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Ogmius Newsletter

research highlight


This Research Highlight describes the work of Gesa Lüdecke, a Ph.D. student at the Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany, who visited the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research last semester. Gesa’s research examines the impact of TV coverage of climate change issues on “climate-related responsible behavior” among German adolescents.

Gesa studied Environmental Sciences with an emphasis on informal learning, sustainable development, and media communication. After graduating she worked on an EU co-financed multinational project concerning coastal flood and erosion management between coastal management authorities in five North Sea countries (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and United Kingdom), focusing on developing a communication strategy for the coastal population in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

Gesa Lüdecke

Media and Climate-Related Responsible Behavior
by Gesa Lüdecke

This research has explored how television programs that focus on climate change issues have impacted German teenagers’ actions regarding climate protection (so called “climate-related responsible behavior”). The work will be completed in September 2011. As climate change has emerged as a critical 21st century challenge, public discussions in Germany have focused on achieving a fundamental transformation of the relationship between society and the environment. Besides political/governmental adaptation or mitigation strategies to tackle global warming (e.g. technological innovations), significant transformations at the individual level have also been deliberated.


In this work, individuals have indicated a willingness to tackle climate change. However, an absence of incentives in Germany has made the gap between awareness, intended behavior and action-related behavior highly visible. In this context, incentives for action have been deemed necessary to encourage active sustainable behavior.

Public discourses on climate change in Germany have taken place significantly through the media, and have supported the individual as well as societal formation of beliefs and attitudes toward climate change. In this context, television has been the primary medium to gather information. With origins in media socialization literatures, this research has interrogated how television has carried, contested and communicated normative and cultural values of young adults, as deeply linked to their social reference systems (“peer-group”).

In this context, this research pursued questions such as the following: What is the significant role that television plays as the mainly used mass medium (in Germany) in forming public opinion, particularly among adolescents? How has it fostered or impeded individual climate-related responsible behavior? Concerning young adults, what is the role of interpersonal communication, social norms or group dynamics in the individual’s rethinking and redefining of values, opinions, and attitudes, and in taking action regarding climate protection?

Numerous studies on climate change in the media have asked if and how issues like environment, sustainability, and climate change have been represented in the media. Other studies have dealt with the question of media genesis of climate change over the past three decades and how the issues have been framed in media broadcasting. Largely, there has been a focus on print media, and television research has scarcely been considered in that context. In addition, little thought has been given to behavioral intent and patterns for climate protection and the connection with media use.

Therefore, this project has examined what influence media have had on people’s behavior concerning climate issues. This has been particularly important in terms of public broadcasting in Germany that has an educational mandate to inform and educate people about climate change and climate protection issues.

This research has included a content analysis of a significant selection of television broadcasting about climate change, as well as interviews with teenagers. This empirical approach has sought to, first, disclose television’s way of telling the public about climate change, and second, to understand teenagers’ appraisal of the relevance of television formats on climate change, considering their own predisposition to climate-related responsible behavior.

Gesa Lüdecke