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Climate change discourses in use by the UK public: commonalities and variations over a fifteen year period

Capstick, Stuart B. ORCID: 2012. Climate change discourses in use by the UK public: commonalities and variations over a fifteen year period. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The ways in which climate change is understood by members of the UK public, are considered across a fifteen year period spanning 1997-2011. Qualitative datasets from six separate projects are analysed to trace commonalities and variation over time in the conceptualisation of climate change as a physical, social and personal phenomenon. Ways of understanding are presented as a series of discourses. These relate to people’s appraisal of climate science, the apprehension of climate change through informal evidence, and how climate is seen in relation to natural systems; as well as the means by which climate change is contextualised to social systems, to cultural and historical conditions, and with respect to daily life. Climate discourses across all domains are found to be relatively stable over time, though with subtle shifts in meaning and emphasis. Emergent trends include recent evidence of climate ‘fatigue’ and an increased tendency to question the anthropogenic component to climate change, but also the view that action on climate change has become normalised in recent years. Survey data are also used to explore the prevalence of identified ways of understanding, and to examine longitudinal changes in these. There is some evidence of decline in climate change concern and increase in scepticism over the past decade, though these trends are not pronounced. Cold weather events from 2009/2010 are interpreted by people as evidence of the veracity of climate change (more so than as disconfirming it). Cultural worldviews are found to underlie perceptions. Findings are interpreted in the context of cultural theoretical and discursive frameworks. These present the opportunity to explain the recurrent, patterned and socially-shared nature of public perspectives, and the ways in which these are used both to understand climate change and to account for the actions of oneself and others. The development of combined secondary and longitudinal qualitative analytic techniques is a central methodological concern of the thesis. The advantages and drawbacks, practicalities, and epistemological considerations of such an approach, are outlined in detail.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2022 10:22

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