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Discourses around climate change in the news media

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Publication date30/06/2016
Original languageEnglish
EventCorpora and Discourse International Conference - Siena University, Siena, Italy
Duration: 30/06/20162/07/2016
http://www.congressi.unisi.it/sibolgroup/

Conference

ConferenceCorpora and Discourse International Conference
Abbreviated titleCADS Conference
CountryItaly
CitySiena
Period30/06/162/07/16
Internet address

Abstract

Ever since the publication of their first report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has described the origin of climate change as anthropogenic and, declaring it as ‘unequivocal’ in 2007. Nevertheless, societies worldwide react in different ways while the level of scepticism remains high and the scientific evidence is challenged.

This research examines the ways printed newspapers have framed climate change issues across four countries: Britain, Brazil, Germany and Italy. Our ultimate aim is to investigate the role that mass media in shaping public opinion. These countries are all major emitters of greenhouse gases but their citizens reveal different attitudes and different levels of concern towards climate-change related issues (PEW 2010; EC 2011). Here, we are interested in examining the similarities and differences across these four countries regarding the debate around climate change issues within the news media. More specifically, we aim to explore the following questions:
(i) what concerns are revealed through the debate?
(ii) does the data explain why these societies respond differently to climate change in terms of level of concern and proposed solutions?
(iii) what kinds of social practices do people discuss in relation to the causes and ways to mitigate climate change? To what extent the results can be understood as traces of national social practices?
The data is drawn from a corpus comprising newspaper articles making reference to climate change/global warming published between Jan/2003 and Dec/2013 in the four countries under analysis. The texts were selected on the basis of a set of query words/phrases, established according to Gabrielatos (2007). The British corpus consists of 61.8 million words (86,088 texts), the Brazilian corpus contains 10.9 million words (19,268 texts), while the German and the Italian corpora reach 40 million and 10 million words (19,777 texts) respectively.

This paper presents the results of such cross-cultural analysis and discusses interesting differences between these countries. For example, while Brazilian newspapers give prominence to the problem of deforestation and the urgent need for actions, the British media put energy issues at the very centre of debate. Differences are also seen in terms of the visibility given to climate scepticism. It is much more visible in the British media, especially from 2008 onwards, than in Brazil or Germany where it has not received as much attention. This paper will also discuss the methodological questions arising from combining critical discourse analysis with corpus linguistics methods to carry out a diachronic analysis across four national discourses, recounting the various stages and the reasons behind our decisions.