As the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement demonstrates, the agreement is not a binding contract requiring countries to act on climate change. In fact, given the fact that the emissions pledges in the agreement were voluntary, political and civic engagement will play an important role in ensuring that governments keep to their pledges.
So, did the widespread media coverage of COP21 negotiations in Paris make any headway toward achieving this kind of civic engagement with climate policy? According to a paper in this week’s Nature Climate Change, it seems as though coverage may have done the opposite. People’s understanding of the issues at stake improved slightly over the course of the conference, but not much changed in their sense of personal or national responsibility. If anything, the authors write, “this global media event had a modest appeasing rather than mobilizing effect.”
A team of economists, psychologists, and media researchers in Germany used the opportunity of COP21 to study how a media event of this kind might shape individual thinking about an important political issue like climate change. Michael Brüggemann and his colleagues conducted a three-part survey, asking the same group of people in Germany a series of questions about climate change before, during, and after COP21.