UK and US news coverage of climate change from a critical discourse analysis perspective

Abstract. In order to investigate the UK and US news coverage of the representations of different nations regarding climate change, this study employed Norman Fairclough’s approach to critical discourse analysis and corpus tools to analyze news reports on international conferences on climate change. The results of the analysis depict a world which is polarized by inequalities and it appears that the nations of the world have been unable to reach a consensus on a common treaty om climate change. The collocation patterns and syntactic structures represented developing countries as areas which are both heavily affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and very active in negotiations surrounding this issue. Developed countries were represented in a passive stance and have been avoiding financial responsibility for climate change. The language used in the sample articles indicate that these two newspapers have differing ideologies. The paper concludes with the methodological and practical contributions of the study to present critical discourse analysis and language teaching/learning.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2014, Vol. 59, No. 5, pp. 105-113 This paper is available online at UK AND US NEWS COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE FROM A CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS PERSPECTIVE Luu Thi Kim Nhung Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. In order to investigate the UK and US news coverage of the representations of different nations regarding climate change, this study employed Norman Fairclough’s approach to critical discourse analysis and corpus tools to analyze news reports on international conferences on climate change. The results of the analysis depict a world which is polarized by inequalities and it appears that the nations of the world have been unable to reach a consensus on a common treaty om climate change. The collocation patterns and syntactic structures represented developing countries as areas which are both heavily affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and very active in negotiations surrounding this issue. Developed countries were represented in a passive stance and have been avoiding financial responsibility for climate change. The language used in the sample articles indicate that these two newspapers have differing ideologies. The paper concludes with the methodological and practical contributions of the study to present critical discourse analysis and language teaching/learning. Keywords:Critical discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, climate change, representation. 1. Introduction Ever since NASA’s top climatologist James E. Hansen presented his warning of global warming before the US Congress in 1988, the issue has gained its momentum in every field of science and entered into social discourse all over the world. Recently, the climate change debate has been evolving more rapidly into a sophisticated global arena in which the voices of scientists, politicians, media personnel, activists and members of the general public are being heard. Among them, linguists have made use of rhetorical devices, discourse strategies, metaphors, framing, and other aspects of text and talk on climate change. Boykoff and Boykoff (2004, 2007), Carvalho (2007), Doulton and Katrina Received January 25, 2013. Accepted July 9, 2014. Contact Luu Thi Kim Nhung, e-mail address: luu_nhung72@yahoo.com 105 Luu Thi Kim Nhung (2009), Ereaut and Segnit (2006), Grundmann and Krishnamurthy (2010), Moser and Dilling (2004), Nerlich (2011) and Wodak and Meyer (2012) have all commented on the significance of the language used in communicating climate change issues. Despite the great body of literature which has accrued, however, virtually no research has focused on how the views of the governments of different nations are represented in media discourse on climate change. In consideration of the changing power relations among countries in the world, I believe a systematic analysis of a fairly large sample of media language should be carried out employing linguistic tools that simultaneously compare different media outlets’ representations of different nations at critical moments in the history of climate change. This research is an attempt to analyze the representations of different nations as presented by the UK and US media in the discourse on climate change. For the analysis of such a complex issue of climate change, critical discourse analysis (CDA) is appropriate because of its suitability to the study of the use of language in a socio-economic political context and incorporation of concepts from other disciplines. In addition to CDA, corpus techniques make it possible to obtain reliable evidence from a large sample of data to reveal language patterns that are hard to detect using manual analysis. In this study, Norman Fairclough’s (1995) Dialectical-Relational Approach to CDA and corpus linguistics techniques were utilized to analyze The Independent and The New York Times news articles reporting on three recent important international climate conferences. 2. Content 2.1. Theoretical and methodological considerations It should be explained how several concepts are used in this study. First, the term ‘discourse’ is defined as a social practice or social interaction that is imbued with ideology and power nexus. Second, ‘critical’ means “unraveling the ideological nature or the unequal social relationships represented in discourse” (Nguyen Hoa 2005, p.14). Third, CDA maintains that the role, relationship and identity of participants in a discourse are created and arranged by textual features that are embedded in the social, economic, cultural and political context. The theoretical and methodological considerations underlying this study are based on Norman Fairclough’s (1995) approach to CDA and Baker et al.’s (2008) corpus tools. Norman Fairclough’s (1995) CDA approach is characterized as an analysis of the relationship between language and society at three levels: (i) micro-level analysis of the text, (ii) meso-level analysis of the discursive practice (i.e. the production, circulation and reception of the text), (iii) macro-level analysis of the social practice (i.e. the social, economic, political context). Fairclough’s approach not only analyzes the textual meaning but also interprets and 106 UK and US News coverage of climate change from a critical discourse analysis perspective explains why language is used the way it is in the text, based on discursive and discourse practice, so as to better understand the ideological stances represented in the discourse (Diệp Quang Ban 2010). However, CDA has been the object of criticism because although a CDA analysis looks at a wide range of texts, the data tends to be fragmentary, exemplificatory and not representative. Thus, scholars such as Stubbs (1997) and Baker et al. (2008) propose that CDA refer to a relatively large corpus of representative text and use corpus techniques to examine and generalize patterns of language use. A very basic corpus tool is frequency/wordlist, which lists all the words in a corpus together with their overall frequency. This list can help reveal patterns of lexical choices. Another corpus tool is collocation, “a lexical relation between two or more words which have a tendency to co-occur within a few words of each other in running text” (Stubbs 2001, p.24). Collocation lists can reveal patterns of lexical association of particular words. In addition, a concordance is a list of every instance of use of a word in the corpus with an expandable context up to a whole text view. These tools are quite useful in disclosing an ideological use of language in discourse. 2.2. Methodology In order to examine how different nations are represented in the discourse of the UK and US newspapers on climate change, two study corpora were developed, consisting of The Independent and The New York Times articles in which the word ‘climate’ was used at least once. The sample articles were published between 28/11/2011 and 09/12/2011 (COP17), 26/11/2012 and 07/12/2012 (COP18), and between 11/11/2013 and 22/11/2013 (COP19). The corpora total 75 articles containing 61,135 words. These two corpora were then sorted correspondingly to the COPs so that changes in representations could be traceable over time. Corpus techniques were employed in the micro-level analysis. First, the wordlist function of the computer softwareWordsmith Tools 6.0 (Scott 2012) was used to create the word frequency lists of the study corpora. By comparing The Independent and The New York Times wordlists, it was identified which nations were represented most frequently in the corpora. A short list was then created and the most frequently represented nations were now termed node words. Second, collocation lists were run for the node words to obtain their initial semantic profiles. All lists were extracted from a span of five words to the left and five words to the right of the node words as suggested by Sinclair (1991, p.106). Finally, a manual scan of concordance lines of the node words was done to identify the patterns of language use related to the nodewords. At the meso- and macro-level analysis, Norman Fairclough’s approach to CDA served in the interpretation and explanation of these textual patterns in the discursive and social contexts. The discourse was approached from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, with synchronic and diachronic axes. In this way it was possible to trace how patterns of language use were constructed in the representations of different nations in articles of the two newspapers and to uncover the 107 Luu Thi Kim Nhung ideologies and the imbalanced social relations represented in the discourse. 2.3. Results and discussion The table below summarizes the results of a quantitative analysis of the corpora. Conference Number of articles Number of words Average article length by words The Independent The New York Times The Independent The New York Times The Independent The New York Times COP 17 18 11 13.155 11.979 730 1.089 COP 18 11 11 6.447 10.183 586 925 COP 19 9 15 5.210 14.161 578 944 Total 38 37 24.812 36.323 631 986 75 61.135 ratio 1:1.5 2.3.1. Micro-level analysis a. The most frequently represented nations As a result of running the wordlist function on the subcorpora, a list of the words occurring at the highest frequencies in each newspaper at each COP was created (Within the space of this article, the list (in the form of a table) is not shown)... Overall, such nations as China, India, developing, UK/Britain, US and EU could be found in both newspapers. It is worthy to note the adjacent pairs ‘developed – developing’, ‘rich – poor’, etc. in front of ‘countries,’ ‘nations,’ and ‘states’. This result laid the foundation for the next step in the analysis. b. The representations of different nations By both running the concordancer in the study corpora and manually analyzing the concordance lines in their contexts of use, the following results were produced. * The representation of developing nations First, it was found that ‘developing’ occurred less often in The Independent than in The New York Times: 24 at COP17, 2 at COP18, and 2 at COP19 compared with 24, 8 and 21, respectively. Second, The Independent mentioned the developing countries’ impacts on the climate and financial aid for these countries to solve climate-related problems. The New York Times mentioned financial aid more often but simultaneously referred to developing countries’ legal obligations with respect to climate change. The New York Times represented developing countries as ‘group’ and ‘alliance’ in a more active voice at COP19 and addressed a ‘quarrel’ or ‘dispute’ between the developing and the developed countries. In this representation, developing countries were not ‘victims’ of climate change (as at COP18) but rather groups of countries that gathered to create collective power in order to ‘demand’ assistance from developed countries. * The representation of developed nations 108 UK and US News coverage of climate change from a critical discourse analysis perspective Both newspapers used the adjacent pair ‘developed – developing’ when reference was being made to ‘near collapse’ or ‘outdated’, and some developing countries were referred to as ‘major economies’. In The Independent, ‘developed’ nations were mainly represented in the passive voice. They were represented in an the activate voice only when they ‘caused’, ‘behaved’ and ‘promise’ at COP17, and ‘would help’ at COP19. In the same manner, for the most part, developed countries were represented in a passive position in The New York Times. These representations of the two media imply that developed countries have no obligation to take the lead in taking steps to prevent climate change. * The representation of rich and poor nations (Within the limit of an article, it is impossible to include the concordance lines of the corpora). Overall, The New York Times used the adjacent pair ‘rich and poor’ more often than did The Independent. Also, The New York Times addressed the divide, responsibilities, and inequalities between rich and poor countries. Rich countries were represented in a passive voice, especially with respect to their responsibility for climate change problems, with wording examples being ‘obligations of rich nations to help poor countries’, ‘a promise by rich nations to help poor countries’, ‘the indifference of the rich world’, and ‘to require rich nations to bear the cost’. This passive presentation obfuscates any obligation that rich countries might have to help poor countries. In addition, poor countries were represented mostly in the passive voice (24/26 tokens), with only two active presentations, that of ‘press for a’ and ‘will bear,’ when referring to the demand by poor countries that rich countries provide more aid to poor countries to support their climate change issues. In the same vein, The Independent represented rich countries in the passive voice. The active verbs ‘promise,’ ‘pledge’, ‘committed’ were used when rich countries were ‘accused of ’ having caused global climate change due to their previous industrialization. Poor countries were represented in a passive voice, too, when they were said to have received ‘help’, ‘aid’, ‘protection’ and ‘funds’ for ‘climate change impact on the poor.’ * The representation of the UK/Britain The lemmas ‘UK’ and ‘Britain’ were prevailing in The Independent’s articles about COP17, but were less frequent later. At COP17, this country was described as ‘absolutely committed’, ‘plans to combat global warming’, ‘walking the walk on global’, and ‘wants to see responsibilities’. At COP18, it was represented as having witnessed more natural disasters at home and ‘showed international leadership’ with ‘strong. . . commitment to cutting’, albeit the country ‘has already met Europe’s target’. In The New York Times, ‘Britain’ was more common at COP17 and COP18. Britain was represented in a positive light as being active in the climate change arena with phrases such as ‘accept a series of ’, ‘put itself in front of the effort’, ‘has some big decisions’, and ‘create financial framework’ at COP17, and ‘already has a system’, ‘committed’ and ‘toward a low-carbon future’ at COP18. * The representation of the United States The two corpora represented the United States differently. In The Independent, at 109 Luu Thi Kim Nhung COP17, ‘America’ was accused of using unfair treatment, the ‘US’ was depicted as one of the ‘biggest greenhouse gas emitters’ and ‘a major player’ with some positive phrases like ‘wants to stick with voluntary pledges’ and ‘supported the EU idea’, but ‘indicated it will not join in’, ‘refuses to sign deal’, ‘withdrew’, etc. At COP18, the US was mainly described as delaying taking action with respect to climate change. Similarly, at COP19, it was mostly referred to in the passive voice. In The New York Times, the phrases ‘President Obama’ and ‘the Obama administration’ were used as metonyms for the US. The US seemed to be represented as gradually shifting to a more positive stance regarding climate change, from ‘come under pressure’ and ‘pledged to reduce’ at COP17, to ‘would commit’ at COP18, to ‘appears sincerely committed’ with the ‘agreement by President Obama and President Xi Jinping’. * The representation of China In both newspapers, China was mentioned most at COP17 and increasingly less at COP 18 and COP 19. Both newspapers depicted China as a ‘fast-growing’ country, a ‘rapidly rising power’ and ‘the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions’. In The Independent’s coverage of COP17, the majority of the verbal collocates of ‘China’ were in the active voice with, for example, ‘produce’, ‘may lead the way’, ‘oppose the plans’, ‘might accept’ and ‘will not play ball’. However, in The New York Times, the verbal collocates of ‘China’ most often represented China as a passive agent in relation to a treaty on climate change, with ‘is classified’, ‘would be open to signing’ and ‘was prepared to enter’, and mental verbs like ‘contend’ and ‘consider’ but as an active agent with respect to economic conditions: ‘have surpassed’ and ‘has taken steps’. In this representation, there seems to be a paradox in that China is becoming a powerful country but it is not appropriately taking responsibility in the international arena of climate change. 2.3.2. Meso-level analysis A look into the discursive practice of the sample articles can help explain the linguistic phenomena encoded in them. However, the scope of this paper does not allow a full discursive analysis, which I hope will be undertaken in another paper. The Independent is regarded as supporting a social democratic ideology, with a global outlook and values of equity and solidarity (Carvalho, 2007). The Independent advances an image of scientific consensus about climate change and its coverage is dominated by ethical discourse demanding stronger political intervention and urgent action by the developed world to provide assistance to developing countries. This position explains why The Independent used ‘rich – poor’ adjacent pair less frequently and mentioned the possibility of providing aid to developing countries more often. The New York Times, the hometown paper of New York City, adheres to cosmopolitanism. That is, the newspaper sticks to the ideology of all ethnic groups belonging to a community based on a shared morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different parties. This position is held by Boykoff and Boykoff (2004, p.134) who believe that the newspaper ‘adheres to the norm of balanced 110 UK and US News coverage of climate change from a critical discourse analysis perspective reporting.’ It is our opinion that The New York Times’ coverage of the COPs represented developing countries as an alliance demanding that developed countries finance global climate change related activities. 2.3.3. Macro-level analysis Climate change officially emerged on the world’s agenda at the Earth Summit in 1992, where the United Nation’s Framework of Climate Change was founded to prevent humans’ dangerous climate intervention. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was approved, and in 2005 it came into effect. Under this Protocol, industrialized countries are encouraged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below their 1990 level to keep global temperature within 2◦C above pre-industrial levels. This has been achieved but this has not been enough to offset the rapidly increasing emissions from non-industrialized countries which operate without such a commitment. In 2009, developed and developing countries did pledge to reduce their emissions and take mitigating action, and developed countries committed to provide 100 billion USD per year towards long-term climate change control by 2020. However, for the time being, some countries refuse to agree to long-term global emissions reductions targets for fear that this might constrain their future economic growth. Developing countries now expect that some features of the current Kyoto Protocol which they consider favorable to them would not be included in any new treaty. The most powerful nations in the world have their own agendas on climate change. The UK government has taken a number of steps to limit emissions of greenhouse gases in the UK by passing laws which are legally binding targets. It has endorsed the Kyoto Protocol and passed the Climate Change Act, establishing a framework to develop an economically credible emissions reduction path. UK leadership was strengthened internationally when it contributed to collective action to tackle climate change. Articles in ‘The Independent’ have reflected well o
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