#globalwarming: Tweets and what they tell us about people’s responses to global warming

Social media is a large part of the way people in developed societies live today. It’s instantaneous publishing and allowance for people to interact away from each other (and behind the security of their screens) has in turn created a platform for freer speech and opinions to be heard. Social media, therefore, can allow us to access the opinions and ideologies of the general populace, giving us further insight into the concerns and perspectives of situations and issues.

“Things that scare me:

1. global warming

2. 1

3. 2”

— Sydney 2016

Twitter, in this instance, has been utilised to research how the everyday person feels about the issue of climate change. This social media platform was chosen as it favours text as a form of communication rather than images, and is often used by individuals to voice their thoughts, allowing for more user-centred results. In the advanced search feature, the parameters of posts with the keywords ‘global warming’ and ‘Sydney’ from anywhere within Australia were set, allowing me to gain targeted findings about the location of Sydney in regards to climate change and the general thinking tied to this place. Some of the results of this web–scraping are seen below:

 

Blog6_TwitterResults
A snapshot of posts made from Australia between January 2016 and August 2016 about global warming in Sydney.

 

Many of these posts shared a similar focus on the climate of Sydney, which is especially evident when analysing the frequency of terms used:

Blog6_TopWords-01
Most frequently used words in collated Twitter posts on global warming in Sydney.

 

“Never ending summer here in Sydney.
Onya global warming!”

— Itchie Feet 2016

What is surprising, though, is that 10% of these posts hold the position that global warming is a good thing as it gives Sydney a never–ending summer. At the same time, this clear change in living conditions for Sydney residents has allowed for recognition that global warming is at play.

“Stupid Sydney winter. At home wearing just a pair of shorts. Maybe this whole global warming thing is legit?”

— Lord of the Dance 2016

Looking at these Twitter posts, it has become clear that the everyday person is more often not concerned with the bigger picture of climate change; rather, they are more focused on the aspects of climate change that are directly affecting them now. Indeed, it can be inferred from these posts that people need to be personally experiencing the change to believe that global warming is real.

 

What does Global Warming mean to the public?

When I first began my Twitter search, the phrase ‘climate change’ was input, but later had to be changed to ‘global warming’ when it didn’t return any results. This was a finding in itself, as it demonstrated how people understand the issue of climate change as being the earth’s temperature rising, as opposed to the environments changing (not just warming up). A breakdown of these posts is supplied below, identifying what people consider to be the effects of global warming:

Blog6_GlobalWarmingMeans-02
Visualisation of what Sydney twitter posters regard as the effects of global warming.

 

This also suggests that the most important facet that people would most likely want to address is the warmer weather.

 

Reference List

Feet, I. 2016, ‘Never ending summer here in Sydney. Onya global warming!’, Twitter post, 9 May, viewed 31 August 2016, < https://twitter.com/itcheefeet/status/729862608308834304>.

Lord of the Dance 2016, ‘Stupid Sydney winter. At home wearing just a pair of shorts. Maybe this whole global warming thing is legit’, Twitter post, 17 July, viewed 31 August 2016, < https://twitter.com/trashyhonky/status/754873757072633861&gt;.

Sydney 2016, ‘things that scare me: 1. global warming 2. 1 3. 2’, Twitter post, 13 August, viewed 31 August 2016, < https://twitter.com/alchxmvst/status/764685609101357056>.

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