Antal Wozniak, Hartmut Wessler, Julia Lück
Global convergence or national segmentation? The discursive role of the UN Climate Change Conferences in the transnational mediated public sphere

Launch Conference of the University of Brighton Centre for Research in Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics, University of Brighton, UK, April 28th to April 29th, 2016

Does a global governance regime help harmonize national media debates on climate change? We investigate the possible discursive effects of the annual UN Climate Change Conferences (COPs) by way of large-scale comparative media content analysis of newspaper coverage about climate change between July 2012 and December 2015 in five democratic countries, namely Brazil, Germany, India, South Africa, and the United States. To cope with the amount of raw data (ca. 24,000 search results), we employ methods of machine-learning classification and automated content analysis. The underlying assumption is that the COPs ¬¬¬– as global political media events – drive national media debates in similar directions even though initial debate constellations are quite different in their respective national contexts (due to differing political conditions as well as varying degrees of economic development and vulnerability to climate change). The COPs, therefore, are expected to serve as facilitators of a more global (or 'transnationalized') mediated debate on climate change. To test the COPs' assumed role as either a trigger or an amplifier of new framing devices, we conduct a 'framing impetus' analysis, i.e., we identify the emergence (or increased accentuation) of certain idea elements during our period of analysis in the media debate on climate change (e.g., an increase in ‘loss and damage’ framing between 2011 and 2012). We then track their level of prominence over time in relation to the COPs as well as other possible moments of discursive shifts (e.g., releases of IPCC reports, natural disasters). This type of analysis will allow us to better understand the significance of global media events in shaping media debates about climate change against distinct national context factors. We are particularly interested in the sustainability of newly introduced idea elements, i.e., whether the COPs (or other focusing events) can lead to shifts in media framing across national borders that also endure over time.