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Reporting on Climate-Change Action: Paris Agreement, Fridays for Future and the Framing in Public News Worldwide

Seminar: Reporting on Climate-Change Action: Paris Agreement, Fridays for Future and the Framing in Public News Worldwide - Lisa Lechner (University of Innsbruck) & Gabriele Spilker (University of Salzburg)

14:00-15:00 (IST) Wednesday, November 3

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Abstract: Anthropogenic climate change poses an existential threat to the future of life on our planet. Current climate policies put us on track towards 3.5 degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century (IPCC 2019) implying, among others, the loss of up to 70% of plant and animal species, several meters of sea-level rise, and an epidemic spread of infectious diseases. Despite these dire predictions, today’s societies are rather sluggish when it comes to climate action and public opinion on climate change has become increasingly polarized in most countries. At the same time, we observe both international cooperation, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in particular, as well as bottom-up pressure from parts of the general public, in the form of the Fridays for Future protests, to avert these grim worst-case scenarios of climate change. But do these forms of pro-climate action impact on how the general public perceives climate change? Thus, can either international cooperation or public protest move the debate on climate change in a more positive direction or does it rather result in a backlash? We try to answer these questions relying on a comparative media analysis including not only several news outlets over time but also various countries. We propose an original way of generating multilingual dictionaries and demonstrate its usefulness on a new dataset of newspaper articles from 16 countries, 26 newspaper outlets over a period from 2013 to 2020. To circumvent shortcomings of previous multilingual text analysis, we artificially create a parallel corpus, which allows us to understand the context of words and thus the meaning. This enables us to generate dictionaries in different languages that contain words with similar meaning. Using this method, we are able to show that depending on the type of news medium, quality versus tabloid and liberal versus conservative, pro-climate action, such as protest behavior or the Paris Agreement, are portrayed in very different means thus potential contributing to an increase in societal polarization on the issue of climate change. In addition, our extensive country and year coverage allows us to discuss interesting variations in climate-change reporting across space and time.

About the speaker: Lisa Lechner is Assistant professor for methods and methodology in political science at the University of Innsbruck. Before, she worked as postdoctoral researcher in the TRADEPOWER (ERC grant) project at the University of Salzburg. Lisa Lechner wrote her dissertation entitled “the political, social, and ecological weight of preferential trade agreements” at the University of Salzburg and McGill University. In her research, Lisa studies international treaties, such as trade agreements, bilateral tax treaties, and environmental agreements, as well as national and international jurisdictions by dint of network- and text-analysis. Her research appeared in a number of peer-reviewed outlets, such as Review of International Political Economy, Review of International Organizations, International Interactions, and Global Environmental Policy. Beyond academic talks, Lisa Lechner held public speeches on trade. Among others she spoke at the OECD in Paris, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Berlin, and the Austrian Parliament.