University of Twente Student Theses


Sea Level Rise in New Zealand and Dutch News : A comparative study of representations of sea level rise in online news articles from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Calder, Hunter (2022) Sea Level Rise in New Zealand and Dutch News : A comparative study of representations of sea level rise in online news articles from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Netherlands.

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Abstract:Aotearoa New Zealand and the Netherlands are developed nations exposed to the risk of sea level rise. The science and impacts are well-known and well-reported with the media having an instrumental role in the knowledge dissemination and public comprehension of sea-level rise science. Yet, there is a limited understanding of how the media represent sea level rise and how this differs between countries. This research analyses online news articles from New Zealand and the Netherlands, to build an understanding of the sea level rise narrative and to identify key frames and topics in the discourse of the two nations. Additionally, this study observes the presence of solutions to sea level rise in the news and if the reporting of resolutions adheres to solutions journalism characteristics. This qualitative media analysis includes 160 news articles, published between January 2021 and June 2022. The results of the study pinpoint several reoccurring frames and topics in the discourse of both nations, notably sea level rise impacts, planning for sea level rise adaptation, climate politics and supporting scientific evidence confirming the occurrence of sea level rise. The type of sea level rise impacts differed between countries with impacts to property more prominent in New Zealand news discourse while infrastructure and environmental impacts were observed more in the Dutch discourse. Differences were also observed with the Dutch articles referencing sea level rise causes and flood protection more often than the New Zealand articles. Stakeholder differences were also noted. Dutch news discourse frequently cited environmental and science experts, but rarely other stakeholder types. New Zealand articles consistently cited a variety of stakeholders in its sea level rise reporting including public, governmental, and expert stakeholders. The study found specialist climate journalists cover sea level rise in both countries, but suggests they authored more articles in New Zealand while Dutch news discourse relied more on environmental expertise in its reporting. Solutions to sea level rise were observed too, more often in the Dutch articles. Proposed solutions reflected an idea of ecomodernism or remedies that rely upon technological or engineering innovations to reduce the impact of the rising seawater. However, solutions journalism characteristics were not consistently found in either country. Suggestions are made for journalism professionals to critique their reporting practice regarding sea level rise and proceed with caution in reporting that implies the issue can be solved through adaption and human ingenuity alone. It is recommended for the communication of sea level rise and climate change in the news to move beyond the goal of just increasing issue awareness. The media could have a more progressive and solutions-oriented approach that encourages the public to engage in adaptive, mitigating and sustainable actions to reduce both causes of and consequences of sea level rise. The media have a responsibility in framing sea level rise and climate change in a manner that positively encourages action in society to contribute to holistic care and protection of the planet.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:01 general works, 02 science and culture in general, 05 communication studies, 43 environmental science
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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