Civil Society Organizations and Cultural Repertoires of Evaluation in the Media Debate on Climate Change: Comparing France and the United States

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Tuomas YLA-ANTTILA , Social research / Sociology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Anna KUKKONEN , University of Helsinki, Finland
National political cultures have an effect on how global political problems are constructed in media debates in different countries. Our starting point is that the repertoires of moral evaluation used to justify arguments related to the problem of climate change are likely to vary between countries, and that these differences may, in turn, affect policy responses. Civil society organizations, we argue, have a particularly important role in bringing moral evaluations into the debate. In this paper, we compare the argumentation of civil society organizations and their allies and opponents in coverage of UN climate change conferences in Le Monde and the New York Times between 1997 and 2011. We find that arguments are more often justified by appealing to civic values like equality, democracy and sound legal regulation in France, while monetary value plays a more important role as a justification for climate policy arguments in the United States. These differences are not due to differences in the selection of sources by journalists, but seem to reflect deep-seated cultural differences. In France, even business organizations often resort to the civic mode of argumentation while in the US, civil society organizations often justify their arguments in economic terms. Over time, we see convergence in both countries towards arguments based on the idea of ecological modernization: economic growth, technological progress and ecological values are increasingly seen as supporting each other. Radical ecologist and radical pro-market arguments are both becoming more marginalized.