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Conflictive Knowledge Constructions on Climate Change through Mainstream and Alternative Media?

Author(s): Alexander Brand | Achim Brunnengräber

Journal: Transcience : a Journal of Global Studies
ISSN 2191-1150

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 07;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: Climate change | alternative media | mediatization | discursive construction | capitalism

The article tackles the issue of the social construction of climate change from the perspec- tive of a potential multiplicity of society-wide conceptions of climate change. Such conceptions possibly entail different understandings of what climate change is and how to cope with this phenomenon. A plausible assumption would be that such multiple meanings are conveyed by different types of media which cater to different segments of the overall audience. Against this background we ask whether there exists a genuinely alternative (liberal-leftist) perspective on climate change which might undermine the prevailing, hegemonic notion of climate change as an environmental problem amenable to prudent policy management. Such a counter-hegemonic construction would highlight the inherent relationship of climate change/deterioration and con- temporary forms of capitalist economy. For the purpose of analyzing whether such an alterna- tive account is in the making, we propose an analytical framework that focuses on conflictive and diverging media constructions of climate change. In the remainder of the article, we present some preliminary results of our research. Analyzing the output of two mainstream newspapers and two liberal-leftist media outlets within the United States and Germany, we find some evidence that the mainstream media indeed reconstruct climate change as an environmental problem first. As such it is, according to the mainstream reading, subject to prudent policy management. Alternative media, however, while delivering more critical accounts of the relationship between climate change and market-based solutions, are far more muted in their criticism than expected. This is especially true concerning the embeddedness of climate change into structures of capitalist production and consumption. Consequently, one has to be cautious in simply assuming that alternative media will and do act as producers of alternative knowl- edge(s) on climate change at this moment, even though other multiple crises of capitalism have become a staple in their coverage.

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