Countering Climate Change: Climate Skeptic Comments in the German Networked Public Sphere

Jonas Kaiser

Abstract


Even though manmade climate change is widely agreed upon in climate science it is a highly polarizing issue both off- and online with climate skeptics on the one side and the mainstream on the other. This is especially visible in a country like Germany where skeptics are a small minority that have formed a counterpublic online. The study at hand is looking at the relationship between counterpublic and mainstream in the networked public sphere to find out how and where skeptics are trying to make their voices heard and how users from the mainstream react to that. In order to shine a light at this ‘clash of publics’, 10,262 comments from 4 news sites and 6 climate blogs have been manually analyzed. The results show that skeptics are very active within all comment sections: they wrote over 40% of the relevant comments and were even more active in conservative comment sections where they wrote over 70% of the comments thus creating some kind of skeptic 'free-harbor'. They also did not adjust their framing but rather promote their messages of doubt and denial in all comment sections. This shows that for skeptics the message is more important than the place. This, however, is not tolerated by mainstream users who react critically to skeptics and even take the 'fight' to the skeptic blogs. Integrating counterpublic theory within the networked public sphere offers both a theoretical as well as an empirical framework for analyzing and understanding online debates.

Keywords


comments, climate skeptics, blogs, mass media, counterpublics

Full Text:

PDF