My interest in being able to communicate climate change effectively comes from the innate sadness of having to pick up corroding, damp bags of crisps from my hometown park, after school, during detention. The stench and moisture descended through the pair of marigolds I was given. It felt like a herd of slugs running through my fingertips. It made me wonder why pollution occurs and what would have happened if I left that soaking bag of crisps on the ground.
From 1860-to 1920 Richard and Cherry Kearton were brothers, working on the invention of wildlife photography, by capturing the behaviour of animals: birds were the large source material for the Keartons. Over time they branched out to ox, colobus monkeys, zebras, lions, and rhinoceros.
Sir David Attenborough’s career was inspired by Kearton’s history. In 1979, Life on Earth was a natural history program that aimed to explore the wonders of wildlife and their habitation. The television show established an attempt at a new perspective on capturing wildlife.
I can easily listen to Attenborough because of how calm and captivating his voice is. The language scripted is simple and Attenborough pronounces every word, so his audience can understand what he is saying and they will likely follow through, until the end.
It is not unknown that the public has a lack of trust in politicians and the media. When I listen to political debates, I notice politicians' tone, language, and behaviour during conversations. In the beginning, I hope for no shouting or arguments because my brain shuts off, and I cannot process the information that is being analysed.
Policymakers make up most of our discussions in how we think, act, and communicate. Photographers and journalists go through an ethical dilemma regarding environmental concerns because although it is important to publish, journalists have been murdered and bribed. After all, industries do not want the journalists to follow through with their investigation.
The Ethics of Climate Change Reports
Ethical journalism strives to ensure a free exchange of accurate, fair and thorough information. The foundation of an ethical journalist is declared through five principles: truth, independence, fairness, humanity, and accountability.
Climate change has been termed a ‘perfect moral storm’ because it brings three ethical challenges: future generations, intergeneration justice, and skewed vulnerabilities. Emphasis on the relationship between the present and future generations has been governed by a series of duties, honoured by human rights.
Intergenerational justice on climate change matters has become a project for real sociopolitical and legal change and must be acknowledged by sociological research as such.
Tracey Skillington’s concept in, Climate Change and Intergeneration Justice assesses how the intergeneration is beginning to understand the future generation’s movement of social protests about environmental concerns. She added that youths are very much involved in political movements, commonly with humour, costumes and elaborate posters against war and injustice.
Education is a vital part of political and social movements. Humour is attention-grabbing but it is often dark and truthful to what the news tells us; the tone is made light for those who are uneducated to acknowledge what is going on.
Comedy has an accurate, painful but laughable result. Depending on their audience, the message isn’t always received. A younger audience isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be inspiring.
The ethical issue with reporting is, most likely someone is going to disagree. I believe it isn’t about ‘is my audience going to be OK with this?’ it is about ‘am I OK with what my message is?’ The majority of the time, it is how you’re presenting the topic.
Moral and ethical issues can be argued that climate change communication should be an open mature debate for future generations. Ethical policies become a harsh reality due to the economic choice between the intergeneration lifestyles and the future generation’s actuality.
The very use of the expression ‘climate change’ is problematic, with an ethical dimension in the scientific and political spheres that goes beyond the mere description of a physical phenomenon. It’s the originator of the 1980s and 1990s. ‘Global warming’ still sits in the shadows of climate change: a central aspect of the climate models produced on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to shape government policy.
Disillusion of the truth can overstate and under-justify ethical dilemmas for environmentally interested people. Being indulged in uncertain claims can lead to a loss of interest and misshape the climate change ethical dispute.
During certain discussions, I have had about environmental concerns with friends and family they seem to not understand what it is and how to help. Despite newspapers, photographers and filmmakers trying to explain what global environmental change is, there is still a large number of people who are not comprehending it or are not engaging with it enough to help.
Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and America are amongst a high percentage of manmade climate change deniers. Those Americans agreed that manmade global warming is a lie intended to deceive people.
In theory, it isn’t uncommon that most of us to rely on personal experience rather than statistical analysis.
A scientific reporter, Joel Achenbach mentions that the idea of hundreds of scientists, worldwide, collaborating on a vast hoax is preposterous. Corporations funding the fossil fuel industry deliberately try to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus by promoting a few sceptics.
The idea that anti-protesters believe environmental changes and global warming is a myth is seen as ridiculous. It would be costly to make up an environmental hoax that could potentially harm worldwide economies.
Journalists who cover environmental ground potentially live in dangerous climate forces. Not just hurricanes, squalls, downpours and lightning, environmental journalists receive harassment, threats, physical violence and sporadically murder. Reporters Without Borders covers the potential risks environmental photojournalists have when going out into the field.
A Canadian reporter, Stephen Leahy was offered money by a Canadian mining company to stop investigating their activities. Numerous British reporters said they were bribed by British companies with a concession to explore oil in Virunga National Park.
Bart Gremmen a political philosopher describes climate change deniers as,
This minority, the so-called climate change deniers, believes that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy. In their attacks on these views of the climate change deniers, the majority not only blames them for an outright distortion of climate change science, but also claim that disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible.
The belief climate change denials have been non-action, reducing the climate change threats in their mind. This will cause harsh outcomes for poor countries.
What complexes me about climate change deniers and Gremmen’s statement is, Watts Up With That? (WUWT) is a conspiracy statistical blog created by climate change denier, Anthony Watts. The single objective of the website is to discredit human-influenced climate change. Sources are not always supported with valid evidence and statistics are published with unverifiable information yet some people still believe this website is based on facts without references.
Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College explains how humans can subconsciously cling to our intuitions, he called these, naïve beliefs. His study examined students’ theory on supernatural beings and human descendants. Shtulman’s research indicated that we internalise naïve beliefs but never remove them entirely.
From what I understand, personal bias is the person preferring their idea through personal experience rather than referring to alternative ideas of popularity. We are used to our own subjective views and influences through experiences and beliefs.
This is a communication obstacle because biases distort influential explanations. Through habit, we are unaware of our biased effects. To overcome personal biased is to engage with self-awareness and accept discussions with others.
Think, Talk or Don’t Talk?
A tone is a feeling or reaction to content through grammatical and intonation of language. The attitude about a subject matter changes the expression of either the audience or the writer or speaker. The importance of tone helps relate your audience’s emotions, needs, wants, and interests. The better the relationship, the stronger the engagement.
Think, talk, or don’t talk is the behavioural understanding of how we react to certain tones in a person’s voice or how we learn to understand a person’s emotion in a text by the use of punctuation.
When a writer’s tone delivers a unique message, it will affect how the reader receives the message. Tone expresses our approach towards an audience or topic. Over time you will notice your language and behaviour changes when you are indifferent surroundings. A part of that difference is the tone of the language. When I was a kid, I would get told off for the use of my tone in a sentence because it would come off as ‘cold’.
Kati Morton, a clinical psychology therapist for mental health said,
I think the thing that a lot of people don’t realise is that when pushed about something difficult or hard or stressful if we come at it head-on we are essentially forcing people into a fight, flight or freeze.
While communication specialists propose avoiding emotionally negative climate change messages, how the public use emotion in their communication about climate change is regarded as a mystery. We could propose previous educated research, to allow a mass audience to understand what is being said, rather than normally using scientific words.
Supportive, sympathetic and understanding tones are commonly used in customer support. These types of tones are quiet, and low and require you, the worker, to have a solution. This makes the customer feel wanted and cared for. This psychological effect is commonly successful because it makes a person feel special because there is a sense of consideration and compassion.
Dr Dana Lynn Driscoll, author of ‘Tone in Business Writing’ and an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania said in Hurley Write,
In addition to understanding the purpose, ensure that the audience also understands the document’s purpose. You can help your readers to understand which of your ideas you consider most important by using emphasis and subordination.
Driscoll broke down how to allow your audience to understand your tone in the message you’re trying to communicate. To communicate effectively Driscoll suggests people clog the first and last sentence mentioned.
During certain conferences, I try to acknowledge the entire presentation but what I noticed is, that I have to fixate on the first line, middle and last sentence and fill in what else had been said in the presentation, over time the speaker's tone became consistent and his discussion was too long.
A certain quality of writing can be created by making sure that the most valuable information is in the first paragraph and by formatting visual stimulate in headings, bullet points and photographic evidence.
What I understand about tone is, it can define our direction and character in a topic. Personality is presented in the tone we carry and the livelier the personality the increased chance the audience will feel more encouraged to listen.
The effectiveness of tone when we talk about climate change should be used carefully, as many nature documentaries do, they explain their actions, what is happening and why it is happening in a clearly spoken, simplistic tone. Viewers can educate themselves from what they are watching if they choose to do so.
‘Climate change’ was originally proposed in the late 1950s by Charles David Keeling, during his measurements of atmospheric CO2. In this modern age, the title ‘climate change’ is considered old because language changes through trade, migration, developed technology, and inventions and old words have obtained new meanings.
With the constant change in the English language, it can be a challenge for most people to keep up with what means what. Even the multiple definitions of one word can become confusing.
The Guardian, a liberal news platform in the United Kingdom, announced it was altering how to report on global climate changes. The now preferred terminologies are, ‘climate emergency,’ ‘climate crisis,’ ‘climate breakdown,’ and ‘global heating.’ ‘Climate change’ sounds passive but gentle. What scientists are trying to talk about is a misfortune for civilisation.
The editor of The Guardian, Kathrine Viner said, she wanted to ensure scientifically precise environmental news, while correspondingly communicating clearly to her readers.
‘Breakdown’ is classed as a trigger word because of the commonly known definition of ‘break’. A break is to end something. ‘Crisis’ is a panic word. People may begin to grow fear of climate change, in the wrong way.
A literary critic and poet, Margaret Atwood said to Slate magazine,
I think calling it climate change is rather limiting. I would rather call it the everything change because when people think climate change, they think maybe it’s going to rain more or something like that.
Atwood’s opinion on the word ‘climate’ raises a good point because climate change says the atmosphere’s temperature shifts. Saying climate change isn’t very accurate if we say global environmental issues. ‘Global environmental issues’ has no trigger words; it is accurate but broad.
Modern researchers have determined that news media has influenced policy and public understanding of the environment due to the language that is applied. I agree, journalists tell us the important stories, we need to hear. Understanding these stories is a different matter, although newspapers have a code of conduct, the language published is down to the editor.
Madhur Anand, a professor and director of Global Ecological Change said it was a shift in language that provoked a change in behaviour concerning mitigating climate change and not the countless graphs, reports, books and scientific articles on global change ecologism.
Language matters because it helps you achieve a message you intend to express. When we report on global environmental change, accuracy is key. I have discussed this with my peers and many of them mention that they only read the newspaper headlines. If this is the case, having an accurate and confident headline could be more effective than the article itself.