9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Climate Change and the Public Building I, Auditório 4

Climate change: risk perceptions and mass media discourse configurations in Lithuania

This article aims at analyzing and comparing public opinion and mass-media discourse in Lithuania regarding the global issue of climate change. The empirical evidence presented in this article is based upon the representative public opinion survey as well as mass-media monitoring and content-analysis carried out in 2008. This is a part of the major three-year research project RINOVA Risk Perceptions, Public Communication and Innovative Governance in the Knowledge Society funded by the Lithuanian National Science Foundation.
As the results identify, the public discourse on climate change in Lithuania is prevailed by reproducing the kinds of knowledge and opinions that are shaped and disseminated by sources and channels abroad, often stretching to the most remote corners of the planet - socially and geographically. Hypothetically, this might lead to a "global village" conceptualization (McLuhan, 1962 and 1964), particularly of the ways in which the issues of climate change are being received, perceived, communicated and articulated in different countries like Lithuania. The ways of where, when and in which contexts messages regarding climate change are placed in Lithuanian mass media clearly indicate the tendency that global warming is at best an exotic theme reaching "local village" of Lithuanian mass-audience from abroad, rather than becoming a socially internalized issue. Climate change remains a minor issue of concern both in public perceptions and in mass media discourse. Why the key issue climate change is penetrating so slowly the "local village" consciousness of Lithuanian society? Why the messages of global warming are channeled in Lithuanian mass media only as an addition to commixes, ads and other leisure rubrics, and thereby add to the social construction (or rather destruction) of societal environmental awareness? These and other research questions are addressed in this paper, pointing to the interpretation of the state of society as undergoing a "double-risk" (Rinkevicius, 2000) phase of its development to use the well-known risk-society theory (Beck, 1992) in the light of contemporary issues that the countries in a "global village" are facing.