1.1 Background to the Study
people around the world share the belief that climate change is real and that
humans are contributing significantly to the change. To many of such people,
the sheer scale of human exploitation as well as devastation of the earth’s
landscape and the attendant spate of global catastrophes are testimonies that
much of climate change is human-induced. Climatologists, meteorologists and
environmental groups have produced compelling evidence to prove that humans
contribute a lot in damaging the earth’s atmosphere. They (climatologists,
etc.) have made good use of the mass media in establishing this proof. However,
there are some who still want everyone to believe that the world is neither over
heating nor over cooling. These so-called climate skeptics, mainly heavy carbon
emitting companies, are working assiduously to convince the world. They too
(the skeptics) are using the media very well. Climate skeptics say that certain
biological and chemical processes (e.g. sequestration, i.e. plants removing
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) in the atmosphere offset what would have
been the harsh effects of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which is
thought to cause global warming. No doubt, climatic extremes experienced around
the world are the greatest environmental challenge confronting the world today.
Increasing global temperatures have continued to trigger changes in weather
patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme
weather. It is worse for people in regions that are particularly at risk, such
as Central America. In Africa, the greatest effects have been on food security,
as rising temperatures and shifting rain patterns lessen access to food across
the continent (Boykoff 2007). The CNN on November 12, 2010 reported the
flooding in Colombo, Sri Lanka (on November 11, 2010), with up to 490 million
liters of rain (three months rain normally) in 24 hours, with two hundred
thousand people displaced in that time. In December 2010, temperatures reached
-200c across Europe, 40 people died as transport and business were heavily
disrupted. According to Buchdahl (1999, pp.94-96),
Every region of the world experiences record-breaking climate extremes from time to time. In 1989, for example, the “Big Wet” in eastern Australia brought torrential downpours and the worst flooding in two centuries. The same year also saw an extreme typhoon season in Southeast Asia. The Philippines was hit by three typhoons in October, including Typhoon Elsie with its peak winds of 200km/hr. More than 1,000 people drowned a month later when southern Thailand was struck by the most powerful storm in fifty years. Many people in England will remember the
―Hurricane‖ of October 1987. In Eastern Nigeria, there were very dry winds (Harmattan) deep in June 2008. In January and February 2009, it rained continually and more intensely than July rains. In April 2010, Eastern Nigeria experienced dry season, and the rains did not return until late May 2010. Thunderous rains stretched to December 2010, pouring down in ways not characteristic of late rains in Nigeria. In the North, Niger State suddenly went from a prolonged drought to flooding in August 2010, causing crop failure, death of livestock and submerging of whole villages. An AFP news report of August 24, 2010 showed that the Nigerian Metrological Agency had forecast low rainfalls, but it came pouring down. Flooding also affected seven other States in Northern Nigeria, where it displaced two million people according to BBC news of September 24, 2010. The States include Borno, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, and Kebbi. The Nigerian media reported the 2010 flooding of Lagos (and Ogun State in western Nigeria), which sacked schools in Ajegunle and other parts of the State (Daily Triumph, October 21, 2010). The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) reported the death of 10 people from flooding in Lagos on August 26, 2011. According to Africa Independent Television (AIT) news of September 18, 2012, over 100 people lost their lives, with more than 30,000 displaced as result of flooding that occurred across Nigeria between July and September 2012. 15 The NTA in its network news on November 12, 2009 had reported the anomaly in rain patterns in Nigeria. The report was a news interview with the Director General, Nigeria Meteorological Agency, Dr. Anthony Anuforo, who said the agency had issued a warning on February 19, 2009 about shifting rain patterns.
Dr. Anuforo regretted that authorities did not take the warning serious. The shifting patterns have continued. The catastrophic consequences of climate change make it a core media issue. It is one of the topics that have triggered international events and, as a result, media coverage. One of such events was the December 2009 UN-organized conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Delegates from 193 countries gathered in the Danish capital in what was described as the single biggest global gathering since World War II (Daily Champion, Dec. 10, p. B6). Another such event took place in Cancun, Mexico between November 29 and December 8, 2010, when delegates from 200 countries (under the umbrella of the UN) gathered to seek a binding deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Al Jazeera TV, November 29, 2010). From November 8 to December 9 2011, the members of the UN gathered again in Durban South Africa, seeking ways to address climate change. Another such meeting held in Qatar from 26 November to 7 December, 2012. Climate change is also a controversial issue, because there is so much about what people believe about how to fight it. It is even more so with what is said about the causes of climate change, and the people who are to blame for it (DEFRA, 2002; Brechin, 2003). Some insist that media portrayals about melting polar ice, warming arctic regions, disappearing forests, receding seas and a drowning Central America are unnecessary hype of incidents that have been on through the centuries. It is also said that some mass media frame climate stories in a way to turn the world against some countries seen as major polluters, making these countries see such mass media as tools of economic war against them. During the Copenhagen conference, for instance, a lot of time was spent on discussions on reaching binding agreements on emission cut targets. Some countries (India, China, US) saw the media pressure on them to cut emission as pressure targeted at their economy. Many carbon-based companies accused of greatly contributing to climate change are doing a lot to evade indictment. According to Andre and Castle (2006, para4), Exxon Mobil, the world‘s largest energy company, is still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund European organizations that seek to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming and undermine support for legislation to curb emission of greenhouse gases.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Given the central place of the media in the (re)construction of climate change discourses, there have been political, economic and other interests that have long tried to influence media portrayal of climate change to affect public’s understanding and perception, Sampei and Aoyagi-Usui, (2009, p.8). Many views are portrayed in the mass media that undermine climate change mitigation measures, owing to wrong but powerful interests (Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004).
In reporting news, journalists use objectivity as reportorial style. As such, true as well as unfounded beliefs are given equal attention (Boykoff and Ravi, 2007). It is said that the views of climate skeptics find their ways into news pages because journalists believe in showing every side to a story. Some scholars (Bast, 2010; Idso, Singer and Fred, 2009; Pielke, 2009) say that portraying (the causes of) climate change as an issue with two or more sides (its truth/falsity; and how much humans cause climate change) introduces diversionary debates, uncertainty and skepticism into the discourse. This can negatively affect public understanding and government response to climate change. There are at least seven theories of climate change, i.e. six others opposed to anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change (AGW) (Bast, 2010, pp. 6-10).
In addition, some media theorists have accused the media of ‗vulture reporting‘(Downs, 1972) in connection with climate change, showing interest mostly when a newsy (especially catastrophes) climate change issue happens. Nigerian newspapers will not truly drive climate change agenda and reflect/protect Nigeria‘s interest in global climate discourses if they report mostly (foreign) straight news, views and events on climate change. Nigerian newspapers are also accused of using only catastrophe-related photographs to illustrate climate change stories whether or not the story focus is catastrophe. This, according to critics, is undue emphasis of disaster about climate change (Nwabueze, 2007).
There are solutions to climate change seen as pro-carbon emission solutions, such as carbon tax, carbon credits and climate risk insurance. It is said that projecting such solutions will not address greenhouse gas emission, the major cause of climate change, because carbon-based companies merely pay carbon tax and buy carbon credits to continue emitting carbon. Some researchers have noted that Nigerian newspapers do not give adequate coverage to, as well as capture appropriate issues as subject matter in, stories on environment generally (Oso 2006, Galadima 2006, Nwabueze 2007,Moeti, Maraisane & Marou, 2008). This study therefore investigated the extent to which Nigerian newspapers cover climate change, and what/how they portray issues (subject matter) in stories.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to assess newspaper reportage of climate change through content and textual analysis as well as how the reportage has affected public‘s knowledge of climate change, while, the specific objectives are:
1. To ascertain the extent to which Nigerian newspapers report climate change stories.
2. To find out the dominant type of media genre used to report climate change among Nigerian newspapers.
3. To ascertain the extent to which Nigerian newspapers report human factors and natural factors as causes of climate change.
4. To know the type of photographs used by Nigerian newspapers in illustrating climate change in relation to story focus.
5. To ascertain the kind of reports carried by Nigerian newspapers as subject matter (story content) on climate change.
1.4 Research Questions
The following questions have been formulated to guide this study:
1. To what extent do Nigerian newspapers report climate change stories?
2. What is the dominant type of media genre used to report climate change among Nigerian newspapers?
3. To what extent do Nigerian newspapers report human factors and natural factors as causes of climate change?
4. What type of photographs do Nigerian newspapers use in illustrating climate change in relation to story focus?
5. What kind of reports do Nigerian newspapers carry as subject matter (story content) on climate change?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The major issues in climate change discourses are whether or not climate change is occurring, if it is mostly caused by human action and how best to fight it. In view of compelling evidence on the truth of climate change and pervasive effects of human actions that trigger climate change, this study shall help ascertain if Nigerian newspapers are fuelling skepticism or belief in the truth of human-induced climate change as well as the type of solutions projected. The study will then be a platform for advising the newspapers on how to report climate change effectively. The study shall highlight certain demands of science reporting in terms of the type of genres to use, how to treat the stories in terms of journalism styles, how to cultivate sources and the type of subject matter to handle. This study will contribute to literature on the subject. Various studies on media images of climate change by international researchers do not include the Nigerian media scenario. This study shall mention noticeable pattern of climate change reporting in Nigerian newspapers as is often done with Australia, South Africa, India, United States of America and Japan
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study combined content analysis, survey and the interview. Content analysis was limited to the contents of four selected Nigerian newspapers. The content analytical cues were directed towards portrayals, images, framing and coverage magnitude. The units of analysis helped to ascertain the nature of Nigerian newspapers contributions to global communication on climate change.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The study is limited by constraints of space to fully outlay all the dimensions of the images of climate change in every story analyzed.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Anthropogenic global warming (AGW): the theory that human action is currently causing the climate to change faster than is safe for human wellbeing
Anti-emission solutions: solutions to climate change, which hinge on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, such as emission cuts.
Climate: is the average weather condition of a particular geographical region at given times of the year noticed over a very long period, from fifty years and above.
Climate change: is the natural cycle through which the earth and its atmosphere deal with the change in the amount of energy received from the sun. The climate goes through warm and cold periods, taking hundreds of years to complete one cycle. Changes in temperature also influence rainfall, but the biosphere is able to adapt to a changing climate if these changes take place over centuries. But this is not so partly due to human actions that are speeding up the process of climate change, leading to disastrous consequences.
Catastrophe-related pictures/stories: pictures or stories portraying dreadful situations as a result of the tragedies of climate change. Spectacular visuals are used in illustrating catastrophe-related stories.
Iconic visuals: pictures that reflect what the story is all about in real terms (visuals of a waterlogged place in a story on the effects of rising sea levels on a given community)
Newspapers: general interest, private and public national daily print/news/media published in Nigeria and principally staffed by professional journalists.
Portrayal: for this study, the key indices of portrayal include coverage level/number of stories, nature of pictorial illustrations, the type of journalistic writing (news, feature, opinion), and focus of textual matter. This study is also interested in finding out the actual concrete symbols (such as fire, smoke, fleeing residents, etc.) with which climate change was portrayed.
Pro-emission solutions: solutions to climate change, which do not directly address reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere such as carbon tax, climate risk insurance, aid/funding and carbon credits.
Spectacular visuals: pictures meant to frighten people: pictures showing the destructive force of extreme weather events dealing hard blows on people.
Symbolic visuals: pictures that represent something bigger or broader than the image itself, beyond the literal, e.g. visuals of smoke belching out of factories in a news story on industrial pollution.