With climate change denial still prevalent in society, citizens have opted to do very little to fight the rising threat our planet faces.
US President Donald Trump is one of the most famous examples of a person in power who doesn’t believe in climate change. He holds major influence over many of people, particularly the Republican side, who believe and trust almost anything he says.
DCU lecturer Dr David Robbins, who has published research on how media covers climate change, believes that the denial of climate change stops us from moving forward with policies.
“We keep getting drawn into the same arguments, when we can talk about more important things, like reducing emissions and carbon footprint,” he said.
Robbins says that there are three categories of deniers, they are trend sceptics, attribution sceptics and impact sceptics. Trend sceptics deny that the increase in temperature exists at all, while attribution sceptics agree with the planet warming but not that it was caused by humans. Impact sceptics believe that climate change is happening and it is caused by humans but they question the policies and they try to slow them down.
In Ireland, climate change denial isn’t prevalent and we don’t have a huge denier presence in the media. However, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia are the countries that have the highest numbers of deniers. The people in these countries don’t say that climate change isn’t happening, they don’t believe in the science which changes the reaction to policies, which has an impact on their implementation.
According to Robbins, the way that climate change is framed in the media is important to how people perceive it. If it is only released as bad news and in a negative light, this doesn’t encourage people that they can do anything about it. This also happens when climate change is framed in a scientific and technical way.
When climate change is framed in a more positive frame, people tend to be more open and engaging to the topic.
While people in the public eye can do a lot of harm spreading their denial of climate change, the people in the public eye who believe in climate change and are advocates for fighting against it can do a lot of good in spreading their views.
Robbins believes that it is important for people in the public eye, particularly celebrities, to advocate and use their platforms to spread awareness to their large followings. Two A-list celebrities that do this are actors Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Mark Ruffalo uses his fame and his platform to spread awareness for climate change. One of the biggest things he has done is founding The Solutions Project with Mark Z. Jacob, Marco Krapels and Josh Fox. The main goal is to transition the US into using 100% renewable energy. He uses his social media presence to talk about this and his views on climate change to his fan and followers.
Leonardo DiCaprio is known for his environmental work and his advocacy for climate change. He famously used his acceptance speech for Best Actor at the Oscars, to talk about climate change and how it is real and happening right now. He described it as’ the most urgent threat facing our entire species’ and that we need to work collectively and stop procrastinating and do something about it.
“Leo can do more for climate change in one tweet than the government can in one year,” said Robbins about DiCaprio’s advocacy.
CNN recently released a video titled ‘Don’t believe these climate change lies’, telling their audience to stop listening to climate change deniers and instead pay attention to experts. This was met with backlash as CNN are regularly letting climate change deniers on their show and giving them a platform to spread their views.
People are hesitant to accept that climate change is happening at its current rate, despite the scientific research available to prove it. That may be because then they have to accept that it is real and happening and they lose a part of what they do believe, that the government are doing what they can and that the policies that are put in place by governments are not working as well as they should.