Fear of natural catastrophes among German citizens has dwindled over the past 10 years. Back in 2007, just on the heels of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – the peak of the global warming scare – natural catastrophes took second place among the ranking of top fears for Germans.
Today ten years later in 2017 natural catastrophes are not even in the top three according to German ARD public television, which cited a study by R+V Insurances:
Chart source: R + V Versicherungen, via ARD German television screenshot.
Ranking in the top three are 1) terrorism, 2) political extremism and 3) tensions concerning the influx of foreigners.
South German SWR public broadcasting here cites the R + V study and writes that this year 56% of those surveyed said they feared “natural catastrophes”, putting that factor in fourth place in the ranking. A variety of other social and economic issues followed closely behind.
The ranking of fears is strongly linked to what issue happens to be dominating the news cycle at the time surveys are conducted. Coverage of climate and natural disasters comes and goes in cycles, and at times disappears for weeks or months from the German media radar.
Recently the Atlantic hurricane season was the top stories in the news, and so a survey done last week would have reflected a greater fear of natural disasters. But once the hurricane season dies out later this fall and the La Nina-induced fall of global temperatures starts to happen, the media of course will go to other bad news to feature.
Made-up news: Ice-free Arctic!
This year there has not been any record ice melt, and global temperatures have in fact begun to ease off. There really isn’t much left out there to report. And when facts aren’t there, some even make them up. For example just before its prime time 8 p.m. news, meteorologist Karsten Schwanke of flagship ARD German television announced on 15 September 2017 that the northeast and northwest passages of the Arctic were ice-free, which is a flat out lie:
No ice-free Arctic passages this year, according to the National Snow and Ice data Center (NSIDC). See details here.
Little wonder that most Germans harbour irrational fears of climate change.
Fear a function of media coverage, not observation
German fear of climate and natural disasters is not really related to real world observations made by citizens, but largely depends on media coverage. When media cover it, or make it up, they get afraid. When they don’t cover it, the fear disappears.
Obviously there’s risk involved in the media featuring climate and natural disasters constantly, namely people would simply tune it out. So the German media instead focusses only the major natural disasters, always trying not to overdo it but to keep it at a level that keeps the fear alive.
Keeping fear at high levels is a very tough and challenging job, especially when reports of growing doom don’t match real life observations, or when the reports are organized propaganda.