Mediating Public Science: Experts, Politics, and Climate Change in the News Media in Canada
Isopp, Bernhard Isaac
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This project offers a reconstructionist science and technology studies (STS) analysis of climate change coverage in three Canadian newspapers, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Toronto Star from 2006 to 2013. It employs a combination of framing, critical discourse, and philosophical analyses to address two core questions: (1) Why has climate change been represented in these newspapers in the ways it has? (2) What effects have these newspapers had in shaping issues of climate change? These broad inquiries are organised by a set of six more specific conceptual concerns stemming from STS: i) How do scientists relate, engage, and compete with other actors in influencing climate change coverage? ii) To what extent can these newspapers be understood as a site of scientific practice, communication, and knowledge production? iii) What broader social, political, and economic factors are linked to the competing representations of climate change and actor coalitions that emerge in these newspapers? iv) What broader images, ideologies, and philosophies of science and scientists shape and emerge from these media discourses? v) What do STS conceptions of scientific rhetoric suggest about these discourses? vi) How is the authority of science and scientists established, affected, challenged, and undermined through and by all these interacting influences and processes? While the answers to these questions are multifaceted, the authority of science is a culminating theme. Here there is ambivalence: concerned and sceptical voices in these newspapers accuse each other of politicisation, while appealing to the authority of objective, apolitical science to bolster their positions. A paradox appears in that the more fervent the appeal to unpoliticised science, the more the politicisation of science is on display. A normative suggestion is offered: the discourses found in these newspapers all involve rhetorical, ideological, authority-seeking, and thoroughly political appeals to science, thus undermining any hope of grounding responses to climate change in science that is free from politics. But they are not all equivalent: some offer a means to sincere and accountable public deliberations involving scientific knowledge, and thus are preferable for addressing climate change.