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From Copenhagen to Paris: Talking Campaigner, Talking Skeptic

By admin on December 9, 2015

As the UN climate conference in Paris nears it’s climax it is important to consider how the way we talk about climate change has influenced the lead up to the talks and also how we can influence what happens afterwards.

Climate Outreach conducted the only UK-wide in-depth research on public attitudes towards COP21 and how to engage people in the UN process and events following on from the talks. We’ve also collaborated with Christel van Eck, a graduate student in Applied Communication Science at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on a research project focusing on how the ‘discourse’ on climate change blogs has changed between the last major milestone in climate change negotiations (in Copenhagen, 2009) and the Paris talks.

Here, Christel describes the purpose and aim of the research:

“With the climate negotiations in Paris, different voices are gradually speaking out again about climate change. Take for example Donald Trump or the Pope…

Although the fifth assessment report of the IPCC was clearer than ever that global warming can be attributed to human activities, the debate continues. Not so much in the academic domain, but more in the public sphere by (for example) economists, journalists or politicians. It is remarkable that despite the overwhelming amount of evidence, many people still have the impression that there is confusion and disagreement among climate scientists.

Different meanings are constructed around climate change, which each result in different discourses. Discourse can be understood as a shared way of apprehending the world. It focuses on the various structures and strategies of text or talk and put these in the social/political context. What is particularly interesting about discourse analysis, is that it inherently holds the notion that different meanings can be constructed, like different meanings are socially constructed about climate change These discourses will be investigated in my research. It will focus on discourses between climate skeptics and climate campaigners in the UK climate blogosphere.

The blogosphere is a public space where especially climate skeptics frequently articulate themselves. I expect that climate skeptics construct a discourse in which the natural assumptions of climate change are questioned, whereas the climate campaigners construct a discourse that is more focused on adaptation and mitigation. Other expectations I have relate for example to how the different key actors are portrayed. I expect that the climate skeptics portray the climate scientists as villains, while climate campaigners will portray the scientists as heroes.

Given the moment of time, the current research is focused on how discourses have changed over time between COP15 in Copenhagen and COP21 in Paris. It will contribute to our understanding on how discourses are constructed and can be influenced in the future.”       

Christel van Eck is a graduate student Applied Communication Science at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. She is mostly interested in what the role of communication is in the science/policy interface of climate change.

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