Environmental Communication A Journal of Nature and Culture

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Online ISSN: 1752-4032
Publications
Article
This article examines discourses associated with a new environmental movement, “Carbon Rationing Action Groups” (CRAGs). This case study is intended to contribute to a wider investigation of the emergence of a new type of language used to debate climate change mitigation. Advice on how to reduce one's “carbon footprint,” for example, is provided almost daily. Much of this advice is framed by the use of metaphors and “carbon compounds”—lexical combinations of at least two roots—such as “carbon finance” or “low carbon diet.” The study uses a combination of tools from frame analysis and lexical pragmatics within the general framework of ecolinguistics to compare and contrast language use on the CRAGs' website with press coverage reporting on them. The analysis shows how the use of such lexical carbon compounds enables and facilitates different types of metaphorical frames such as dieting, finance and tax paying, war time rationing, and religious imperatives in the two corpora.
 
Article
Individual and collective efforts to mitigate climate change in the form of carbon offsetting and emissions trading schemes have recently become the focus of much media attention. In this paper we explore a subset of the UK national press coverage centered on such schemes. The articles, selected from general as well as specialized business and finance newspapers, make use of gold rush, Wild West and cowboy imagery which is rooted in deeply entrenched myths and metaphors and allows readers to make sense of very complex environmental, political, ethical, and financial issues associated with carbon mitigation. They make what appears complicated and unfamiliar, namely carbon trading and offsetting, seem less complex and more familiar. A critical discussion of this type of imagery is necessary in order to uncover and question tacit assumptions and connotations which are built into it and which might otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged in environmental communication.
 
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic emerged against the backdrop of the longer-term climate change crisis and increasing global awareness of the imperative for climate action, disrupting the post-Paris trajectory of climate policy and media coverage of climate change. We examine news media coverage from Canadian legacy newspapers and answer three questions. First, did the COVID-19 pandemic work as a critical event in its impacts on news media coverage of climate change, and if so, in what ways? Second, did media framing of climate change shift in response to this critical event, and if so, in what ways? Third, are there notable differences between national and subnational media frames? We find that COVID-19 is a critical event linked to a period of reduced media coverage of climate change. However, this critical event also opened new spaces for news framing that connects environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability.
 
Article
Previous research has found that social media may be a particularly influential means of circulating ideologies about climate justice. In this article, we analyze social media discourses of universal human responsibility for pollution and ecosystem destruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, epitomized by the viral hashtag #WeAreTheVirus. We then examine three types of counterdiscourses that oppose misinformation and false universalization of human responsibility. These counterdiscourses include: (1) metadiscourses of ecofascism and racial injustice, (2) counterslogans that ascribe responsibility to systemic injustice rather than individual humans (e.g. “Capitalism is the virus,” “The system is the virus”), and (3) memes that parody the #WeAreTheVirus discourses (as in the sarcastic phrase “Nature is healing, we are the virus”). We demonstrate that the former two nonparodic counterdiscourses emerged in part in the comments of #WeAreTheVirus Tweets, while the parodic memes emerged in separate Tweets, which were a site of shared humor rather than controversy. We further demonstrate that, while both #WeAreTheVirus discourses and counterdiscourses have occurred relatively rarely since their period of virality and have broadened to a range of domains outside of human-environment interaction, counterdiscourses have nevertheless had a wide-ranging impact, increasing metadiscourses of ecofascism and permeating material landscapes through graffiti and signage.
 
Top: Daily number of articles in the Swiss news media about COVID-19 and climate change. Middle: Daily number of tweets in the Swiss Twitter-sphere about COVID-19 and climate change. Bottom: Scaled volume for daily volume of articles and tweets about climate change
Article
Issues continuously compete for attention in the news media and on social media. Climate change is one of the most urgent problems for society and (re)gained wide public attention in 2019 through the global climate strike protest movement. However, we hypothesize that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 challenged the role of climate change as a routine issue. We use extensive news media and Twitter data to explore if and how the pandemic as a so-called killer issue has shifted public attention away from the issue of climate change in Switzerland. Results show that the climate debate fell victim to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the news media and the Twitter-sphere. Given the vast dominance of the pandemic, there is a strong indication this finding applies similarly to various other issues. Additional hashtag co-occurrence analysis shows that some climate activists react to this development and try to connect the issue of climate change to the pandemic. We argue that suppression of climate change by the pandemic is a problem for its long-term resolution, as it seems to have turned climate change back into a struggling issue.
 
Article
Over one billion people worldwide were under social isolation restrictions between April and May 2020. While humans felt the weight of being isolated under lockdown, nonhuman animals accustomed to continuous human connection had minimized exposure at different animal tourism sites and institutions – such as zoos and aquariums. One interesting case comes from garden eels, which according to their caretakers, were particularly susceptible to isolation from humans and required immediate action: Facetime calls with humans. In this research insight, I explore the new technologically mediated humanimal communication practice between humans and garden eels at the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan. “Remembering humans” is explored as a humanature cultural discourse that emerged from humanity’s social distancing phenomena, seemingly bridging humanature connection amidst the multitude of discourses that removed humanity from nature. This discourse also functions within a form of tourist gaze in tourism institutions. Even though small in scope, this cultural discourse analysis brings to surface one way we have discursively engaged with our solitude during quarantine: mirroring it on more-than-human animals’ experiences. Further investigations about this, and other humanature emerging communication practices, are needed to better understand how the social isolation phenomena impacted communication meanings about humanature relations.
 
Article
This paper asks why the extreme real-world weather events of the summer of 1988 created a social scare in the USA while the comparable weather impacts of 2012 did not. It uses these two summers to exemplify the importance of the broader context surrounding the media. The key background factors are: the dominant issue culture in which the media function; grassroots environmental social movements; and both political and scientific claims-making on climate change. The paper seeks to show that these factors affected reporting opportunities related to the formation of reproducing stories and the (investigative) stance assumed by the media.
 
Article
Climate change and imagined futures are intricately linked, discussed by policy-makers and reported in the media. In this article we focus on the construction of future expectations in the press coverage of the 1992 and 2012 United Nations conferences in Rio de Janeiro in British and Dutch national newspapers. We use a novel combination of methods, semantic co-word networks and metaphor analysis, to study imagined futures. Our findings show that between 1992 and 2012 there was an overall shift from future-oriented hope to past-oriented disappointment regarding implementing international agreements on climate change policy, but with subtle and interesting differences between the UK and The Netherlands. Certain national differences seem to be stable over time and are indicative of rather dissimilar policy cultures in two nations which are geographically quite close.
 
Tone of reporting over time. Source: Own presentation based on dataset.
Intensity of reporting over time in the general press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.
Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on food, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results. Intensity of reporting over time in the agricultural press on consumer issues, indicating breakpoints in the debate. Source: Own presentation based on results.
Article
This paper presents a longitudinal study of the debate on GMO in the Swedish media, comparing coverage of the topic in the general press and agricultural press. We studied 1399 articles about GMO in food and agriculture published between 1994 and 2018 in Sweden’s daily and evening newspapers and agricultural publications. A combination of content analysis and statistical simulation techniques was used to identify structural breaks in the dataset and contribute understanding about how the debate shifted over time. Particular attention was paid to issues of importance to farmers in the Swedish media discourse. Our findings indicate that the debate was most intense in the mid-1990s, after which the frequency of reporting on GMOs declined overall and the debate steadily became less negative. Farmers’ perspectives were given more attention than expected in the general media but, surprisingly, smallholder farming and food security in the Global South, which has been central to global and elite debates on GMO, did not appear to substantially affect media discourses in Sweden.
 
Distribution of the PD reports containing "climate change" or "global warming" (1995-2018, N = 7379) and climate change reports during COPs (COP1-24, N = 550).
Percentage of sustainability ideas in the PD climate reports in three periods respectively (N = 550).
Percentage of news frames in the PD climate reports in three periods respectively (N = 550).
Article
This study explores the evolution of the climate discourses of China’s flagship party paper People’s Daily. Climate reports during COP1-24 (1995–2018) are analyzed in terms of the underlying development ideas and framings of climate change. It is found that climate change received increasing attention, with the years 2007 and 2015 representing two historical hallmarks of reporting. In tandem, the official discourses underwent noticeable shifts, treating climate action no longer as a hindrance to economic growth, but an opportunity for healthier and more sustainable economic development. What remained unchanged was the persistent emphasis on economic growth, the resort to technology as an ultimate solution, and the attribution of most responsibilities to the developed countries. The findings suggest that China’s approach to addressing climate change fits in with the development trajectory of an authoritarian emerging economy.
 
The share of climate change media coverage in Times of India and Hindu from 1997 to 2016.
Absolute occurrences by overarching theme.
Percentage of total coverage by overarching theme. Note: Percentages do not sum up to 100% due to the omission of background topics.
Themes and topics within climate change coverage in India, N = 18,244.
Article
News media play an important role for public awareness and perception of climate change – and thus citizens’ behavior. Few studies focus on media coverage in poor and developing countries such as India – the third-largest polluter and an important player in global climate change policies. Further, even these few studies on Indian media coverage span short time periods, focus on specific events, and evaluate pre-defined themes. Applying LDA topic modeling on 18,224 climate change articles published between 1997 and 2016 in two Indian newspapers, we find that climate change coverage in India has increased substantially in the last 20 years. We categorized the coverage into 28 different topics related to four overarching themes: “Climate Change Impacts”, “Climate Science”, “Climate Politics”, and “Climate Change and Society”. Climate change has gained more media attention since 2007 in general with a particular increase in focus on the theme “Climate Change Impacts”. Implications about shifting media discourses and its potential to educate people and change policies are discussed.
 
Article
Australian media reporting of climate change and renewable energy, along with public perceptions of the science and solutions of climate change, have shifted in ways that have increased pressure on politicians and policy makers. With the promotion of renewable energy central to ending Australia's heavy reliance on fossil fuels, it is critical to understand how this complex intersection of media and politics is evolving with regard to Australia's renewable energy options. Therefore, this paper examines Australian newspaper reporting of a pivotal moment in Australia's renewable energy discourse: the Australian Government's announcement, in March 2017 to expand the seventy-year-old Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme (known as Snowy 2.0), which marked a turning point in conservative energy policy. Qualitative content analysis reveals that, while political discourse delimited newspaper narratives, the sentiment of the framing was most strongly associated with the partisan alignment of the publishing organization. Regional influences also had a minor association with the framing of renewable energy. Through close analysis of this decisive moment in Australian media's political representation of renewable energy, this paper offers insights that can be used to inform media strategies for renewable energy policy in Australia, and to track changes in framing over time.
 
Article
This paper's aim is to identify the debate and document the coverage of climate change (CC) in the Greek national press and to assess to what extent this reporting exhibits the traits anticipated by the “polarized pluralist” character of the Greek “media system.” In order to do this, we analyzed articles published in three Greek quality newspapers (Kathimerini, Ta NEA, and Eleftherotypia) over the period 2001–2008 (N =2072). Our findings suggest a mixed picture: the Greek media debate is characterized by consensus on the anthropogenic causes of CC and on the promotion of renewable energy sources as a means for tackling Greek CC-related emissions. However when examining more specific/controversial CC-policy decisions, there is less evidence supporting a close link with the national character of Greek media reporting, with newspapers appearing to align themselves along partisan lines.
 
Article
While materialist ecofeminism is arguably more transversal than social ecology or deep ecology, its transversality has historically been limited by its eschewal of technicism, which has reduced the range of domains it has been able to work across. This orientation is also mirrored in certain variants of ecofeminist film criticism, which accordingly prioritize thematic over formal considerations. However, reflections of materialist ecofeminism can also be found in the formal features of an emerging minor tradition of nature documentary that includes Winged Migration, and this article explores this issue with a view to augmenting the ambit of ecofeminist film criticism, and correlatively the transversal parameters of materialist ecofeminism itself.
 
Article
This article considers the format and cultural politics of the hugely successful UK television program Top Gear (BBC 2002–2015). It analyzes how—through its presenting team—it constructed an informal address predicated around anti-authoritarian or contrarian banter and protest masculinity. Regular targets for Top Gear presenter’s protest—curtailed by broadcast guidelines in terms of gender and ethnicity—are deflected onto the “soft” targets of government legislation on environmental issues or various forms of regulation “red tape. Repeated references to speed cameras, central London congestion charges and “excessive” signage are all anti-authoritarian, libertarian discourses delivered through a comedic form of performance address. Thus, the BBC’s primary response to complaints made about this program was to defend the program’s political views as being part of the humor. The article draws on critical discourse analysis and conversation analysis to consider how the program licensed a particular form of engagement that helped it to deflect criticisms, and considers the limits to such discursive positioning. We conclude by examining the controversies that finally led, in 2015, to the removal of the main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, and the ending of this version of the program through the departure of the team to an on-demand online television service.
 
Article
As a device of argumentative anticipation, prolepsis use generally is considered a positive rhetorical strategy. Turning to the Climate Stewardship Act (CSA) of 2003, this article contributes to our understanding of environmental communication, political argumentation, and rhetorical theory by examining how proleptic miscalculation can actually produce devastating consequences against one's cause when used as a source of invention. Proponents of the CSA relied on creating proleptic arguments grounded in a scientific understanding of climate change to such an extent that they mistakenly downplayed the economic arguments against the Act. This orchestrated miscalculation was encouraged and strengthened by key US senators. This article concludes by discussing contributions to scholarly understanding of prolepsis use in public policymaking and offers practical suggestions for improving communication in future considerations of environmental legislation.
 
Methodological summary guide.
Fifteen most recurrent substantive topics in the Irish broadsheet newspapers 2004-2019.
Percentage of total articles referring to National Statements Strategic Policy Objectives.
Article
The development of the circular bioeconomy is perceived as important in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its success depends on systemic changes involving all societal actors with public perception being of central significance. Using content analysis, this paper explores the framing of the circular bioeconomy in the Irish broadsheet media during the period 2004–2019. The results indicate that the development of the circular bioeconomy in Ireland has been framed in largely informational terms. The paper concludes that Irish broadsheet media coverage should widen in scope to reflect the multi-sectoral nature of the circular bioeconomy and be more critically incisive in its approach. It argues that the media should also be less uncritical in its acceptance of the top-down discourse on the circular bioeconomy economy that has been presented by government and industry.
 
Article
This paper examines the pre-election interpretative repertoires employed by the two main political parties in Greece regarding the 2007 summer wildfires, which have been recorded as the worst natural disaster in contemporary Greek history. This involved a discourse analysis of press releases, interviews, and press conference statements. While the New Democracy governing party initially followed a “business-as-usual” scenario, comparing the situation with past wildfires under the administration of PASOK (the biggest opposition party), the increasing number of deaths over time rendered any such comparison invalid. In order to regain momentum, the government launched the interpretative repertoire of “asymmetric threat”, which proved instrumental in helping the government to get re-elected. This political discourse lacked any consideration of broad socioeconomic changes in rural areas in Greece which might have contributed substantially to the severity of the disaster. Implications for wildfire policy are discussed.
 
Article
Climate skepticism in the UK media has not been a major focus of recent research. This paper aims to help fill the gap by looking at the incidence of skeptical voices in UK newspapers across three periods: 2007, 2009/2010, and 2010/2011. After analyzing more than 3200 articles, it finds that skeptical voices increased their presence markedly across all newspapers and all types of articles in the second period, and maintained a significant presence in many in the third. Uncontested skeptical voices were particularly prevalent in opinion pieces and editorials in right-leaning newspapers in the second. It also finds that skeptical voices or opinions were more likely to be included in pieces written by in-house non-specialist columnists than by environment editors or correspondents. The negative implications of the results for public understanding and the quality of public debate are then explored.
 
Article
Ken Burns, over the course of a long and celebrated career, has developed an effective and popular formula for his documentary films, and a comfortable relationship with the Public Broadcasting System. With such a convincing, accomplished style, his work has the opportunity to tackle ecological concerns in his latest series, but Burns chooses not to do so, offering no explicit lessons to apply to current problems. While stressing the importance of the people's parks, ecological debates on land use for future citizen-owners are minimized; the conflict of conservation versus preservation policies is barely differentiated. With the skill and reputation of Burns, his researchers, and his production team, there is a singular opportunity for their films to address ecological issues, creating productive conversation using America as a microcosm of the larger global issues faced today. Nostalgia and national pride are useful, but those attributes should be channeled to look to the future.
 
Article
Climate advocacy organizations are increasingly focused on citizen mobilization via social media as a strategy, proposing that by mobilizing the existing climate issue public into expressive action they will better be able to pressure policy makers. This paper explores the origins of and rates of participation in bursts of collective attention to the climate issue on Twitter over a five-year period. We find low levels of repeated user participation over time in spikes of public attention to climate on Twitter, while also identifying a small group of organizations and individuals who are “serial” participants in climate actions on Twitter. The high rate of participant turnover suggests continued questions about how to sustain public attention to the climate issue over time.
 
Article
In this article we examine in real time the political selective exposure process involved when the public confronted the “walrus haul out” of October 2014, a news event attributed by some climate change researchers to the effects of the climate change-driven reduction of Arctic sea ice. Analyzing data assessing the amount of major TV and cable news network coverage of the haul out, and evaluating public opinion data collected from a rolling cross-sectional survey of US adults take at the time, we show that coverage of this event was not equitably distributed across news media news sources, that exposure to news source is related to the respondents’ ideological dispositions, and that exposure to coverage of the walrus haul out is related to ideology, the selectivity of political news habits, and climate change knowledge. We conclude with a discussion of the apparent inevitability of selective exposure to media coverage of climate change-related events and the implications for effective climate change communication.
 
Article
This manuscript examines the sourcing practices of climate change editorials published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today between 2014 and 2017. Utilizing a critical political economic approach, we found that despite the ideological differences between the newspapers, each relied on sourcing practices that emphasized the views of elite political and economic actors with often no scientific training. Furthermore, our examination indicates a shared interest in politicizing scientific debates through weaponized sourcing practices that undermine science in favor of partisanship.
 
Article
The media represents a discursive site with actors trying to influence the discourse on a particular subject. The paper delves into an exploratory analysis of the policy discourse around climate change in India during the 2015 Paris Agreement by tapping into the data from the print media. Employing Discourse Network Analysis (DNA) and drawing theoretical insights from the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), the paper aims to highlight the dominant policy beliefs and the prominent actors in the Indian climate policy sphere. The findings exhibit a firm agreement on the scientific reality of climate change, along with a continued emphasis on the historical responsibility of the developed countries. The transition to renewable energy is widely accepted, but coal phase-out and sustenance of nuclear power is a contentious issue. The study uncovers a consistent belief system underlying the climate change discourse in India and the challenges in the path towards future energy transition.
 
Article
Climate change was hardly debated during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Against this background and building upon Fraser's concept of counterpublics (1990), this paper examines whether climate change advocates used the English-speaking blogosphere to push their positions forward. This study uses blog data starting from the Republican nomination of Donald Trump (20 July 2016) to Election Day (8 November 2016) and applies a computerized classification algorithm and topic-modeling techniques to explore, first, the salience of skeptic and advocate positions toward climate change in the English-speaking blogosphere and, second, with which topics these positions are most connected. The results show that the positions and topics of climate change advocates were more salient online than those of climate-change skeptics during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Thus, the study shows that the relation between different publics in societal discourses is not static but may change dynamically over time.
 
Article
In a recent article, van der Linden, Maibach, and Leiserowitz ([2019]. Exposure to Scientific Consensus Does Not Cause Psychological Reactance. Environmental Communication, 1–8) claim that exposure to a consensus message on climate change does not cause psychological reactance. In doing so, they provide a critique and “replication” of our recently published study which found evidence to the contrary (Ma, Dixon, & Hmielowski, 2019. Psychological Reactance From Reading Basic Facts on Climate Change: The Role of Prior Views and Political Identification. Environmental Communication, 13(1), 71–86). We address key shortcomings of their findings – the most significant of which is their study’s lack of an appropriate control group and problematic measure for psychological reactance – while also responding to their specific critiques of our study. When accounting for these shortcomings, their findings resemble ours: climate change skeptics and Republicans strongly believe that a consensus message about climate change is manipulative. We find their emphatic statement that “exposure to scientific consensus does not cause psychological reactance” to be directly challenged by their own findings and impossible to test given their study’s design.
 
Article
360-degree videos have become favored tools to deliver environmental messages to audiences on social media platforms. Whereas 360-degree videos can emotionally engage users with beautiful scenery imitating virtual reality (VR) technology, such positive experiences may not be always translated into greater persuasion. Based on the theories of emotion and interactivity, we propose that the peaceful feelings evoked by interacting with natural scenery using the 360-degree feature may decrease the persuasive impact of environmental messages. We conducted a lab experiment (N = 119) where the persuasive effectiveness of four 360-degree videos featuring climate change was compared with that of uni-directional videos. Findings showed that participants who interacted with the 360-degree videos felt more peaceful and tranquil and less scared in general, regardless of the emotional valence of video content. As a result, the presence and usage of the 360-degree feature reduced participants’ environmental engagement. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
 
Main effects on knowledge acquisition. Note: Values are estimated marginal means (95% CI) for each condition. Analysis controlled for exposure time.
Main effects on perceived message credibility. Note: Values are estimated marginal means (95% CI) for each condition. Analysis controlled for exposure time.
Article
Research on the effects of climate change imagery has mainly focused on traditional photographs or infographics, thereby neglecting other visual presentation forms increasingly used in today’s digital landscape. Hence, this study investigates how an immersive 360-degree photograph affects individuals’ knowledge acquisition and perceived message credibility when being embedded in text-based climate change coverage. To isolate the modality features driving potential effects, the 360-degree photograph is contrasted with two less immersive visualization forms (video and still photo). News readers’ issue-specific prior knowledge, topic involvement, and level of environmental concern were considered as potential moderators. Results of an online survey experiment (N = 401) reveal detrimental effects for adding 360-degree technology to text-based news on knowledge acquisition and provide no evidence for effects on perceived message credibility. Moreover, the effects do not vary among levels of the three moderators under study. The implications of these limited effects for environmental communication are discussed.
 
Future image of floating homes as a neighborhood adapted to sea level rise. Source: Aleksandra Dulic.  
Article
Climate change is an urgent problem with implications registered not only globally, but also on national and local scales. It is a particularly challenging case of environmental communication because its main cause, greenhouse gas emissions, is invisible. The predominant approach of making climate change visible is the use of iconic, often affective, imagery. Literature on the iconography of climate change shows that global iconic motifs, such as polar bears, have contributed to a public perception of the problem as spatially and temporally remote. This paper proposes an alternative approach to global climate change icons by focusing on recognizable representations of local impacts within an interactive game environment. This approach was implemented and tested in a research project based on the municipality of Delta, British Columbia. A major outcome of the research is Future Delta, an interactive educational game featuring 3D visualizations and simulation tools for climate change adaptation and mitigation future scenarios. The empirical evaluation is based on quantitative pre/post-game play questionnaires with 18 students and 10 qualitative expert interviews. The findings support the assumption that interactive 3D imagery is effective in communicating climate change. The quantitative post-questionnaires particularly highlight a shift in support of more local responsibility.
 
Article
This article examines online discourse in 2011 surrounding the proposed Duke Energy and Progress Energy merger in the Carolinas. It explores how issues pertaining to the merger, including constructing new nuclear plants, are discussed in media coverage and by citizens using social media. Overall, we find that the merger discourse focuses on economic concerns rather than the environmental concerns we had anticipated. However, post-Fukushima discourse appears to have become more inclusive of environmental concerns. We conclude that environmental discussions and efforts are likely to be globally-informed and locally-situated, discussing the implications for environmental communication research exploring online discourses, specifically through social media. Future research must address how to locate and delineate constellations of locally-situated discourse to provide a clearer picture of environmentally-focused social media communication.
 
Indirect effect of moderated mediation of narrative messages that compare GM to climate change on beliefs about what scientists think about GM food. Note: Indirect effects based on 5,000 bootstrap samples. Indirect moderated mediation effect through reactance for the narrative message without the climate comparison (point estimate = .02 (.01), 95% [CI: -.0075 -.0588]) and the narrative message with the climate comparison (point estimate = .04 (.02), 95% [CI: .0068 -.0806]), N= 597.
b. Indirect effect of moderated mediation of narrative message with climate comparison on perceptions of GM safety. Note: Indirect effects based on 5,000 bootstrap samples. Relative indirect moderated mediation effect through reactance at the mean of the environmentalism moderator, point estimate = 0.08(.03), 95% [CI: .0256 to .1543]. Control variables include age, gender, race, education, children under the age of 18, household income, religious attendance, and political party, N= 600.
Effect of narrative treatment conditions on perceptions of scientific consensus (M3), and perceptions of GM safety(M4), moderated by experienced reactance.
Effect of narrative treatment conditions, environmentalism, and their interaction on reactance on perceptions of scientific consensus (M5), and perceptions of GM safety(M6), moderated by reactance.
Effect of narrative treatment conditions on perceptions of scientific consensus (M3), and perceptions of GM safety(M4), moderated by counterarguing.
Article
Public understanding of and support for GM foods in the U.S. are generally low and out of step with the scientific community, and particularly among those who identify as environmentalists. In order to communicate the scientific consensus on GM foods to these audiences, messages may need to be tailored to reduce reactance. We employ a messaging experiment that tests the potential for first-person narratives to link acceptance of the scientific evidence on climate change to the scientific evidence on GM foods among individuals high in environmental concern. Our study found that such messages were generally more effective than non-narrative messages or narrative messages without climate change information, and they were especially effective at conveying scientific consensus and influencing personal views on GM foods among those who identify as environmentalists, through reduced reactance. The results offer modest evidence of a theoretically driven, practical technique for communicating scientific consensus about GM foods in a way that can help reduce reactance in people who are especially likely to oppose GM foods.
 
Article
The current study employed an experiment (N = 370) to investigate the effects of emergency preparedness communication on people’s trust, emotions and supportive attitudes toward a nuclear power plant. This study considered trust and emotions as mediators and knowledge as a moderator to explain the effect of emergency preparedness communication on individuals’ acceptance of a nuclear power plant. The results showed that emergency preparedness communication enhanced participants’ trust toward a nuclear power plant, while emergency preparedness information increased audiences’ negative emotions and decreased their positive emotions. Trust and emotions cancelled out their effects on acceptance of a nuclear power plant. The findings provide both scholarly and practical implications.
 
Article
Despite the growing need to address water security through sourcing alternative supplies, public resistance remains a key barrier to the implementation of recycled water schemes in some parts of the world. We describe an experiment that varied the affective framing of recycled water information and assessed the effects on an Australian community sample (N = 208). Results showed that participants in the positive affective framing condition reported more positive and less negative affect toward recycled water compared to a control condition and less negative affect than participants in the negative affective framing condition. Importantly, results demonstrated that risk perceptions were lower and acceptance was higher in the positive affective framing condition than the negative affective framing condition or the control condition. Moreover, the effect of negative affect on acceptance was mediated through risk perceptions. Implications of the results for communication about recycled water are discussed.
 
Article
Nuclear energy is widely regarded as a controversial technology that polarizes public opinion. Guided by the scientific literacy and cognitive miser models, this study systematically identified and examined the magnitude of the effects of 19 predictors on public perceptions of benefits, risks, and acceptance of nuclear energy. We meta-analysed 34 empirical studies, representing a total sample of 32,938 participants and 129 independent correlations. The findings demonstrated that trust substantially affected public perception of benefits regarding nuclear energy. Sex, education, public perception of benefits regarding nuclear energy, trust, and public deliberation substantially influenced public perception of risks regarding nuclear energy. Moreover, sex, education, public perceptions of benefits, risks and costs regarding nuclear energy, knowledge, and trust substantially affected public acceptance of nuclear energy. Country of sample and time period of data collection moderated public perceptions of benefits, risks, and acceptance of nuclear energy. Implications for future research are discussed.
 
Article
We use a discourse network analysis approach to answer two questions about national news coverage of climate change policy debate in Canada during the period 2006–2010. First, what is the media visibility of actors relevant to policy development and advocacy on climate change? Second, given the political and economic context of climate policy-making in Canada, does greater or lesser media visibility reflect effectiveness in climate policy advocacy? Multiple interpretive frameworks characterize Canadian political discourse about climate change, with fragmentation between the federal government, opposition political parties, provincial governments, and environmental organizations. Contrary to expectations, environmental organizations had high levels of media visibility while the relative invisibility of fossil fuel corporations was notable in the media coverage of Canadian climate discussions. Our findings challenge optimistic accounts of the relationship between media power and political power, and suggest that media power does not necessarily translate to political efficacy.
 
Article
This article employs a close reading of documents related to the permitting process for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and ensuing legal battle in order to argue that extant regulatory frameworks for environmental decision-making are insufficient to promote environmental justice outcomes. By analyzing the US Army Corps of Engineer's responses to comments made during the public comment phase of the NEPA evaluation of the DAPL, I argue that regulatory frameworks may exacerbate environmental justice concerns by incentivizing decision makers to prioritize justification for their decisions and avoiding legal battles over meaningfully engaging with communities. This finding leads me to call for more engagement with energy democracy's orientation toward community-led processes as a corrective to current regulatory systems. This article expands on extant work in environmental communication by more thoroughly investigating the flaws in extant regulatory frameworks and calling for a perspectival shift in environmental decision-making.
 
Article
We examine the impact of the Fukushima accident (March 2011) on global public perceptions of nuclear power. We contrast conceptually and empirically two models, an event & effect (EE) model [Kim, Y., Kim, M., & Kim, W. (2013). Effect of Fukushima nuclear disaster on global public acceptance of nuclear energy. Energy Policy, 61, 822–828] and our own challenge & response (CR) model. We replicate Kim et al. (2013), who modelled retrospective opinion changes on a set of “objective” predictors, using historical opinion data 1996–2016 for 23+ countries. The EE model shows little explanatory power for opinion shifts beyond nuclear dependency in the energy mix. We argue that individual and societal responses to nuclear accidents are constrained by cultural memories, and introduce the alternative CR model. Memory, both individual and collective, is primarily adaptive and makes available schematic information to deal with uncertain and novel situations. The CR model explains better the responses to Fukushima with memory factors of “Past Responses to Nuclear Incidents”, of “Nuclear Renaissance” and “Long-term levels of Acceptance”. We are able to typify 23 countries according to their characteristic pattern of cultural memory and their Fukushima responses.
 
Article
The Fukushima nuclear accident revived the question of whether current practices of technical communication can fulfill the needs of various audiences during a complex global crisis. In that context, the Institute of Nuclear Technology and Energy Systems in Stuttgart organized a public presentation on the technical aspects of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Its success indicates that direct encounter was preferred to media representations of the accident by Stuttgart's citizens. This event demonstrated that public presentation can provide a successful model for technical communication in situations of global sociotechnical crisis.
 
Article
By presenting stakeholders’ competing representations of an extraordinary geological formation, an island with a surface that is comprised of runoff from an infamous mud volcano in East Java, this article explores the communicative openings and closures that arise during an environmental disaster. A particular concern is attuning communicative practices to the diverse human and nonhuman actors that not only produce disasters but also shape our understandings and responses to disasters. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, this article suggests that non-anthropocentric modes of inquiry present new communicative and political possibilities for pursuing both social justice and safe environments. While this article focuses on a specific set of incidents in Indonesia, this project develops tools and perspectives that can be applied to environmental conflicts at other places.
 
Article
This research explores influential factors of using narratives of Chernobyl in media reporting about the Fukushima nuclear accident: radiological consequences, geographical distance from the accident, status of a nuclear energy production, public opinion about nuclear energy and the level of a nuclear accident (INES scale). This study applies a large-scale media content analysis of newspapers articles (N = 1340) published in the first two months of the accident in twelve press opinion leaders in Belgium, Italy, Norway, Russia, Slovenia and Spain. The results show that the memory on the Chernobyl nuclear accident appeared in more than in every third article reporting of the present Fukushima nuclear accident despite the fact that Fukushima carried no direct radiological hazard for the newspaper’s audience and, a frequent use of narratives is related to negative attitudes towards nuclear energy, a higher risk perception of nuclear power plants and to an active nuclear energy industry in the newspaper’s country.
 
Article
This paper raises questions of media coverage of “compounded crises” related to extreme weather disaster, in the context of urgent calls to address the implications of a changing climate. Through media analysis, it examines the ways debate over bushfire protection policy was framed and made culturally meaningful, thereby politically consequential, in the wake of the worst bushfires in modern Australian history, Black Saturday (2009). The fires, in which 173 people died, led to a Royal Commission and fierce debate over the use of prescribed burning to reduce bushfire hazard. Longitudinal analysis of local, state and national mainstream media coverage (2009–2016) reveals blame games that targeted environmentalists and the government, which near-silenced meaningful discussion of the complexity of fire science, impacts of climate change on weather conditions, and calls for adaptation. By exploring the media’s constitutive role in crisis response, the paper highlights the legacy and potency of ideological conflict that shapes the media-policy nexus in Australia.
 
Article
The role of social media as a mobilization tool has been widely discussed in the digital age, yet empirical evidence on the online consensus mobilization around environmental issues in a relatively restrictive political setting remains largely unexplored. In this study, my aim is to understand how activists strategically harness social media to take collective initiatives and to stimulate communal awareness against current waste disposal industry and waste management policies in China. Using a content analysis method, I examined 557 posts from 12 anti-incineration WeChat subscription accounts with the help of NVivo software. In reference to social constructionism and social movement theories, I argue that consensus mobilization includes three core undertakings: identification, demonstration, and resolution. Investigating the anti-incineration discourse production on WeChat contributes to a more nuanced comprehension of online mobilization in an authoritarian context. And the results have practical implications for environmental-related activism via social media.
 
Article
The prevalence of uncertainty and opinion divergence frames in climate change news reporting has generated concerns about the misrepresentation of scientific consensus. We first develop reliable, valid, and more nuanced measures of often-conflated types of uncertainty and opinion divergence frames. Then we analyse the co-occurrence combinations of those distinct types of opinions, sources, and topics in mainstream climate change news stories between 2005 and 2015. Results indicate that while uncertainty and opinion divergence frames are indeed frequent, once clearly distinguished, they in general accurately reference non-scientist sources (e.g. government officials) and topics that do not have a scientific consensus (e.g. the severity of climate change effects).
 
Article
An increasing number of climate lawsuits worldwide address responsibilities of climate change mitigation or adaptation. Yet, we know little about wider socio-political consequences of climate change litigation. This study focusses on the successful case of Urgenda vs. the Netherlands, which has created precedence for similar lawsuits against governments in other countries. Following theories of intra-media and political agenda setting, we analyze interactions between media attention (newspaper articles) and political attention (parliamentary questions) for the Urgenda case and higher-level issues, namely climate policy and climate change in general. Employing Vector Autoregression models we find that media attention for the lawsuit led to greater parliamentary attention. Moreover, we find bottom-up agenda-setting effects with media attention for the case influencing greater media and political attention for climate policies. This study reveals that climate litigation can have indirect consequences beyond the court ruling with media attention for a lawsuit as a crucial vantage point.
 
Article
Climate change-related perceptions and communication are important factors influencing people’s support for climate change policies and individual behavior. Since research on both climate change-related perceptions and communication is biased towards Western countries and standardized research methodologies, this paper investigates perceptions across South African communities using a deductive-inductive qualitative approach. 20 individuals in three communities of a South African town were interviewed about their climate change-related perceptions and communication. Results show that for individual concepts of climate change, interviewees’ perceptions differed across the communities: higher educated communities had more differentiated and diverse conceptions of causes and consequences of climate change and potential countermeasures. Most interviewees, across the communities, stressed that they considered climate change as an important problem, although other social problems seemed more pressing. Interestingly, all three communities most frequently encounter the issue of climate change through new and traditional mass media, but their self-assessed knowledge about it varies widely.
 
Top-cited authors
Mike S. Schäfer
  • University of Zurich
Tema Milstein
  • UNSW Sydney
Ulrika Olausson
  • Jönköping University
Robert J Brulle
  • Drexel University
Anthony Leiserowitz
  • Yale University