Thesis subject

Climate change and promotion of adaptive health behavior: A visual media analysis

In the Netherlands, many people now perceive climate change as a risk, however, we are still not taking all the required action to stay below 1.5 degrees warming. The way how the media communicates about climate change might provide an answer to why people are not taking rapid climate action. Thus, gaining more insight into how the media frame climate change is important, also from a public health perspective.

Climate change may impact health in various ways, such as through extreme weather events including heat waves, drought, and flooding. Another threat consists of invasive insect species that bring zoonoses to new geographic regions, such as the tiger mosquito that is a vector for the transmission of many viral pathogens, including viruses causing yellow fever, dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever.

In order to devise public health campaigns that promote climate adaptive behavior, it is important to understand current communication of the health impacts of climate change in the media. Imagery can be very effective in getting the message across, evoke emotional responses, and stimulate behaviour change. However, effects of course rely on the extent to which visuals convey the need for change, as well as what type of adaptive behaviour is actually warranted. For example, if news articles about climate change and health are mostly accompanied with visuals of mosquitoes or forest fires, it is questionable whether this visual discourse is indeed effective. Therefore, the main research question could be: How do (cross-national) newspaper articles visually frame the relationship between climate change and health?

In this master thesis project, the student will collect and analyse visual discourse in newspapers. Based on the above outline, the student will write a research proposal that allows the student to create his/her own specific problem statement and research aim, as well as subsequent methodological choices. The master thesis student will be supervised by Dr Christel van Eck (UvA) and Dr Bob Mulder (WU).