Pulling out prematurely – Donald Trump and the Paris Agreement – a cross-country comparison of climate change narratives in legacy media

Author: Geraldine Satre Buisson – Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Climate change is one policy arena where science and cultural beliefs are deeply intertwined. In some countries (the United States especially, and the United Kingdom to a lesser extent), this intersection is expressed sharply along political partisan lines. Drawing on narrative policy theory, this paper looks at the way in which we make sense of this entanglement in the form of stories that we tell as social groups, relayed by the media and influential public figures. Tracing how these different narratives emerge and influence policy is of key importance to climate science communicators.

Using the case study of President Trump’s announcement in June 2017 that the United States would be leaving the Paris Agreement, I analyse the narratives that were deployed by the governments of three countries (the United Kingdom, France and Germany) to react to the same policy event, as well as assess the extent to which these stories were adopted or contested in legacy media.

I first conduct a narrative analysis of the speeches made by respective heads of states to identify the range of characters, types of plots, and narrative themes employed to react to President Trump’s announcement. I then compare these official narratives to those disseminated in the media, through the analysis of 150 press articles published in 18 daily newspapers in the weeks following the announcement. I find that, in spite of the united front presented by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in their determination to pursue coordinated climate policies at the international level, the very relevance of nation states as the main actors of climate change mitigation is challenged in the press through the emergence of alternate stories about the role of cities, communities, or businesses as translators of scientific knowledge into political action.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication