Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Environmental Studies

Advisor(s)

John Van Buren

Abstract

This thesis explores how the compulsive consumption of negative climate news leads to passivity and what science journalists can do to galvanize rather than traumatize readers. While journalists must alert the public of the climate crisis’ severity, they should avoid creating a too-late-to-help narrative. This thesis attempts to find a balance in the tones of intensity and optimism in environmental communications. The first chapter establishes climate change as human-caused before exploring the history of climate communications and its contributions to eco-anxiety. The second chapter looks at the use of emotional pleas in climate change reporting as found in fake climate change news and accurate environmental reporting. The third chapter looks at climate news through the framework of environmental economics, specifically how corporate interests influence media coverage. It will also establish a connection between capitalism and the downfall of local climate news. The fourth chapter discusses the failure of politicians to prevent media conglomeration and the impacts of political polarization on the reception of environmental communication. The fifth chapter identifies more effective journalistic practices and their effects on despair, using principles of environmental sociology and grassroots organizations as examples. It proposes policy recommendations that can help mitigate the adverse impacts of climate communications on readers’ mental health and makes recommendations for further study.

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