In my PhD project, I study how a variety of actors — political institutions, parties, civil society organisations, and the media — debate climate change. In the PhD project, the focus lies on the role of controversy and consensus (e.g. about economic interests, scientific findings, or energy policy), and its effects on the public debate and civic engagement with the issue.
In a first broad comparative study, I have analysed online news about climate change about the issue in Germany, Canada, and the US. The study showed, among other things, that media focus on political actors in the US leads to a pattern of intense controversy about the need to limit emissions — partly at odds with recent opinion polls and marginalising debates about the many ways to move ahead put forward by other actors. In contrast, German media emphasise controversy about the efficacy of specific mitigation measures, departing from a general consensus about the need for policy intervention.
The second study will dig deeper into how media cover controversy and consensus, dissecting how political identity cues are combined with claims about knowledge and values. In order to do so, the project draws on Discourse Analysis and Actor-Network Theory, and will consist of a qualitative (2019) and quantitative stage (2020). The final aim of this study is to understand both how these links are made at the level of individual sentences, and whether there are consistent differences in the patterns between outlets read by the political left and right in Germany and the US.
Finally, the project will turn towards audience responses to news coverage. While gathering and analysing news content, I also collect comments made by readers/viewers. This material will be used later to understand what elements of climate change news are taken up by commentators, and how the identity-formations portrayed in the news are received by audiences.