Climate change has been described as one of mankind’s greatest challenges to date (Moser, 2010), and in recent years there has been a shift in the way in which the public remain informed about this crucial issue, with 59% of Irish adults now relying on social media as their primary news source (Culloty, Cunningham, Suiter, & Mcnamara, 2018). As a result, it is vital that the information provided to the public is accurate, since a number of studies have reported that the news media plays an important role in the formation of attitudes and behaviour towards climate change (Svihla & Linn, 2012; Arlt, Hoppe and Wolling, 2011).
The aim of this study was to further investigate the relationship between social media and climate action, focusing on the exposure time to this news media and the content that is available through social networking sites, as well as the implications this may have on a person’s psychological barriers that hinder their willingness to take climate action. A total of 102 participants (36% males, 62% females, 2% others) completed the online survey consisting of three adapted likert scales; The Social Media Content Scale, The Social Networking Time Use Scale (Olufadi, 2016), and The Dragons of Inaction Psychological Barrier Scale (Lacroix, Gifford, & Chen, 2019).
The main finding was that the amount of climate related content viewed online could significantly predict whether participants would have fewer or more barriers preventing pro-environmental behaviours. However, the amount of time spend on social networking sites engaging with this content had no significant effect on the willingness to take climate action. In conclusion, the results strongly suggest that this form of news media has the potential to encourage or discourage climate action regardless of the amount of time spent online. It also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the public’s psychological barriers that hinder climate action, and not just the financial or infrastructural barriers.