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52 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety 53 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety

Ecological Focus 生态聚焦
Scient i st s have di scovered a
comet travelling towards the Earth
at lightning speed which will hit our
planet in 30 years and would bring
devastations causing floods in coastal
areas, killing millions of humans
and causing extinction of hundreds
of speci es, t sunami s, damagi ng
crops and seriously disturbing food
security systems, causing outbreak of
hundreds of epidemics and causing
serious health issues, changing rain
patterns and disturbing almost all
the ecological balances of the Earth
along with several other impacts on
human society. Scientists have also
estimated that the collision can be
averted if world starts acting now
and would cost 1.6 trillion dollars to
world economy annually compared
to the loss which would amount to
4.9 trillion dollars annually (more
than collective GDP of India and
South Africa) to the world economy.
If the actions to avert the collision are
delayed the incurring cost would keep
rising and 97% scientists agree that the
possibility of the collision is extremely
likely with 95% chances of collision.
Above given story is, of course,
hypothetical and would easily catch
the attention of media because of
its sensational nature. But the facts
and figures quoted above about the
i mpact s and ti me period are real
and have been provided by the UN
agencies on climate change and other
such independent agencies. Despite
the hypothetical example given above
the actualit y of the damages and
possible losses mentioned above are
not questionable. Media around the
world has reported on climate change
and has somewhat failed to inform
common masses not only about the
seriousness and threats posed by it to
human existence but also in informing
to cope with the changing climate.
It is agreed by the scholarship
that common masses around the
world seek to i nform themselves
about the complex problems and
i ssues from the medi a they have
access to and draw meanings to those
Written by Muhammad Shahzad Yousaf (intern) Translated by Liu Chang
Maki ng Sense of Cl i mate
Change: Chinese and Indian
Media Subscribes to “Global
Power Game” Narrative
54 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety 55 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety
Ecological Focus 生态聚焦
information provided by the media
by their own frames of references
to such information and also the
frames provided by the media for such
Climate change and journal-
Cl i mat e change f i rst caught
attention of the scientific community
i n 1860s when Engl i sh scient i st
John Tyndall suggested that slight
changes in the composition of gases
in atmosphere could bring changes in
climate. These finding were further
supported by Swedish physicist Svante
Arrhenius who approved Tyndall’s
claims and said that emission of gases
as result of industrial revolution could
bring atmospheric changes resulting
i n cl i mat e change and doubl i ng
the emission of CO
would lead to
C temperature increase globally
within a century. And since then, it
has developed into a sound branch
of science gauging the impacts of
climate change and also looking into
the human footprint causing a trigger
in climate change globally. Scientists
have gauged changes f rom dat a
emanating from more than a century
and half. Whereas Chinese claim that
Zhu Kezhen, a Chinese scientist,
has studied occurrence of climate
change from dat a syst ems of ice
depletions managed by the Chinese
emperors for almost a thousand years’
time. Both the Chinese and rest of
the world’s scienti f ic communit y
has over whelmingly agreed upon
exi st ence of cl i mat e change and
about human footprint triggering
climate change famously termed as
anthropogenic climate change.
D e s p i t e e x i s t e n c e o f
comprehensive science, there have
been doubt s i n the mi nds of the
public especially in western society
and media has played a huge role
in creating that “climate of doubt”
among common masses. Copenhagen
conference on climate change in 2009
and some preceding events before
Copenhagen provided a high point of
coverage for climate change in media
around the globe. Studies assessing the
coverage of climate change by world
media have shown that media from
developed world has played a vital
role in both “getting the voice there”
and also creating doubts in minds
about climate change. Progressive
newspapers have although given more
space and time to climate change
advocates while right wing business
friendly newspapers and channels
gave voices to skeptics who doubted
exi st ence of cl i mat e change and
especially questioned anthropogenic
climate change and denied any role
played by the human footprint to
accelerate climate change. Skeptics
clai m that despite over whel mi ng
a greement of 97% of s ci ent i f i c
community about existence of climate
change and its anthropogenic nature
and threats it poses to humanity, the
science of climate change is not yet
“settled” where any other science
with such huge agreement of 97%
would automatically be “settled” and
accepted. So, media groups in the
name of “balanced reporting” provide
space and time to skeptics in their
coverage of climate change which has
also been found disproportionate to
skeptics’ actual existence percentage
of onl y 3 percent among whol e
scientific community. Studies found
that American and English media
provided 34% of total voices quoted in
climate change reporting to skeptics
resulting in decline in number of
people believing that climate change
is a threat with number of doubters
increasing from 45% in 2009 to 55%
in year 2013 in United States.
Even though media in developing
worl d, especi al l y i n Chi na a nd
India, has started parting ways from
developed world media in terms of
covering climate change as there has
been less coverage of skeptics’ voices
from Copenhagen conference onwards
but still the developed world’s stance
has inf luenced media coverage of
developing world. Developing world’s
media, take Bangladesh, China, India,
and Pakistan for instance, quotes
voices from i nternational media,
mostly from England and United
States, causing bringing western or
“global north” perspective home and
along with that comes the skeptic
viewpoint of climate change as “Global
Times” of China and “Times of India”
from India gave space to skeptic views
on their editorial and opinion pages
duri ng 2009 UN cl i mate change
Experts, citing reasons of less but
controversial coverage, say that nature
of the climate change is longitudinal
and despite the impacts can be seen
around on almost all aspects of life
but due to the slow nature of climate
change those i mpact s are mostly
related to rather more recent events
or reasons which make better sense
for both the media and audiences.
Such knitting of relationship among
causes and ef fect s, ex per t s say,
undermines the efforts to educate
common people about climate change
but t hi s rel at ionship bui ldi ng i s
necessary for media. Experts argue
that media sells sensationalism and
anything sensational would get sold
but extremely slow nature of climate
change makes it unfit for the media to
cover climate change. Experts claim
that climate change as environmental
risk is largely invisible, all pervasive,
and unprecedented and due to the
reason that it unf its the 24-hour
news scheduling, which is decided
by newsworthiness of information
based on four major element s of
timeliness, proximity, frequency, and
unambiguit y, climate change only
enters the news when it fulfills these
needs of being newsworthy.
State of Chinese and Indian
Media Coverage
Xu Pe i x i , a p r o f e s s o r a t
Communi c at i on Uni ver s i t y of
China’s journalism school and expert
on media coverage of climate change,
claims that both Chinese and India
media has started parting ways from
international media on climate change
coverage due to the domestic needs,
especially China being world’s leading
count r y i n green busi nesses and
technologies has paved the way for
businesses and media to go advocate
for green ways of l i fe. He cit es
President Xi’s recent comment about
moving from Information society to
low carbon society while arguing that
this would and has already started
leading Chinese businesses and media
both towards “going green” but at
the same time, he acknowledges,
that Chinese media quotes voices
from western world which brings
their perspective into climate change
coverage which can be intentional by
Chinese media too to bring some kind
of uncertainty.
Even though the famous game of
“fear and disinformation” by skeptic
organizations heavily funded by oil
and gas industry in global north to
win political leaders on their sides has
not affected the media coverage of
climate change in developing world
but “political” frame still persists as
the most occurring frame in coverage
of climate change where a “frame” in
simple word can be termed as overall
“tilt” of a news piece. Framing is
actually a theory of media effects by
applying which media have a strong
impact by constructing social reality
by “framing images of reality” in a
predictable and patterned way. Mass
medi a act i vel y set t he f rames of
reference that readers or viewers use
to interpret and discuss public events.
Overwhelming majority of “political”
frame in Chinese and Indian media
shows that both Chinese and Indian
media outlets put more attention
towards power game of climate change
in global politics and less attention is
given to climate change as “common
challenge to humanity”.
A recent study delving into the
coverage of climate change by Chinese
and Indian media during Copenhagen
and Doha summit s, i n 2009 and
2012 respectively, reveals that mostly
political actors were quoted the most
in news and articles about climate
change while presence of “injustice”
frame which incites moral indignation
and gives voice to those left behind
and can be a way of t el l i ng t he
suffering of those poor communities
who are feeling the brunt of climate
impacts but don’t have an effective
voice in domestic or global politics,
has been meagerly present in Chinese
and Indian media coverage of telling
climate change stories. Same study
also looked through the use physical
features like photos, page connection,
size, and editorial placement of the
story as these features explain the
nature of news coverage as showing
narrower picture being “episodic”
i n nat ure or i t showed broader
picture following “thematic” st yle
of coverage and providing narrative
and background information along
with connecting the told story to the
broader climate change debate. And
the study found out that most of news
coverage by both the Chinese and
Indian media showed narrower picture
of the events and didn’t connect it to
the broader climate change debate and
its impacts which tells how narrow
and one dimensional coverage is from
Chinese and Indian media.
Sayeed Mohammed, a researcher
from India, who runs a community
led initiative “Progressive Vellore”
for climate mitigation and adaptation
ef fort s i n hi s di st rict of a nort h
Indian state, says that India is one
of the most vulnerable countries to
climate change. Apart from other
direct impacts India is easily hit by
conflicts due to climate change and he
cites irregularities in monsoon rains
recently which resulted in conf licts
over wat er di st ribut ion not onl y
inside the country but also resulted in
triggering conflicts with its bordering
countries especially Bangladesh and
Paki st an. He says that whenever
conf lict hits, there is sensationalism
in media coverage of these conf licts
and climate change is also mentioned
now and then but primarily conf lict
is presented with more “political tilt”
than citing climate change as the
actual reason behind such conf licts.
Such “political” framing of conf licts
undermines actual climate threat and
thus downplays the impact. He sees
response from media should be at least
at two levels, firstly, it should provide
t he cl i mat e narrat i ve to al l such
56 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety 57 June 2014 International Ecology and Safety
Ecological Focus 生态聚焦
stories which are connected to climate
change and secondly, media should
put more emphasis on educat i ng
masses about climate change and ways
of adaptation and mitigation as its
social responsibility.
India and Pakistan have long
been engaged i n a conf l ict over
Kashmi r regi on whi ch resource
rich in water and some minerals.
Al t hough, i ni t i al rea son of t he
conf lict is more of political nature
but climate change fuels this conflict
a s cha ng i ng mons oon pat t er ns
have left both the countries in dire
need of water for their agriculture
and power generation. Three main
tributaries which irrigate vast lands
of Pakistan emanate from Kashmir
and run through Pakist an before
dying down in Arabian Sea. Due to
the recent droughts waterbed levels
underneath the soil have dropped
sharply to a dangerous levels in India
and Pakistan both and have given rise
to their needs to control waters from
the conflicted area of Kashmir. Thus,
climate change is fueling conf licts
in the region bringing instabilit y
in political landscape of the region
along with other impacts it causes to
communities. But climate change is
never presented as a reason of this
and other such conflicts in Indian and
Pakistani media despite, it is presented
more of a geographical and political
problem than citing climatic nature
and aspect of the problem. China and
India have also locked their horns in
border disputes which initially are not
climate related disputes but because of
the border areas being resource rich in
water and glacial surfaces and both the
countries are in dire need of water and
energy security for their development
so, changing climate and its impacts
fuel such disputes and conflicts in the
region which threaten political, social,
and economic stability of the region.
Instant threats posed by climate
change to both China and India include
changing rainfall patterns, droughts,
torrential rains, alarmingly falling
ground water levels, glacial melts, sea
level rise, agriculture and food security
issues, energy security, health problems
and epidemic outbreaks, conf licts,
migration and decline in water reserves
among other socio-economic impacts
caused and resulting further from
the deteriorating situations of the
above mentioned problems and both
the countries’ media have failed in
painting the real picture successfully
for their masses. Chinese and Indian
media, while covering climate change
in news and programs, brings in risk
and uncertainty while constructing
frames. One of the studies cited above
also discussed that journalists from
“developing world” or global south
either tend to borrow frames and
narratives constructed by the developed
world journalists or they most often
create new frames unconsciously. This
unconscious “frame construction” by
journalist does not serve the purpose
of effectively informing and educating
masses as better skills and knowledge
of introducing narratives ( constructing
frames) into the news about climate
change can yield much better results
in not only informing the masses but
enabling them to better adapt and
mitigate at community levels.
Two experts, interviewed for the
article, expressed hope that as China
is moving towards green business
leader of the world in technology and
production and its businesses turning
green so media would also pay more
attention better covering the climate
change and they also expressed that
with a business minded leadership in
India coming into power, India would
also move into the similar direction
with China by integrating business
and government policies towards
sustainable and green society.
Suggestions to improve cov-
I n o r d e r t o i mp r o v e t he
coverage of climate change by media
in developing countries in general
and in China and India specifically,
scholars and experts advise a range
of efforts to be taken. Dr. Xu Peixi
from TV School of Communication
University, who has authored a book
chapter on climate change coverage
in China and has published works
on climate and journalism, suggests
that journalists should be trained
properly for reporting about climate
change. He it erat ed t hat cl i mat e
change is now embedded into every
single beat of reporting from politics
to education and from science to
domestic and local news and a better
trained journalist about basic science
of climate change and also about
the international treaties and laws
regulating climate change can bring
mature and insightful perspective
i nt o t he news i nformi ng masses
better than someone ignorant of all
such information and untrained in
reporti ng on cl i mate change. He
stresses the need of providing carbon
perspective in news, although it has
recently become a business, but it still
helps with motivating businesses and
companies being environment friendly
and carbon conscious and media thus
can play its role better.
There are hundreds of detailed
solutions available in market to not
only cope with climate change and
mitigate but also to lead environment
f r i endl y a nd ener g y e f f i c i ent
lives. Such solutions, detailed and
comprehensive which are accepted by
governments and meet national and
international standards, should be
introduced to public more frequently
and continuously by media in order
to sensitize public towards health and
green living styles.
Two domi nant perspect i ves
i n coverage of cli mate change i n
media are “global power struggle”
and “common threat or challenge”.
Common challenge perspective gives
more space to introducing climate
change as a global and common threat
and provides wider range of options
to present stories in ways to better
educate masses about climate change
and its impacts along with methods
of adaptation so, experts assert that
“common threat” perspective should be
employed by media more as compared
to global power struggle which give a
narrow picture of political games only.
We have seen that skeptics find
t hei r way to coverage of cl i mate
change and thus create doubt about
climate change not only among the
common masses but also in the minds
of policy makers as doubtful public
can’t demand better policy actions
from its policy makers and leaders.
So, experts opine that climate change
science should be treated as “settled”
science and focus of the news coverage
should shift from debating the truth
of climate change and questioning its
anthropogenic nature to treating it as
a “common threat” and ways to fight
it effectively. Thus, any doubts in the
minds should be shunned and climate
change should be accepted as a reality.
One i nt erest i ng perspect i ve
that expert journalists suggest to
cope wit h t he i ncapacit y of less
trained journalists and also making
sense of climate impacts is that they
recommend linking climate impacts
with environmental impacts which are
more obvious and short term in nature
as compared to longitudinal and slow
nature of climate change. By linking
climate impacts with environmental
effects of short term nature, public
can easily be motivated to fight both
environmental and climate change
related problems in order to better
protect and safeguard future of planet
and maintain its ecological balances
which are extremely important for the
existence of life on Earth.
Whi le report i ng t he cl i mat e
impacts in certain community and
di scussi ng solut ions i n t erms of
adapt at ion and mit i gat ion, local
knowledge of the community should
also be considered. Communities
living in their own setting understand
thei r problems much bet ter than
outsiders and for climate change also
communities need assistance to better
adapt and mitigate climate impacts.
Neglecting their voices completely
while covering climate change and
importing a solution to suggest as
solut ion to the problems doesn’t
serve the purpose correctly. So, while
reporting communities’ issues their
local solutions and settings should also
be considered and given voice to.
Conf licts caused or fueled by
climate change should be reported
with the climate perspective attached
to it in order to not only make public
understand the situation better and
t hrough cl i mat e perspect i ve but
it can also help with lessening the
intensification of the conflict and solve
it better in peaceful ways by reducing
loss to human life and ecology.
Bo b I n g l i s , a f or me r US
senator, while referring to climate
change, serious threats it posed, and
skepticism, once told senate, “Your
child is sick, 98 doctors say treat him
this way; two say, No! There is other
way to go. If you will go with the
two, you are taking a big risk for the
kid…… We are on record and our
grand and great grandchildren are
going to read this”.
Hail storm demolished number of houses in
Maharashtra state of India. A woman standing on
debris of her house. (Source