Consequences of communicating climate science online: The effects on young people’s reactions to climate science
Passmore, Phillip Scott
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis reveals the potential pitfalls of relying on the Internet to communicate serious environmental issues. This exploratory research examines the consequences of aspects of the information society focusing on the effects of the Internet upon three reactions to climate communication: public understanding, perception of risk and support for climate change mitigation. It examines the implications of the rise of the information society on young people’s (18-25 year olds) consumption of media and climate science information. The information society literature emerged before the Internet, but predicted the increasing access to information that has arisen in the past two decades and its significant impacts on society and communication. An analytical framework is developed focusing on the sharing of information and the consequences of both misleading information and competition for the user’s attention. To explore the impact of the Internet upon public perception of risks posed by and their understanding of climate change, this research uses a mixed methodological approach. The qualitative approach of focus groups has been selected to establish how young people use the Internet and whether they share and actively engage with climate change information online. A quantitative approach of the experimental method has critically examined the impact of junk information (climate sceptic material) and information overload (competition for users’ attention) on reactions to climate science. The original contribution to knowledge of this thesis was the key finding that the lack of engagement with climate science online poses a more serious issue than the risk of climate sceptic information being virally shared. Simply having the information accessible is not enough when there is so much competition for users’ attention and the ease with which they can filter out climate change information.
PhD in Politics