
change, in an addition to how they frame the overall issue. For
example, a comprehensive analysis of Twitter posts from across the
globe revealed that people speak negatively about natural
disasters, climate bills, and oil drills, but sound very positive
when discussing climate rallies or book releases and green ideas.
Not only this, most Twitter users from the United Kingdom,
Australia and Canada are skeptical about ‘global warming’ and
refer to it as scientific fraud, political scam or a hoax.

Social media supports all kinds of perspectives and viewpoints
when it comes to societal issues—some of them held more strongly
than the others. With appropriate sentimental analysis of social
media posts talking about climate change, researchers are able to
gauge public consensus, develop counter-response strategies, and
optimize their awareness plans.

Tracking Search Volume

In 2015,
Maurice Lineman and his colleagues
set out to analyze compare
the search volume for both global warming and climate change and
how they increased/decreased over time. According to their
findings, there was a significant spike in the search volumes
during well-known media events, like, the release of Inconvenient
Truth (a 2006 American film) or the International Governmental
Panel on Climate Change for the Nobel Peace Prize. On a related
note, there are more Twitter discussions about climate change
during the coverage of specific weather events or news stories.

Government organization can use this information to build
credibility, shape opinions about climate change, and disseminate
risk-based messages.

Bridging The Knowledge Gap

The widespread use of internet chat rooms and discussion boards
has greatly reduced the knowledge gap, allowing individuals from
all walks of life, including socioeconomic status and educational
background, to come together and learn more about climate change.
For example, Twitter streams about important climate change events,
like the 2009 Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties,
were easily identifiable through hashtags and became
“long-running epistemic communities” around climate change.
Apart from providing a space for knowledgeable debate, cognitive
processing or reasoned reflection, social media also encourages
people to seek out more information about the topic at hand. A
2009
research
successfully linked Internet use to the likelihood of
an individual exploring other avenues to learn more about a snippet
of information they come across.

Additionally, another study showed that frequent use of internet
outlets, including social media, resulted in the adoption of more
political behaviors and policy changes linked to climate
change.

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Social Media Helping People Understand Climate Change Globally

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Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 1
Social Media Helping People Understand Climate Change Globally