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Abstract

Climate change is a fundamental challenge for which agriculture is sensitive and vulnerable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified relevant information as key to enabling appropriate climate adaptation and mitigation action. Information specifically directed to farmers can be found, for example, in specialized farming magazines. While recent studies examine how national news media frame climate change, less—if any—studies have addressed climate framings and coverage in specialized media. Media framings are storylines that provide meaning by communicating how and why an issue should be seen as a problem, how it should be handled, and who is responsible for it. This paper analyses the framings and coverage of climate change in two Swedish specialized farming magazines from 2000 to 2009. It examines the extent of the climate change coverage, the content of the media items, and the dominant framings underlying their climate change coverage. The study identifies: increased coverage of climate change starting in 2007; frequent coverage of agriculture’s contribution to climate change, climate change impacts on agriculture, and consequences of climate politics for agriculture; and four prominent frames: conflict, scientific certainty, economic burden, and action. The paper concludes that climate change communicators addressing farmers and agricultural extension officers should pay attention to how these frames may be interpreted by different target audiences. Research is needed on how specialized media reports on climate-related issues and how science-based climate information is understood by different groups of farmers and which other factors influence farmers’ engagement in climate mitigation and adaptation.
Framings and coverage of climate change in
Swedish specialized farming magazines
Therese Asplund, Mattias Hjerpe and Victoria Wibeck
Linköping University Post Print
N.B.: When citing this work, cite the original article.
The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com:
Therese Asplund, Mattias Hjerpe and Victoria Wibeck, Framings and coverage of climate
change in Swedish specialized farming magazines, 2012, Climatic Change.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-012-0535-0
Copyright: Springer Verlag (Germany)
http://www.springerlink.com/?MUD=MP
Postprint available at: Linköping University Electronic Press
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-80851
1
Title page: Framings and coverage of climate change:
a study of Swedish specialized farming magazines
Therese Asplund1*, Mattias Hjerpe1 , Victoria Wibeck1
1Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research and Department of Thematic Studies -Water and
Environmental Studies, Linköping University
* Corresponding author: Therese Asplund, therese.asplund@liu.se, phone: +46 11 363397, fax: +46
11 36 32 92. Postal address: Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, Linköping University,
SE-601 74, Norrköping, Sweden
Abstract
Climate change is a fundamental challenge for which agriculture is sensitive and vulnerable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified relevant information as key to
enabling appropriate climate adaptation and mitigation action. Information specifically
directed to farmers can be found, for example, in specialized farming magazines. While recent
studies examine how national news media frame climate change, less if any studies have
addressed climate framings and coverage in specialized media. Media framings are storylines
that provide meaning by communicating how and why an issue should be seen as a problem,
how it should be handled, and who is responsible for it. This paper analyses the framings and
coverage of climate change in two Swedish specialized farming magazines from 2000 to
2009. It examines the extent of the climate change coverage, the content of the media items,
and the dominant framings underlying their climate change coverage. The study identifies:
increased coverage of climate change starting in 2007; frequent coverage of agriculture’s
contribution to climate change, climate change impacts on agriculture, and consequences of
climate politics for agriculture; and four prominent frames: conflict, scientific certainty,
economic burden, and action. The paper concludes that climate change communicators
addressing farmers and agricultural extension officers should pay attention to how these
frames may be interpreted by different target audiences. Research is needed on how
specialized media reports on climate-related issues and how science-based climate
information is understood by different groups of farmers and which other factors influence
farmers’ engagement in climate mitigation and adaptation.
Keywords: media representation, media frames, farming magazines, climate change
communication; specialized media
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Framings and coverage of climate change in Swedish specialized
farming magazines
1. Introduction
As a top priority on the global political agenda, climate change is claimed to be one of the
most fundamental challenges ever to confront humanity. Although climate change affects all
sectors, agriculture is among the most vulnerable and sensitive. Agricultural production and
farmers’ daily lives will increasingly be influenced by changes in temperature and
precipitation challenging the adaptive capacity of the agricultural sector (FAO 2008). Farmers
in industrialized countries are also crucial for mitigating climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007, SOU 2007:60) has identified
relevant climate information as key for enabling appropriate climate change adaptation and
mitigation action. Thus, knowledge of the availability and content of information for farmers
is key to understanding how production patterns might be altered (Brunn and Raitz 1978).
Communicating the realities of climate change is indeed challenging. Barriers to public
engagement include various individual and social constraints, among others lack of
knowledge, distrust in information sources, reluctance to change lifestyles, and pressure of
social norms and expectations (Lorenzoni et al. 2007). To our knowledge, no previous studies
have examined how specialized agricultural-sector media communicate climate change, even
though their importance as sources of information for Swedish farmers has been demonstrated
(LRF 2009).This paper analyzes how climate change has been communicated in specialized
media targeting farmers. Thus, it addresses “one of the most easily identifiable barriers to
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engagement”, i.e. “lack of basic knowledge about knowledge about causes, impacts and
solutions to climate change” (Lorenzoni et al. 2007:451). Analyses of how specialized
farming magazines frame and cover climate change could give insights into how climate
science and policy are communicated to a group of actors pointed out as central for climate
change mitigation and adaptation. Framings are here seen as meaning-providing organizing
ideas or storylines (Gamson and Modigliani 1987; Olausson 2009). While “quality”
newspapers have been frequently studied, few have studied media representations of climate
change in special-interest magazines. This paper is one contribution to the recent calls for
more case-specific and audience-specific research (Moser 2010), including larger social and
cultural groupings (Whitmarsh and Lorenzoni 2010) such as farmers.
The paper departs from the Swedish context; Sweden exemplifies a country where agriculture
is predicted to gain through longer growing seasons. The Swedish government is promoting
liberalization of trade in agricultural products, and has modified subsidies and taxes to
strengthen the incentive for climate change mitigation (Swedish Government Bill 2009; SEPA
2012). The Swedish news media and tabloids have paid considerable attention to climate
change (Westander et al. 2008), framing it as a social problem and stressing the need for
collective action (Olausson 2009). Swedish news stories tend to assume that “human-induced
global warming is a direct cause of climate change, bringing with it dramatic consequences
already at hand” (Olausson 2009:429).
This paper focuses on the two Swedish farm magazines with the largest national circulations:
ATL Lantbrukets affärstidning (ATL) and Land Lantbruk (Land). It analyses the framing
and coverage of climate-related issues from 2000 to 2009, guided specifically by the
following questions:
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To what extent do Swedish farm magazines report on climate change?
Which themes and topics are covered?
How is climate change framed in Swedish farming magazines?
What are the differences between framing of climate change in Swedish farming
magazines and in national news media?
What lessons could be learnt from analysis of framing and coverage in specialized
magazines for climate change communicators targeting farmers?
2. Swedish agriculture and climate policy
Sweden’s land area is 410,000 km2 and the cultivated area comprises 6.5% of it (SBA,
Swedish Board of Agriculture 2011). In 2005, the agricultural sector made up 0.5% of GDP
and provided 1.5% of total employment. In 2007, the production value of Swedish agriculture
was SEK 47 billion (~EUR 4.89 billion), evenly distributed between livestock and crops.
Swedish livestock mainly consists of bovine animals while cereals and grassland dominate
crop production.
For Swedish agriculture, climate change poses both challenges and opportunities, but in a 25-
year perspective, the opportunities are viewed to outweigh the challenges (SOU 2007:60,
SBA 2007). Climate change scenarios suggest higher temperatures and changing precipitation
patterns bringing about higher yields and opportunities to grow new crops, but also risk of
new crop pests and viruses that may infect animals (SBA 2007). Increasing and more intense
precipitation along with more rapid snowmelt makes drainage and water availability highly
challenging, scattered regionally, where climate change will aggravate flood risk, conflicts of
interest, raise costs, and affect the crop yield negatively (SBA 2007, 2010b). In 2006 to 2010,
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agriculture and land use change in Sweden emitted 10 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions annually; the largest GHG sources are nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from soil and
methane (CH4) emissions from ruminant animals (SEPA 2012).
Regarding policy responses, the Swedish center-right alliance Government Bill from 2009
contains an integrated climate and energy policy aiming to reduce Sweden’s dependency of
fossil fuel and GHG emissions. It primarily addresses climate mitigation and only partially
adaptation. As a member of the EU, Sweden is part of its climate and common agricultural
policy (CAP). For the agricultural sector the CAP rural development program affects
agricultural GHG emissions and adaptation. Sweden also has a national action plan to reduce
N2O, methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (SBA 2010a). Farmers’ use of fossil fuels
has been subsidized by a fossil fuel tax reduction. In carrying out the Climate Bill, the
Swedish unicameral Parliament in 2009 decided to partially phase out the fossil fuel tax
reduction for agriculture by 9%, which was implemented in 2011 and will be further reduced
by 30% in 2015. Furthermore, GHG emissions are expected to decrease on voluntary basis
incentivized by information and agricultural extension, implying communication of climate-
related issues to individual farmers (Greppa Näringen 2011).
3. Media framings of climate change
In media studies, the “framing” concept means “a central organizing idea or story line that
provides meaning to an unfolding strip of events, weaving a connection among them. The
frame suggests what the controversy is about, the essence of the issue” (Gamson and
Modigliani 1987:143). Framings communicate how and why the issue should be seen as a
problem, how it should be handled, and who is responsible for it (Koteyko et al. 2010; Nisbet
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2009). Analysing how climate change was framed in the US media and political debate from
the late 1990s and onwards, Nisbet and Scheufele (2009) identified these frames:
Economic development defines climate change as investment and competitiveness;
Morality/ethics defines climate change in terms of right or wrong;
Scientific uncertainty defines climate change as a matter of what is known and
unknown;
Pandora’s box defines climate change as a call for precaution in face of possible
catastrophe;
Public accountability defines climate change as responsible use or abuse of science;
and
Conflict/strategy defines climate change as a game among groups.
Although underscoring the diversity of climate debates (Hulme 2009), previous studies on
media frames of climate change have found the Pandora´s box and conflict frames to be
prominent. The former is evident in headlines and coverage articulating fear, misery, and
doom (Boykoff 2008), describing climate change as sensational, alarming (Russil and Nyssa
2009) and harmful (Ambler 2007; Carvalho and Burgess 2005). Oppositely, Young and
Dugas (2011) recently found, studying longitudinal trends, that Canadian media coverage of
climate change paid less attention to impacts, instead emphasizing how it intersects with
policy and business. Similarly, Lyytimäki (2011) suggests that, after a phase of widespread
media coverage, climate issues will shift from highly visible headlines to being less visible,
although more pervasive, background information. These findings suggest that the Pandora’s
box frame will fade away in future media coverage.
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The conflict frame portrays climate change as a source of conflict over the uncertainties of
anthropogenic climate change or between the relative winners and losers from climate change
(O’Brien and Leichenko 2000). While the idea of scientific uncertainty prevails in US news
reporting on climate change (Freudenburg and Muselli 2010), media in several European
countries, e.g. Sweden, France (Brossard et al. 2004), and Germany (Weingart et al. 2000),
are reluctant to expose scientific uncertainty (Olausson 2009). In UK newspapers, narratives
differ across newspapers and time; also regarding scientific uncertainty (Ambler 2007;
Boykoff 2007), thus making the scientific uncertainty frame more problematic . When norms
of “balanced reporting”– i.e., giving roughly equal coverage to both sides in a dispute
influences climate change coverage, this results in informational bias on the uncertainty
regarding anthropogenic climate change, as climate skeptics are paid the same attention as
the vast majority of scientists who acknowledge the anthropogenic roots of climate change
(Boykoff and Boykoff 2004).
4. Material and method
This paper focuses on the two Swedish farm magazines with the largest national circulations
and broad readership: ATL Lantbrukets affärstidning (ATL, circulation 51,700) and Land
Lantbruk (Land, circulation 118,700) (Swedish Magazine Publisher Association 2010). The
magazines target similar readers, but differ in scope and editorial policy. Land is distributed to
all members of the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) and aims to “mirror what is
happening in the farmers’ movement” (LRF Media 2010a), while ATL features “tough
journalism” (LRF Media 2010b). According to their websites, Land focuses on political,
financial, social, and market issues, while ATL emphasizes market and business issues.
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The articles selected for analysis were identified from 1,500 issues of Land and ATL
published between 2000 and 2009 totalling 11,000 front page news; about 20% of all articles
are displayed on the front page. As front page news draw attention to, and reflect the emphasis
media place on certain issues, we consider such articles to have a strong agenda-setting
influence (Scheufele and Tewksbury 2007). Being a relatively new topic, we believe that the
news value of the climate change articles was high during the examined period. Selecting
articles highlighted on the front page would thus be an appropriate strategy for limiting the
sample to a manageable size. The full-length articles were then included in the data corpus for
further analysis. We excluded articles that were not displayed on the front pages and articles
primarily dealing with forestry due to our focus on agriculture. In a farming magazine,
weather-related articles may be common, but to qualify as a climate-related article, we
stipulated that it should contain at least one of following keywords: climate change/gas(es),
global warming, greenhouse effect/gas(es), and carbon dioxide/emissions.
The selected articles form the basis of a quantitative analysis of the extent of farm magazines’
coverage of climate change from 2000 to 2009. Additionally, a qualitative content analysis of
sub-topics, topics, and themes was performed to determine what aspects of climate change
were considered. Topic refers to the content of an article and each article was assigned a topic
reflecting its general content and segmented into sub-topics reflecting various aspects of the
topic. We grouped recurring topics in the corpus into themes. Analysing themes will provide
insights into the aspects of climate change that are and are not covered. From this thematic
analysis we proceed to discuss how climate change is framed, i.e. we focused on the
underlying premises that are often taken for granted: the media report on the basis of these
premises rather than about them. To address intercoder reliability, two researchers
independently categorised the articles and compared the results.
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5. Farming magazine coverage and framings of climate change
From 2000 to 2009, we identified 113 climate-related articles in ATL and Land (Fig. 1). The
number of articles increased markedly in both magazines after 2006. ATL’s attention to
climate change has followed a general increasing trend since 2006, whereas Land’s attention
first peaked in 2007 before increasing considerably again in 2009.
As Figure 1 shows, between 2000 and 2006 the magazines only occasionally paid attention to
climate change, featuring seven climate-related articles. These articles concern enteric
fermentation, reduction of EU emissions, environmental aspects of animal fodder, comparison
of diesel fuels, and advocacy of farmer action. In 2007, the climate-related articles increased
substantially in a similar form, but lagged in time, to changes in adaptation research (Janssen
et al. 2006) and Nordic climate change research (NordForsk 2009).
In ATL, editorials were among the first published climate-related-articles, arguing that
farmers should respond to climate change. This set the tone for ATL’s subsequent climate
change coverage. The rapid increase of climate-related articles in Land in 2007 is, in contrast,
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explained by the involvement of the LRF in the climate debate. One of Land’s first climate-
related articles reports on LRF’s concern about agriculture’s contribution to climate change,
particularly suggesting mapping emissions sources. With ensuing articles focusing on the
causes of climate change and estimated emissions from agricultural practices this first
bottom–up initiative made climate change visible and stimulated Land’s coverage.
Similar patterns recurred in both magazines, with respect to article contents and frames. Three
themes were found: agriculture’s contribution to national emissions, the biophysical impacts
of climate change on agriculture, and consequences of climate politics for agriculture. We
present the themes chronologically, reflecting their first appearances in the magazines. While
the agriculture’s contribution to national emissions theme was covered in similar number of
articles in 2007, 2008, and 2009, the impacts of climate change were paid more attention in
2007 and 2009 and less in 2008, slightly shifting focus from future impacts to observed
changes. Climate-related articles on politics were almost exclusively published in 2009, the
run-up to the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. Most climate-related articles concerned
crop and cattle; few articles considered lamb and poultry. The crop production articles
addressed one crop at a time, notably, less common crops in Sweden, e.g. sunflowers, and
corn instead of common crops, e.g. potatoes.
5.1 Agriculture’s contribution to national emissions
The agriculture’s contribution to national emissions theme mostly concerned GHG emissions
from agricultural activities, while limited attention was paid to carbon sinks. Throughout the
period, the theme centred on enteric fermentation the production of methane by ruminant
livestock. The coverage of methane emissions from cows went through a remarkable
transition from laughter about scientific findings to common sense regarding its importance.
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Coverage of the issue started in 2000 with articles ridiculing science for its findings about
“cow farts” a,b, followed by articles explaining the process of enteric fermentation, until finally
methane production was presented as a matter of common sense requiring no explanations.
Other articles concerned emissions from specific agricultural production systems, e.g. pea
cultivation, and greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Although livestock emissions were widely
discussed, there were calls for more nuanced debate on enteric fermentation in relation to
other GHGs and a discussion of agriculture’s contribution to national emissions. Nevertheless,
the articles failed to inform readers about the general picture of agriculture’s contribution to
climate change. For example, few articles concerned N2O emissions from soil and manure.
The studied farming magazines focussed on methane and emphasized emission reduction
rather than sequestration in soil and vegetation.
The studied articles focused largely on agriculture’s contribution to national emissions, but
simultaneously downplayed the importance of GHG emissions from agriculture by presenting
a conflict frame. Cow and beef breeding systems were compared, suggesting conflict between
large- and small-scale, conventional and organic production systems. Articles also invoked a
conflict between Swedish and Brazilian production systems regarding measurement,
comparison, and evaluation of GHG emissions. Agriculture and transport sectors (“the
motorist or the farmer”,c “the car or the steak”d) were repeatedly presented as a choice
between two mutually exclusive objects. This tension was evident in articles that, on the one
hand, reported on agricultural emissions reduction and, on the other hand, downplayed
agriculture’s contribution to national emissions by portraying other sectors as equally bad.
Thus, we argue that introducing a conflict frame into the coverage of agriculture’s
contribution to national emissions also legitimized agriculture’s GHGs emissions.
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5.2 Climate change impacts on agriculture
Coverage of impacts of climate change emphasized the domestic over the foreign perspective.
It emphasised how a specific location is being and would be affected by climate change and
pointed to local impacts rather than global impacts and vulnerability.
Climate change impacts were discussed mainly as opportunities and challenges facing
Swedish agriculture, outlining how farmers would be financially affected by the changing
climate. The magazines reported on the opportunities climate change would present for
agriculture through higher demand for fossil-neutral energy crops, better weather conditions
for tourism strengthening the incentives for agrotourism (encouraging visitors to experience
agricultural life at first hand and diversifies farmers’ incomes), and increasing yields because
of improved climatic conditions. Fewer articles concerned the challenges climate change
would bring, e.g. insufficient drainage capacity due to increasing precipitation and more
pronounced snowmelt and pest outbreaks. By 2008, coverage of climate change impacts on
agricultural production was focusing less on projected future challenges and opportunities,
and was starting to report on observed phenological changes. For example, in 2009, articles
reported on rapeseed in bloom too early, changing planting dates for autumn seeding, the
cultivation of new crops, and local observations of increased temperature. Reporting on
tangible impacts also shifted reader attention to the familiar, often from the individual
perspective, instead of the abstract and remote. The articles rarely linked climate change to
other environmental and social challenges. Presented as isolated from other issues, climate
change is similarly presented as in early vulnerability and integrated assessment studies
(O’Brien and Leichenko 2000).
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A frame of scientific certainty was used to organize coverage of the impacts of climate change
on agriculture. Scientific findings regarding climate change impacts were framed as
unquestionable evidence. There was a general lack of reflection on the various uncertainties in
climate science, e.g. the accuracy of scenarios and models, lack of data, and scale problems in
cause and effects. Thus, the scientific consensus, as represented by the IPCC, on
anthropogenic climate change is reflected in the studied farming magazines. The scientific
certainty frame ran throughout the material but was more marked for climate change impacts.
By 2008, the magazines even reported their own observations of climate change, thus
contributing to the overall scientific certainty frame. The focus on certainty at the expense of
uncertainty suggests that the specialized magazine coverage could also be characterised as an
oversimplification of scientific results.
5.3 Consequences of climate politics for agriculture
Many of the articles elaborated on the consequences of national, European, and global climate
politics for agriculture. Nationally, the politics of the “safety net”e or crop insurance was on
the agenda in 2007, while the perceived consequences of the centre-right alliance
government’s Climate Bill were highlighted in 2009. Given that the Bill’s proposals would
arguably result in economic loss and increased taxes for farmers, the opinion that it would
help neither the climate nor the economy was emphasized. The rural and farmers party,
Centern, is part of the centre-right alliance, which may explain the general disapproval of the
Bill and the resulting wider discussion of national climate and agricultural policy emphasising
failure to keep election promises.
Articles on EU politics were fewer and not directly linked to Swedish agriculture. They
focused on general climate policy news, e,g. reports that the EU would not achieve its
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emission targets and preparatory work prior to intergovernmental negotiations. International
climate change politics was not a topic until 2009, when the UN Climate Conference came
into focus. Reporting from the climate change negotiations contained remarks on the Swedish
environmental minister’s expectations and the outcome. Paradoxically, articles reported that
the negotiation outcomes would not affect Swedish agriculture, while simultaneously
claiming that “failure in negotiations would benefit Swedish agriculture”.f The farming
magazines displayed ambivalence in their international reporting, drawing no firm
conclusions as to whether and how international climate politics would affect the local
context.
Articles on climate change politics reported on economic losses and increased taxes, thus
introducing an economic burden frame. By calculations of the exact costs for agriculture and
stories of individual economic losses, climate change was not presented as an economic
opportunity but a challenge. In the rare cases when articles reported on climate change in
developing countries, an economic development frame was used, and climate change was
related to economic and social development. When climate policy or mitigation was discussed
for Swedish agriculture, it was more often framed as an obstacle to economic development.
5.4 General framing: the importance of taking action
The frames of conflict, scientific certainty, and economic burden were each primarily
connected to a different theme in the farming magazines coverage of climate change. Besides
these frames, the content of the magazine articles was organized according to an action frame.
This framing was not specifically related to any theme, but served as an implicit organizing
principle running throughout the material. Independently of topics, the articles reported on
action in response to climate change. The reporting concerned climate change actions taken
15
by an organization or individual and comparisons between alternative actions to reduce the
impact of climate change. The action frame justified changed behaviour not only in light of
stricter climate mitigation policies, but also due to observed or projected climatic changes,
and evaluations of the agricultural sector’s emissions.
Articles treated the internal climate aims and policies of certain organizations or the actions of
individuals. The organizations mentioned were LRF, the International Federation of
Agricultural Producers, food producers, and the largest Swedish dairy company. Articles
presenting individual actions referred to, among others, the minister for the environment, an
EU parliamentarian, and farmers in both Sweden and developing countries. Several articles on
agriculture’s contribution to national emissions framed climate change mitigation as an
individual responsibility to mitigate emissions for individual purposes counter to many other
findings that often treat mitigation as a transnational, altruistic form of action. Using terms,
e.g. “environmentally aware”g and “climate smart”h,i,j,k,l,m and portraying farmers as savers of
the Earth’s climate,c,n the magazines encourage farmers to reduce emissions as the right thing
to do. This is consistent with a morality frame and with the rise of what Koteyko et al. (2010)
label an attitudinal dimension of climate change. The action frame is, parallel to the
responsibility rhetoric, supported by a desire to prevent farmers from being perceived as
“environmental villains”.k,o,p,q Actions, e.g. the general mapping and evaluation of GHGs
emitted by agricultural activity or farm biogas production, were underpinned by arguments
such as “we cannot risk being identified as environmental villains”.o When the focus was on
promoting GHG emission reduction, the articles used positive value-laden statements, for
example, equating reducing emissions to being “climate smart”h,i,j,k,l,m, claiming that no action
was too insignificant, and arguing for the financial benefits of reducing GHG emissions.
16
Hence, the concern over reputation and image largely support the internal action frame when
applied to farmers.
There was also an individual action component when reporting the consequences of
government mitigation policies and measures. These articles depicted farmers as victims and
described how individuals were affected, often financially, by government policies. These
articles were explicit in their moral condemnations: “It’s a declaration of war”,r,s and “It’s a
betrayal”s,t. When journalists constructed an economic burden frame, they also applied an
injustice frame (Gamson 1992). The injustice frame offered an opportunity to express anger
over hardships experienced by farmers. It was also applied in articles reflecting concern over
farmers reputation and image. These articles portrayed farmers as unfairly treated in the
media or by consumers. The climate-related articles reflected a sense of limited acting space
for farmers both in articles conveying positive messages, such as “The climate investigation
identifies farmers as winners”,u and more commonly in negatively value-loaded articles
reporting, for example, on “the heavy climate burden”r,v, or “greater demands on
agriculture”.l,x These articles start from the assumption that farmers have little potential to
change their everyday lives, while strongly emphasizing how others actors’ perceptions and
decisions affect agriculture.
Climate-related articles also focused explicitly on promoting action by comparing the GHG
impacts of various production strategies, examining, e.g., ecological versus conventional
farming, peas versus soybean, Swedish versus European diesel, and large-scale versus small-
scale production. The focus here was on evaluating and contrasting the climate change
impacts of alternative actions, to facilitate doing the “climate right” thing. Some articles also
recommended policy-makers to change court rulings on water use, establish a government
17
emergency fund for natural disaster relief and oversee drainage and the hunting seasons. The
business sector was addressed in articles focusing on climate-labelled food throughout the
period in a process-oriented way describing how the labelling systems were evolving and
presenting alternative climate label designs. Climate labelling was presented as a business
opportunity and promoted action to achieve certification of agricultural products.
6. Discussion
Earlier studies of media framings of climate change have found a focus on impacts and
consequences. Climate change is discussed in terms of risk, and catastrophe, in tones of
misery and doom (Ambler 2007; Boykoff 2008), and emphasizing tipping points “in a
sensational and alarming way” (Russil and Nyssa 2009:343). The Pandora’s box frame –
climate change defined as a call for precaution in the face of possible catastrophic
consequences (Nisbet and Scheufele 2009) clearly dominates quality newspaper and tabloid
coverage of climate change, while few or no stories concern the opportunities associated with
climate change. Compared with the coverage and framing of climate change in Swedish
farming magazines, it is interesting to note that, while mainstream media associate climate
change with doomsday scenarios, such scenarios were paid considerably less attention in the
farming magazines. Oppositely, the farming magazines’ reporting on the impacts of climate
change was more balanced, or even favoured opportunities rather than challenges, reflecting
the general message in national assessments of climate change (SOU 2007:60, SBA 2007).
Very few articles referred to a climate crisis, extreme weather events, melting polar ice, or the
threat to polar bears, as seen elsewhere, and only one article covered the possible future
increase in pest outbreaks. Climate change was not framed as uncontrollable, as it is in the
international mainstream media. Since the Swedish news media’s coverage of climate change
from 2000 to 2007 emphasized catastrophic or extreme weather events, such as the storm of
18
January 2005 and heat records (Westander et al. 2008); consistent with international
mainstream media coverage of climate change we suggest that Swedish farming magazines
likely lack a Pandora’s box frame because they are specialized media rather than because of
their national context.
Society’s overall contribution to GHG emissions has received little attention in mainstream
media worldwide; this study demonstrates that contributions to climate change, mainly in
terms of GHG emissions, has been a major theme in Swedish farming magazine reporting
since 2000. This is consistent with an injustice or a conflict frame uplifting agriculture’s
contribution relatively to other sectors’ contribution. The conflict frame found in the Swedish
farming magazine articles differs from the conflict frame identified by Boykoff and Boykoff
(2004). They concluded that journalistic norms of balance, giving all sides in a dispute a
voice, have resulted in a conflict frame. The conflict portrayed by the Swedish farming
magazines does not concern the scientific foundations of climate change, but that journalists
use a conflict frame to advocate a certain message. By contrasting and comparing various
production systems, national agricultural contexts, and sectors, the farming magazines report
on emissions and on how they can be decreased, while simultaneously portraying Swedish
farmers as just one of many actors contributing to climate change. The conflict frame is
common in mainstream media and our examination suggests that it is also common in
specialized media, although the substance of the conflict differs.
The economic burden frame found in farming magazines is less common in mainstream
media (Nisbet and Scheufele 2009; Olausson 2009). It frames climate change as individual
economic losses stemming from national climate policies. Although climate change is seldom
interpreted as a financial and economic issue in mainstream media, Nerlich and Koteyko
19
(2010) found that financial papers used the “gold rush” metaphor more frequently than did
UK newspapers when referring to climate mitigation. It conveyed an understanding of climate
mitigation as limitless opportunities, highlighting prospects for profits. Clearly climate change
can be understood as an economic opportunity or burden. While financial papers emphasized
the opportunities presented by mitigation schemes, the economic burden frame, attributable to
national climate policies, dominated the farming magazines reporting; despite the general
focus on opportunities as a result of higher yields due to higher temperatures. This mirrors the
fact that Northern European farmers are mainly viewed as climate change winners who, due
to stricter climate change policies, could rapidly become losers.
Counter to findings in earlier studies of climate change communication (e.g. Moser 2010), the
farming magazines examined seem to make climate change concrete. There is considerable
focus on local impacts and individual farmers’ responses to climate change, which follows
recommendations of climate change communication research emphasizing that messages
perceived as containing information of personal relevance to the individual receiver are more
likely to motivate the individual to think about the message (O’Neill and Nicholson-Cole
2009). The shift from abstract and general climate narratives describing temporally and
spatially distant impacts (Moser and Dilling 2004) towards concrete, observed changes found
in this and other studies (e.g. Olausson 2009) probably occurred because the findings of
phenological studies had recently become available. These studies demonstrate that climate
change is already occurring, and often provide evidence of current and future climate change
manifesting itself in specific geographical places and events. Accordingly, rather than being
represented as a remote possibility for “others”, their impacts are brought into readers’
everyday experiences (Carvalho and Burgess 2005).
20
This paper has mapped the availability and analyzed the framing of information about climate
change in specialized farming magazines. Based on what we know about media habits among
Swedish farmers (LRF 2009), it is reasonable that most Swedish farmers today have access to
information about causes and impacts of climate change, since the distribution and readership
of the studied magazines is widespread. Our study indicates that specialized agricultural
media may play an important knowledge broker role, making mitigation and adaptation
measures tangible by putting them in a local context closer to farmers’ everyday practices.
Nevertheless, availability of information is but one of the factors influencing public
engagement in climate change (Lorenzoni et al. 2007). Nisbet (2009:16) has emphasized the
importance of frame analysis as a means to explain “how media portrayals in interaction with
cultural forces shape public views of complex policy debates such as climate change”. While
it is crucial for climate change communicators and agricultural extension officers to be aware
of how media have covered and framed climate-related issues, we also see a need for further
research into how media framings interact with cultural forces, social norms and expectations
(Lorenzoni et al. 2007), to spur public engagement in climate change.
In the case of Sweden, climate change is presented in the political discourse and in the media
as a matter of collective responsibility (Swedish Government Bill 2009; Olausson 2009).
Swedish farmers find themselves in a cultural context where trust in authorities and scientists
is relatively high (e.g. Viklund 2003), where Government strives to be perceived as leader on
climate change (Swedish Government Bill 2009), and where people increasingly state they
have done something in their everyday lives to reduce their climate impact (Westander et al.
2008; Olausson 2009). The strong emphasis on collective responsibility in the Swedish
cultural and climate policy context could probably explain why the action frame and the
scientific certainty frame were so prevalent in the farming magazines. In other cases different
21
frames of climate change could be more efficient for fostering engagement. For instance,
substituting the economic burden frame for the gold rush metaphor (Nerlich and Koteyko
2010) could potentially resonate with an audience of farmers being keen on innovation and
entrepreneurship. This paper studies a country whose agricultural sector is portrayed as a
winner, similar as in Canada, Finland, Norway, and the northern US. Interestingly, still we
found that an economic burden frame dominated specialized media coverage due to more
stringent fuel taxation and that an injustice or conflict frame also was prominent to advocate
that agriculture is not the main contributor to climate change. In locations where climate
change scenarios suggest deteriorating conditions for agriculture, specialized media is more
likely to use the Pandora’s box and economic burden frames. We also suggest that the conflict
and action frames are likely to be part of specialized media reporting.
In line with previous research into climate change communication (Maibach et al. 2008;
Moser 2010), we argue that segmenting target audiences and tailoring messages to the
audiences’ interpretative frames is necessary. Communicators and agricultural extension
officers need to match the content and framing of the message to the knowledge level of their
audiences and to their interests, values, and concerns (e.g. Nisbet and Scheufele 2009). Even
though farmers could be conceptualized as a homogeneous target group by virtue of their
professional activities, there are obviously large variations between national and cultural
contexts, farming practices, socio-economic background, and climate vulnerability.
6.1 Conclusions
In analyzing framings and coverage of climate change in the two largest Swedish farming
magazines between 2000 and 2009, we found that:
22
Coverage of climate change was unevenly distributed temporally. Attention to climate
change peaked in 2007 and 2009.
The most prominent themes in the farming magazines were: agriculture’s contribution
to climate change, impacts of climate change on agriculture, and consequences of
climate politics for agriculture.
Swedish farming magazines framed climate change differently from Swedish,
European and US news media. Unlike them, the farming magazines paid little
attention to dystopian scenarios, but favoured a balanced reporting on farmers’ roles in
contributing to, and being impacted by climate change.
The most prominent frames in the farming magazines climate-related articles were: the
“conflict frame” counter posing different production systems, national agricultural
contexts, and sectors; the “scientific certainty frame” presenting scientific findings as
unquestionable evidence; the “economic burden frame” emphasizing negative
economic consequences for farmers due to climate policies; the “action frame”
supported by a morality frame, highlighting action on climate change taken by
organizations or individuals, and comparing alternative actions to reduce impact on
climate change.
Climate change communicators addressing farmers and agricultural extension officers
should consider how these framings may be interpreted differently among different
target audiences.
Research is needed on how specialized media reports on climate-related issues and
how science-based climate information is understood by different groups of farmers
and which other factors influence farmers’ engagement in climate mitigation and
adaptation. Broadening the scope of media studies of climate change communication,
23
by including analyses of context-specific media, will complement the findings from
analyses of newspaper and television reports.
Acknowledgements: We gratefully acknowledge support from the Swedish Farmers’
Foundation for Agricultural Research project “Competitively strengthened agriculture:
communication about climate change and new possibilities” and the EU Baltic Sea Region
project “BalticClimate”. We are grateful to colleagues at the Centre for Climate Science and
Policy research and two anonymous reviewers for their productive comments.
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1
Note
Magazine
Headline
a
Land Lantbruk
Sverige planerar för kvot med kofis
[Sweden planning cow fart quota]
b
Land Lantbruk
Helig ilska kring kofis [Holy anger
about cow farts]
c
ATL
Dags att välja bov i klimatdramat
[Time to choose a villain in the
climate drama]
d
ATL
Bilen eller biffen? Välj själv! [The
car or the steak? You decide!]
e
ATL
Krav på skyddsnät för drabbade
bönder [Requirements for safety nets
for affected farmers]
f
Land Lantbruk
Mötesfiasko gynnar Sverige
kort sikt [A meeting fiasco favours
Sweden in the short term]
g
ATL
Mer ärter och mindre soja [More
peas and less soy]
h
ATL
Klimatsmart kyckling och stolta
bönder [Climate-smart chicken and
proud farmers]
i
ATL
Råd om klimatsmart mat kräver
uppdatering [Advice on climate-
friendly food needs to be updated]
j
ATL
Osäkra uppgifter om matens
klimatpåverkan [Uncertain data on
the climate effect of food]
k
Land Lantbruk
Klimathotet kräver ett smart jordbruk
[The climate threat requires smart
farming]
l
Land Lantbruk
Högre krav på bonden ska göra
gården klimatsmart [Higher demands
on farmers to make the farm climate-
smart]
m
Land Lantbruk
Klimatsmartare kött utan soja
[Climate-smarter meat without soy]
n
ATL
Jordbruket kan bli lönsammare med
klimatanpassning [Agriculture can
become more profitable by adapting
to climate change]
o
Land Lantbruk
Vi kan inte riskera att pekas ut som
miljöbovar [We cannot risk being
identified as environmental villains]
p
Land Lantbruk
LRF vill nyansera bild av mulljord
som miljöbov [LRF wants to change
the image of fertile soils as
environmental villains]
2
q
ATL
Biffen är inte den största
klimatboven [The steak is not the
biggest climate villain]
r
ATL
Miljöbördan växer för bönderna [The
environmental burden grows for
farmers]
s
Land Lantbruk
LRF:s ordförande: Detta är ett svek
mot oss i de gröna näringarna
[Farmer’s federation president: This
is a slap in the face to all green
industry]
t
Land Lantbruk
De sju sveken [The seven betrayals]
u
ATL
Klimatutredningen pekar ut bönderna
som vinnare [The climate
investigation identifies farmers as
winners]
v
ATL
Tung klimatbörda för svenska
bönder [Heavy climate burden on
Swedish farmers]
x
ATL
Tuffare krav på lantbruket när
utsläppen ska minska [Tougher
demands on agriculture when
emissions are to be decreased]
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Thesis
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Nature-based solutions (NBS) focus on the material functioning of ecosystems as part of a transformative response to societal challenges. NBS represent a growing response to climate change with a range of interventions emerging across the world to address the causes and effects of climate change. The adoption of NBS is claimed to address a range of Sustainable Development Goals, including empowerment of marginalised people (Goals 10 and 15). In this thesis, I investigate these claims within the context of climate change adaptation. More specifically, I ask if and how ecosystem-based approaches (EBA) to climate change adaptation, as a type of NBS, empower vulnerable and marginalised groups. Four papers are presented that draw respectively on systematic review, conceptual synthesis, empirical, and comparative study. The empirical findings are from two sites in Sri Lanka with a range of climate vulnerabilities. Paper I systematically reviews adaptation case studies to show how empowerment can arise in an adaptation context amidst broader power relations. Paper II demonstrates theoretically the bounded and overlapping roles of EBA and empowerment. In Paper III, I show that EBA have the potential to support people’s empowered adaptive strategies amidst broader transformation of social-ecological relations, but this potential is presently constrained. In the studied cases, the dominant mode of EBA action as intervention limited the ability to support people’s empowered adaptive strategies. Across these papers, I demonstrate that frames embedded in EBA shape the institutional and material dimensions of these actions, becoming central to their capacity to support empowerment. Frames are discursive dimensions of power, or dominant modes of expression, that prefigure outcomes for who is empowered or disempowered through EBA initiatives. In Paper IV, I find that frames of EBA appear to reinforce assumptions of the passive dependency of marginalised people on ES. Further, the way that EBA is framed in biophysical terms may empower external experts and interventions, and lend authority to the knowledge claims of natural scientists. The papers collectively show that current frames of EBA do not make visible the social processes of adaptation or the predominant manner in which EBA is implemented as an intervention. These blind spots have consequences for empowerment since these frames hide people’s diverse and situated social-ecological knowledge, subjectivities, and agencies – aspects which better represent the ways in which people and ecologies emerge in co-evolutionary processes, including through responses to climate change. Confronting the issue of people being left out of the picture in NBS to climate change will entail a sizeable shift in the science and practice of these approaches. This turn would be facilitated by sustainability scientists acknowledging their position in power relations, confronting governance and equity issues in nominally benign solutions, and letting go of problematic assumptions about the relationships between people and nature.
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