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The climate change media narratives in the global south


Since the early 1990s, virtually all developing countries have refused to adopt greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments in the name of fairness. In fact, the very suggestion that poorer nations limit their industrial growth has led to a hostile negotiating environment (2007). The absence of an effective global agreement that brings rich and poor nations together to protect the climate raises broad questions about the determinants of interstate cooperation related to transnational environmental threats (Detlef, 1994). Over the past 20 years, scholars have argued that outcomes in international environmental politics are shaped by material self-interest, bargaining power and the ability to strong-arm weaker states through more coercive forms of power (Victor, 2001).  The chapter offers a must-do conceptual and practical approach that could better explain and understand the global south as emerging markets in politics and media in covering climate change.


The world’s climate is changing and will continue to change at rates projected to be unprecedented in human history. The risks associated with these changes may exacerbate ongoing social and economic challenges, particularly for those parts of societies dependent on resources that are sensitive to changes in climate. Extreme climatic events such as heavy rainfall, high winds and hurricanes, storm tides and severe droughts present the greatest destructive forces as a result.

In May 2008; the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Takatoshi Kato, at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development pointed out that Africa is the most vulnerable to its effects with the expected increase in severe droughts and aggravated food shortages. Having said so, the chapter focuses on the countries on the global south that have more challenges as a result of their developing socio-political and economic settings, where this topic is presumed to receive less attention, interest and research concerning how media discourse addresses this global worming phenomenon, and the ways media narratives are drawn in addressing this global challenge.

This chapter addresses the close connection between global versus national identities when it comes to media coverage of climate change in the global south. Many times people from the North and sometimes from the south talk about this collective view of me versus them, but there is less emphasis on the different public spheres in the north and in the south.

The global south struggles when it comes to many issues and topics such as the global warming and climate change with the competing demands of difference and unity as they seek to reconstruct themselves in more humane and equitable ways. Far from disappearing, arguments about national belonging and cultural difference have had increased prominence in the 1990s. The dangers of exclusive or 'ethnic' nationalisms are graphically evident in the history of the twentieth century (Brown, 2001). However a simple retreat from nationalism into multiplicity, division and difference can be immensely disabling in contexts, such as in the case of media coverage of climate change.

This chapter attempts to analyse the different media narratives dealing with climate change in the nineteen countries with the aim of investigating the possibility of reconciling the demands of difference and national belonging. Here the hypothesis is on abolishment of the fiction of imagined unity, which is based on a mutual implication in a history of difference, which acknowledges local as well as global affiliations.

Theoretical Framework:

For at least the last two-and-a-half decades, critical theory in the humanities and social sciences has been concerned, amongst other things, with exploding the myths and actions of nationalist thought. Instead of the coherence of 'imagined communities', or even the unity of the individual subject, it emphasises the multiple, shifting, fragmented and often contradictory modes of identification that characterise what are referred to variously as the 'postmodern', 'postcolonial', ‘post-historical’ or ‘post-ideological’ conditions of the contemporary world.

The cornerstone of this section is to give attention to the issue of context that has begun to be clearly defined in the social sciences, what has been termed the "narrative turn" that rests in large part upon the understanding that story-telling of various kinds is fundamental to meaning, to knowledge, and to our own identities. Martin Kreiswirth said that it is obvious that in the last three decades thinking about stories has significantly been changed with an increased focus on theorising the narrative’s ontology, politics, epistemology, ideology, cognitive status, and disciplinarily.

Within the overarching theme of the relationship between power and narrative of climate change in the global south, there are a number of important sub-themes and are supported by conceptual frameworks that overlap and interweave, ultimately producing new perspectives on those themes.

The challenge is to go beyond the limitation of the traditional division of the North-South to that of South-South narratives to the notion of grand- or meta-narratives that seek to tell "the" story of "the South."

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