On the first of July I got a newsletter in my inbox from the Centre for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. The newsletter informed me about an Open Access article that was published by Myers, et al. (The et. al includes M.C. Nisbet who runs the outstanding Age of Engagement blog) the previous week in the journal Climatic Change. The article is entitled, ‘A Public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change.’
A look in history demonstrates that climate change has been primarily framed as environmental problem. Within social sciences, alternative frames emphasizing public health, natiaonl security, extreme weather events and/or the economy, have been previously suggested. They can potentially be more effective at engaging the audience.
The authors tested the assumption that the public health frame and/or national security frame may make climate change more personally relevant.
Specifically, the frames tested were
1) Environmental – emphasis is placed on the consequences of climate change to ecosystems;
2) National security – emphasis is placed on highlighting national security and benefits to national security;
3) Health frame – emphasis is placed on health risks that are associated with climate change and the corresponding potential beneftis of adaptation and mitigation actions.
– Health Frame was the most likely to produce feelings of hope (It was followed by the Environmental Frame and the National Security Frame
– The Health Message produced the least amount of anger (Just above it were the Environmental Message and the National Security Message)
This research demonstrates the potential of the public health frame to inspire hope in the context of climate change discussion, while simultaneously demonstrating the possibility that certain frames may be poorly perceived within some interpretive communities.
Myers, T.A., Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E.W., Leiserowitz, A.L. (2012). ‘A Public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change,’ Climatic Change (online first). doi: 10.1007/s10584-012-0513-6
On Monday 12 March 2012, researchers from the Harvard Medical School released a study in which linked the consumption of red meat to an increased chance of early death. The study, entitled ‘Red Meat Consumption and Mortality‘ was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It was also accompanied by an editorial entitled ‘Holy Cow! What’s Good for you is Good for Our Planet‘.
The researchers tracked 37698 men for 22 years and 83698 women for 28 years. All the participants were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer when tracking commenced. The diets of the participants were evaluated through questionnaires every four years. The subjects who consumed a card-deck-sized serving of unprocessed red meat each day on average saw a 13 percent higher risk of dying than those who did not consume red meat with the same frequency.
The study has garnered a considerable amount of attention. At the time of initial writing (around 21:00 on the evening of Tuesday 13 March 2012), there were 211 stories related articles that can be accessed on Google News. Another check around 23:00 on the evening of Tuesday 13 March 2012, showed that there were 231 related stories. Here are some examples of the headlines from some of the media outlets across:
The Independent – ‘Red meat increases risk of early death, says study‘
The Telegraph – ‘Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths‘
United States of America
The LA Times – ‘All red meat is bad for you, new study says‘
ABC News – ‘Red Meat Tied to Increased Mortality Risk‘
Harvard Magazine – ‘Don’t Pass the Bacon‘
Fox News – ‘Red meat linked to premature death, research finds‘
Globe and Mail – ‘Red meat increases risk of death from cancer‘
Toronto Star – ‘Red meat linked to higher risk of premature death: Harvard study‘
Montreal Gazette – ‘Red meat linked to higher risk of premature death‘
The Sydney Morning Herald – ‘Huge study shows red meat boosts risk of dying young‘
Victor Harbor Times – ‘Love affair with flesh hits a snag as study links red meat to risk of death‘
Reuters – ‘More support for passing on the red meat‘
CNN International – ‘Study: Too much red meat may shorten lifespan‘
Media outlets exist within a context that is structured by the competition for public’s attention. Being constantly bombarded by a variety of stimuli, public attention can be fleeting and therefore is extremely valuable. Consequently, in order to capture the attention, media outlets must refer to very striking differences (differences from the ‘norm’). A response will only be garnered by a strong stimuli (Neidhardt, 1993).
As Neidhardt (1993), points out, the aforegoing scenario leads to implementation of particular strategies:
1) “…existing Material can become loaded linguistically by ‘the use of intense language’.” (p.343)
2) “…the selection of the material is guided by a preference for strongly deviating cases.” (p.343)
Case in point, the aforementioned study.
Neidhardt, F. (1993). ‘The Public as a Communication System’ Public Understand. Sci. 2, 339-350. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/2/4/004
Pan, A., Sun, Q., Bernstein, A.M., Schulze, M.B., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Willett, W.C., Hu, F.B. (2012). ‘Red Meat Consumption and Mortality’ Arch Intern Med. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287