Social Constructions of Climate Futures

How People Imagine their Future in the Context of Climate Change

Which perceptions of climate futures are constructed in local, stakeholder/expert, and media discourses about climate change?

Climate change takes place independently of how people perceive it, believe in it, or talk and write about it. However, the way people communicate and debate different perceptions and beliefs about climate change affects how societies imagine and negotiate climate futures. These debates assign responsibility for the causes of climate change and for mitigating it, and they advocate or reject specific solutions – imagined climate futures thus influence the Earth’s actual climate futures.

The objective of the project is to explore how climate futures are imagined through communication and how these imaginations travel across different arenas of communication: local, stakeholder, and media arenas. Climate futures are debated across a variety of social and cultural contexts including science, politics, the media, and everyday conversation. While these different spheres of communication are somewhat distinct, they are also connected in ways that shape understandings, imaginations, and solutions that are adopted to address climate change. Debates in different world regions are both rooted in local cultural contexts and are also globally intertwined.

This project will focus on social construction of climate futures from three perspectives: a communication research perspective will deal with debates in traditional and social media, a cultural anthropological perspective will focus on local discourses, and a sociological perspective will investigate stakeholder and expert discourses. To include and compare different local, social, and cultural contexts, discourses will be analyzed in Germany, the USA, South Africa, and India. Over time, this project will explore which social constructions of climate futures win the quest for public attention.

Project coordination: Dr. Lars Guenther

Chairs: Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann, Prof. Dr. Simone Rödder, Prof. Dr. Michael Schnegg

Team: Daniela Mahl, Youssef Ibrahim, Christopher Pavenstädt, Coral O’Brian, Inga Janina Sievert, Jana Lüdemann, Fynn Schröder

Participating Researchers: Chris Biemann, Anita Engels, Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw, Martina Neuburger, Miriam Prys-Hansen, Beate Ratter

Duration: since 2019

Funding: DFG – CliCCS