Author: Sara Yeo – University of Utah, United States
Dominique Brossard – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Kyle Griffin – Riskpulse
Zachary Handlos – Georgia Institute of Technology
Alexandra Karambelas – Columbia University
Kathleen Rose – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Leona Su – University of Utah
Research suggests people associate different concepts with the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” We test this claim using Twitter content and supervised learning software to categorize tweets by topic. We explore differences in Twitter discourses that employ the terms “global warming” and “climate change” over time (January 1, 2012 to March 31, 2014). These data were combined with temperature records to test the extent to which temperature was associated with online discussions. We then used two case studies to examine the relationship between extreme temperature events and Twitter content: a “cold surge” (January 2014) and a “heat wave” (March 2012). We found that the topic of discussion was an important factor in whether messages about global warming or climate change were more prevalent. While more reactions to global warming were observed for topics related to weather and energy, more climate change tweets were about environmental and political issues. Consistent with previous research, our findings also showed that posts about global warming (but not climate change) were significantly correlated with anomalous temperature and impacted by seasonality. This result was further supported in our case study of the “heat wave,” where a statistically significant correlation between anomalous temperature and global warming reactions was observed. The “cold surge” case study supported our finding that political statements appear to be associated with more climate change tweets relative to global warming. Overall, these findings underscore the importance of considering how communication on social media may translate into concerns among lay publics. Depending on the policy issue at hand, it may be important to develop messages using the appropriate term that resonates with people’s existing schema.
The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.
Presentation type: Individual paper
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication