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German Climate Skeptics and the News Media


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This was Markus Rhomberg's and mine presentation at ECREA 2012 in Istabul. Also: I promise the meme made sense at the time. Well, somehow, kinda.

This was Markus Rhomberg's and mine presentation at ECREA 2012 in Istabul. Also: I promise the meme made sense at the time. Well, somehow, kinda.

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  • 1. German Climate Skeptics and the News Media A Discourse Analysis on Issues, Positions and the Specifics of these AgentsJonas Kaiser, Markus RhombergECREA 2012 Istanbul | Panel: Science and Environment Communication
  • 2. Where to start? 1. Diagnosis & Theoretical Overview 2. Who is a climate change skeptic? 3. Research Questions 4. Methodology 5. Preliminary Results 6. Where do we go from here?2 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 3. Diagnosis & Theoretical Overview - Opinion research: skeptical minority in Germany (~30%, especially young people, various studies) - However: traditional news media does not seem to represent this minority Two main reasons for climate change skepticism: - Uncertainty (Stehr & von Storch 1995, 2009; Funtowicz & Ravetz 1994; Weingart, Engels & Pansegrau 2002; Rhomberg 2010 / Shehata & Hopman 2012 found no scientific uncertainty frames) - Ideology (Carvalho 2007; Whitmarsh 2011; McCright 2009; Zia & Todd 2010)3 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 4. Who is a climate change skeptic? Working Hypothesis Someone who is skeptical about the causes and impacts of climate change as well as who questions climate science and climate policy.4 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 5. Research Questions - Are there skeptical frames within the news media„s climate change reporting? - And if so: - Who are the actors? - What messages do they convey? - How are these frame evaluated? - Are there specific discourse coalitions?5 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 6. Methodology - Discourse Analysis of the German news media„s reporting on climate change (Gamson & Modigliani 1989; Ferree et al. 2002; O‟Mahony & Schäfer 2005) - „Critical Discourse Moments“ (Carvalho & Burgess 2005: 1466): COP 17 Durban; Rio+ 20; COP 18 Doha (4 week period) - Durban: ~402 articles from 19 media sources - Print Sources: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, die tageszeitung, Handelsblatt, Spiegel, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Welt am Sonntag, Bild am Sonntag, Bild - Online Sources:,,,,,,, Bild.de6 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 7. 7 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 8. Preliminary Results Skeptical Clusters: - Climate Change skepticism - Denial (“Republicans call climate change a hoax”) - Causes (“As long as the paradigm of human induced climate change predominates – which is the case despite of rising scientific doubt“) - Impacts (“But will global warming lead to a disaster? The end of the world seems to be delayed”)8 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 9. Preliminary Results Skeptical Clusters: - Climate science skepticism - Politicization (“Additionally, most damaging to climate science was that it got used by politics, many scientists complain”) - Uncertainty (“The actual message is: We simply do not know enough about most disasters in order to say something about their development”) - Alarmism (“A cultivated climate alarmism may revert to fatalism”) - Conspiracy (“The goals of a worldwide regime are missed regularly but one thing got accomplished: the critics of a doomsday-catastrophism are publically as good as muzzled”)9 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 10. Preliminary Results Other Clusters: - Economy (“The economy is not allowed to suffer.”) - Politics (“Politics for itself won‟t find trendsetting solutions”) - Ethics (“Canada feels obliged to fight climate change as long as it is fair for all countries”) - Culture (“the energy hungry American Way of Life is getting more popular despite the ecologic problems and thus more ecologic friendly ways of life are getting pushed back”) - Science (“The danger of climate change is that it is hard to grasp. No one knows when, how and if its consequences will have an impact on him or her”)10 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 11. Preliminary Results I. Climate change skepticism in the German news media„s reporting does exist but is very rare II. Most of the clusters we found focused on the problems of climate policy or why it is hard to reinforce international and national rules III. We propose the dominance of the defeatism frame in the German news media‟s reporting11 © ZU | 2012-07
  • 12. Where do we go from here? I. Applying the established clusters & frames to Facebook, Google Plus, Weblogs and Twitter (statements aggregated by TNS Opinion) II. Comparison of traditional news media and social media III. Expert interviews with journalists and actors from the Social Media sphere (Top 5) @JonasKaiser12 © ZU | 2012-07