Sea Change: COMS Professor Explores How South Pacific Islanders Are Using Social Media To Raise Alarms About Climate Change

May 17, 2019
Liz Burch Photo

Dr. Elizabeth Burch will be presenting her article, "A Sea Change for 'Climate Change Refugees': How Social Media, Not Journalism, Tells Their Real Story" at the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) in Paris, France, this summer.


Burch began collecting data for the study during her sabbatical, which she took during the height of cyclone season so she could interview social media experts living through the effects of climate change in the remote South Pacific island nations of Fiji and Tuvalu.


"I found that islanders wanted the world to know they were resilient and would fight global warming in all ways possible," Burch said. "That included using social media to tell their stories."


The study posits that without a commitment from the press to cover the facts on climate change, audiences may and probably will use social media instead to bypass the struggling industry all together.


"My current objective is to inspire journalism educators to double down on teaching the ethical value of accuracy in order to improve coverage of those people most vulnerable to the negative consequences of global warming," Burch said.