By Chris Eberhardt
When asked what Chinese youth think of when they hear the words climate change (气候变化), common answers included rising temperatures and sea levels, the disappearance of island nations, or that the winters in his or her hometown were getting warmer.
In response to an online Chinese language survey I conducted in 2011, Chinese youth to varying extents checked twenty different sources of information. The most common ways that Chinese youth learned about (宋体) climate change were through television, physical experience, and newspapers, followed by class lessons, the radio and magazines.
Yet in addition to the messages for the masses like television and required environmental education, as Chinese youth face and prepare to face social issues found in the US and Europe, they are learning about climate change through small spaces like club meetings, and at times are being told to change their behavior without climate change ever being mentioned.
The release of the 2007 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was significant in changing the coverage of climate change in the media, as a relationship between human activity and climate change was more explicitly made.
Yet the coverage is hampered by journalists who often struggle with both scientific and national identity challenges. Journalists do not have a background in climate studies nor do they always feel comfortable with the international pressure on their homeland amid international call for China to do more towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In interviews, it was clear that Chinese youth were aware of the international pressure, having viewed and listened to the coverage of the annual UN Conference of Parties (COP) by state and private media, including one of the world's largest social networks QQ. When one is not viewing or listening to the news, there are resources available for the curious mind. Browsing through the multi-story Xidan bookstore near Tiananmen Square, Chinese readers had the ability to learn about the science of climate change and what one could change in his or her life.