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Unremarkable and uncontroversial? Climate change actions in advertising and public discourse

Wheelock, Daniel 2018. Unremarkable and uncontroversial? Climate change actions in advertising and public discourse. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Despite widespread public awareness, climate change remains a low priority compared to other public issues. This study’s starting point is the normative importance of public discourse about climate change in representing and legitimising public actions as responses to climate change. The study also explores public connection, how and to what extent the public engage with public discourse about climate change. The study has two main elements: (i) a discursive content analysis of 55 corporate, governmental and NGO websites, based on advertising, a widely consumed form of media discourse that has received relatively little attention in this context; and (ii) 23 semi-structured public interviews. A small number of individual domestic emissions reduction actions, often framed as unremarkable and uncontroversial, dominated the media sample, reflecting corporate communicators domination of this discourse. The same actions were integral to interviewees’ understanding of climate change, not due to acceptance of their efficacy, but a lack of awareness of alternative forms of action. Five linguistic repertoires used to frame these actions in the media sample are described in detail. Public connection to climate change reflected the strength of people’s wider public connection, both their talk about public issues and the quality and quantity of their news use. Overall, public connection to climate change was weak, reflecting low media coverage and norms of ‘climate silence’ in everyday life, resulting in a lack of opportunities for climate talk or deliberation about climate actions. The study identifies the need for both greater opportunities for public involvement in agenda setting, and more public interest content, in both the media and academia. These weaknesses of public connection to climate change reflect many wider concerns about public connection to democratic politics. The study highlights the crucial role that the construction of public opinion plays in legitimising both specific climate actions and a wider shift to a low-carbon society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 May 2018
Date of Acceptance: 30 May 2018
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2019 03:24

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