The purpose of any argument is to convince the opposing party or neutral onlookers of the validity of one side. Concerning climate change, ideally, the main tool for persuasion would be scientific evidence. You might then expect users of new media to simply disperse the type of scientific evidence that newspapers and news channels have the resources find. However, what we found throughout the six most popular articles was that new media would not only disperse the information found on old media, but that new media would also create information that was then covered by the newspapers and news channels. On the side of the climate change deniers, they relied less on old media and even misappropriated content for their own uses. Climate change advocates showed a stronger reliance on old media and had a more direct connection to the scientific facts presented in the articles. Despite these differences in how either side used old media, both sides of the argument used articles that dealt solely with the views of a commentator on social media.
With 8,440 Facebook shares, one of the most popular traditional media articles that recently circulated in climate hoax circles is “No one wants to go broke for Ineffective Climate-Change ‘Solutions’” from the conservative magazine “National Review” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/10/07/experts-said-arctic-sea-ice-would-melt-entirely-by-september-201). The article exemplifies the restrained style of old media organizations. The author purports no grand conspiracies, instead presenting an argument that measures enacted to combat climate change are ineffective, unnecessary and hurts the economy. Although the author cites somewhat dubious evidence, he avoids the highly polemical tone that is typical of internet sources like breitbart.com. Overall, the use of the article is one of the clearest examples of new and old media convergence: content derived from old media gaining exposure via social media.
Another widely shared article among climate skeptics was “Experts said Arctic sea ice would melt entirely by September 2016 – they were wrong” from The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/10/07/experts-said-arctic-sea-ice-would-melt-entirely-by-september-201/).
Despite the title, the article does not attack anthropogenic climate change but addresses the exaggerated claims by a two prominent scientists. Indeed, one paragraph explains that there has been an undeniable decrease in the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean over the last 35 years. Nonetheless, climate hoax supporters shared this article along with comments deriding climate change as a con. Given the wry title and cover picture, I suspect that it was being used more as a meme rather than an argument against climate change.
Stop Climate Change:
In an Instagram post by National Geographic, bigger and longer-lasting forest fires are presented as part of the effects of climate change. A study from the University of Idaho and Columbia University calculated how much of western wildfires could be attributed to human-caused climate change. This post was liked 252,000 times on Instagram alone. This content was a form of media convergence down to its very creation. An old media company used new media to not only disperse the information found in another article, but to directly communicate the information to the masses. The main intent of this article is to display the immediate consequences of climate change. Therefore it did not present any science about the validity of climate change, but actually presented evidence that the fires were connected to climate change. This changes the discussion by implicitly assuming that climate change is indeed an actual problem and shifts the discussion towards how big of a problem climate change is.
Photo by @edkashi/@viiphoto From the NYT on Oct 11, 2016…"Forest fires are burning longer and stronger across the western United States, lighting up the landscape with alarming frequency. Residents are forced to flee, homes are incinerated, wildlife habitats are destroyed, lives are lost. Last year, the Forest Service spent more than half its annual budget fighting fires. Scientists have long theorized that climate change has contributed to the longer fire seasons, the growing number and destructiveness of fires and the increasing area of land consumed, though some experts suggest that the current fire phenomenon is not just a result of a changing climate, but also fire-suppressing policies practiced by the government for the last century or more. In a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University have calculated how much of the increased scope and intensity of Western wildfires can be attributed to human-caused climate change and its effects. They state that, since 1979, climate change is responsible for more than half of the dryness of Western forests and the increased length of the fire season. Since 1984, those factors have enlarged the cumulative forest fire area by 16,000 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, they found." In this photo a smoke jumper in Northern California risks his life by being dropped off behind the fire line by helicopter during a massive complex in the Trinity Range.
This next article was shared by Bernie Sanders along with 4,800 other individuals. Bernie posted a link to an article by “The Guardian” along with the words “the debate is over. Climate change is real and is already causing devastating problems” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/03/global-temperature-climate-change-highest-115000-years?cmp=oth_b-aplnews_d-1).
This article referenced a new paper submitted by James Hansen and eleven other experts. The paper predicted that the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times. The paper then goes on to state that the precautions that are being taken, most recently with the Paris climate accord, will not be enough to stop climate change. This article follows in the footsteps of the Instagram post by National Geographic by also not solely addressing whether climate change is real but rather focusing on the problems that are associated with it. This article changes the conversation by instead looking at taking the necessary steps to stop climate change instead of debating whether there is a problem.
Final Articles and Conclusion:
Curiously, two similar articles covering a series of tweets by Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report news aggregator were used in support of both sides of the issue. The top “climate skeptic” result on talkwalker.com was the CBS report on the issue with 427 interactions on social media (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/matt-drudge-suggests-government-is-lying-about-hurricane-matthew/). Searching for “climate change is real” on the same website brought up a NPR article about Matt Drudge’s tweets with 16,400 interactions on social media (http://www.npr.org/2016/10/07/496996886/matt-drudge-suggests-government-may-be-lying-about-hurricane-matthew). In the first of these tweets, Drudge says, “The Deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate.” with the following tweet saying “Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. No way of verifying claims. Nassau ground observations DID NOT match statements! 165mmph gusts? WHERE?”
Although the parent content was the same, either side used the articles in very different ways. Both articles were against Drudge’s claims yet NPR took a firmer stance and cited the “overwhelming consensus of scientists” that agree climate change is real. Despite this, climate change deniers shared the CBS article in agreement that the government was indeed lying about climate change. However, climate change advocates shared the NPR article to highlight the irrationality of climate hoax claims. These articles clearly demonstrate the convergence of media. The tweets originated in social media, became fodder for old media organizations, and were finally shared and recirculated again on social media.
Both sides of the climate change argument used different articles depending on the viewpoint expressed. What was noticeable was that neither side’s articles focused on convincing the other side of the validity of their claims. Instead, the main focus was to fire up supporters and give them more confidence in their beliefs. In this way, neither side did much to influence the larger conversation about climate change since there was little conversation to begin with.