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Evaluating Popular vs. Scholarly Presentations of Global Climate Change sample essay

There is a very clear distinction in the presentation of material on climate change between the popular and scholarly sources. The popular source tends to present a more emotion-driven content that primarily appeals to a politically motivated side of the issue. For example, the emphasis of the article in the L.A. times emphasize “an iceless Arctic summer” and “suffering Polar bears” which gives the impression that climate change is something extremely detrimental. The popular media podcast takes this political route to a higher level, by directly linking these dangers to administrative policies done by government.
What is clear about the popular article is that climate change is a very bad thing, what is clear in the subsequent podcast is that there are people responsible for it. What is not so clear though is how apparent the evidences are to these supposed grave detriments. The article attempted to substantiate this initially by citing that half of their models says so without really explaining why half of 15 models saying so is good enough. They even used this opinion from one person saying that “You have to fly a lot longer to get to the ice edge than you used to,” which is fairly unscientific and not reliable at all.

The scholarly article and its subsequent podcast both present hard facts regarding climate change and its possible effects. There is a uniform level of clarity regarding the subtopics that they present backed up by objective data such as charts on carbon emissions vis-à-vis global warming stats following the same time-span. This presents a clear view of the extent of damage caused by carbon emissions. What is a bit lacking is content on the social relevance of the objective findings, which I don’t think I can expect from the material in the first place since delving into such contexts would already have a subjective inkling.
I think the writers/directors of the popular sources aim to make readers sympathetic to their cause and consequently, to their political agenda. On the other hand, the authors/directors of the scholarly journal and podcast aim to present unbiased information which might hopefully spur other researchers into action towards verification or further development of their current work.
I think the way global climate change is presented in the popular sources makes us more afraid of the event. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since even the scholarly sources point out that there are significant possible detriments, but being overly afraid because of sensationalized news might not evoke the best thought-of response from the reader/listener. On the other hand, the scholarly sources are not very exciting to read or listen to, which may be a barrier if you’re not really into all the science stuff but you want to learn more about helping the environment.
What’s good about popular sources is that they know what people like and how people like to hear news. They can get readers and listeners to be more interested in topics. Scholarly sources although bland in style present the actual facts and objective data that people who might have been social awoken by popular sources might want to look into. In this way, I can see a synergistic aspect between the two models.
One danger is causing unnecessary panic, or making people unjustifiably angry against certain entities like the government instead of realizing the problem and working on it. I think directors have to maintain a certain decency of not going overboard with the sensationalism and being as objective as they can be.
Perhaps all the scientific journals need is just a bit more style in the presentation, a more layman way of talking about all the scientific details. Also, better visual representation by the use of computer animation may make objective studies a lot easier to sit through and understand.

Sources:

Zarembo, A. (2007). Forecast: an iceless Arctic summer. Los Angeles Times. Mar 16, 2007. pg. A.32

Phoenix, G. & Lee, J. (2004) Predicting impacts of Arctic climate change: Past lessons and future challenges. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK

Scientific podcast. Retrieved April 28, 2007 from: http://www.exploratorium.edu/poles/climate.php

Popular media podcast. Retrieved April 28, 2007 from: http://a.abcnews.com/podcast/050726blakemore3.mp3

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