When 196 nations met in Paris for COP21, the event naturally attracted global attention. It also fostered transnational debates on Twitter.
The Internet and more specifically social media enable many-to-many communication without the limitations of physically doing so, e.g having to convene in one geographical location. I wanted to find out the extent to which COP21 had “gone global” on Twitter. Besides this rather specific question, I was also interested in the general impact of COP21 on Twitter.
During the past two weeks of the UN summit, we have read about the problems that civil society actors have faced in making their voices heard.
Following on from the November 13 Paris terror attacks protests and other public events were banned in the city. Under these circumstances, social media represent a means through which civil society organisations can stand up for what they believe in and receive public attention.
In this blog post, I want to take a look at the climate change debate taking place on twitter, and the actors participating in it. During the conference, I have collected tweets using Google Tags based on the hashtag #climatechange. The following preliminary analyses are based on tweets collected between 30th of November and 8th of December 2015.
As the climate negotiations in Paris near their final rounds, some might be surprised by rather contradictory developments, which relate to the much discussed 2 degree threshold.
This limit aims to keep warming within 2°C of the pre-industrial average.While the emissions reduction pledges put forward by the countries ahead of COP 21 in Paris were not sufficiently ambitious to keep within this limit, in the final phase of the negotiations many countries wish for an even lower limit: below 1.5 degrees.
Anyone with a passing interest in climate change will know how intractably difficult international negotiations have proved in the past, reaching a low-point at Copenhagen.
Whatever the outcome this week in Paris, the preponderance of ‘square brackets’ in the latest draft document (signifying those issues still to be resolved) indicates that the task remains troublesome. While a scientific consensus on the basics of climate change has been established, a political consensus has been less forthcoming1,2. One reason for this is that climate change is not a uniquely scientific issue, but a public issue involving science3. We need to explore the public meanings of climate change, and allow these meanings to inform the debate around political responses to climate change. I suggest that one way to scratch the surface of such meanings is through the vibrant use of Twitter around the COP21 event4.
Before dealing with environmental news reporting academically, I was involved in the environmental movement personally, since back in the 90s.
I was, for instance, at the World Social Forum which took place during the now sadly famous G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001. I was volunteering as a translator and spent several days actively participating. While there, I had the chance to attend and listen to workshops hosting prominent figures of the so called anti-globalisation movement. Within the movement, at that time, concepts, issues and stakeholders of the sustainability question were defined for an increasingly broad public – an internet-connected public. The discussion was especially relevant for a development-critical, possibly de-growth-oriented perspective. The international and Italian media coverage of that summit in particular, and the discrepancy with my own experience of the events that took place, was one of my journalistic biggest lessons so far.
The day after the Paris attacks, a state of emergency was declared in France.
As a result, civil liberties were restrained and exceptional police powers were dedicated to regulating the movement and residence of the public. The state of emergency was promulgated by the French Assembly for a period of three months beginning on November 26, 2015. Demonstrations planned in Paris for COP21, such as the November 29 climate march, were banned. In this constrained context, what demonstrations by civil society related to COP21 were covered by media?
Climate conferences serve multiple purposes. Besides being important political events, they are also global media spectacles which push the topic of climate change to the top of political, scientific and public agendas.
Scientific data is always at the heart of the way climate change is discussed. Whether it be weather records, measurement of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere or the PH-value of the oceans.
Since the official start of our CliSAP idea contest project in April, the CRG ‘Media Constructions of Climate Change’ has reached many important interim goals. A sample of online news media was assembled, currently covering 23 countries worldwide. It includes well-known media outlets like the American and international edition of the New York Times (USA), but also titles such as Jakarta Globe (Indonesia), Excelsior (Mexico) or Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden) – in total there are currently 42 media outlets included. Important criteria for the selection of the media were (1) the coverage, (2) the daily publication and (3) the national / supra-regional importance of reporting. The media sample is supplemented by an analysis of the climate discourses on Twitter.
Since July, ICDC has started the technical implementation of the tools. The online media monitor (OMM) is supposed to automatically store, analyze, aggregate, and visualize data obtained from global climate media reports, with results visible and usable for everyone. For this purpose, a program is currently being developed that extracts articles based on RSS feeds and exports them to a database. Afterwards, the implementation and visualization of the data analysis will be carried out. In the last phase of the project, automated content analysis functionality will be added to the tools in order to detect, for example, subjects or actors (such as countries, organizations, or particular scientists), and to visualize their activities.
CliSAP researchers at CEN shall be provided with the opportunity for further analysis of the data from the media monitor.