10 Feb 2009 5:00pm - 7:00pm CRASSH 17 Mill Lane


The cultural politics of climate change: focusing on mass media

Speaker:  Max Boykoff


Mass media serve vital roles in communication processes between science, policy and the public, and often stitch together perceptions, intentions, considerations, and actions regarding climate change. Many dynamic, non-linear, contested and complex factors contribute to how media outlets portray climate change stories. In this seminar presentation, I will touch on salient and swirling contextual factors as well as competing journalistic pressures and norms that contribute to how issues, events and information have often become climate ‘news’. I will more specifically focus my attention on how particular problems and snags in the web of interaction between science, media, policy and the public have contributed to critical misperceptions, misleading debates, and divergent understandings – that are detrimental to efforts that seek to enlarge rather than constrict the spectrum of possibility for appropriate responses to climate challenges. I will also attempt to highlight the importance of greater mindfulness of using messages, analogies, narratives, metaphors that ‘work’ to more effectively communicate issues linking climate change science, governance and everyday practices. I’ll work also to situate these dynamics in the context of a wider ‘cultural politics of climate change’, where formal climate science and governance link with everyday activities in the public sphere. Ultimately, I’ll aim to open up a discussion regarding how these cultural politics will have a bearing on UN COP negotiations for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol.


Maxwell Boykoff is currently a Research Fellow in the Environmental Change Institute and a Departmental Lecturer in the School of Geography at the University of Oxford. During the previous two years he was a James Martin 21st Century School Fellow at the University of Oxford. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Santa Cruz and Bachelor of Sciences from Ohio State University. Max has explored the cultural politics of climate change in everyday spaces, as his research has investigated how various non nation-state actors influence climate science, policy and practice. His research includes analyses of media coverage of climate change, how certain discourses influence environmental policy considerations, the role of celebrity endeavors in climate change issues, and links to ethics, environmental justice movements, climate adaptation and public understanding. Recent publications include peer-reviewed articles in Geoforum, Transactions of the Institute of British Geography, Political Geography, Environmental Research Letters, and Climatic Change. He has also written commentaries for Nature Reports Climate Change and Nieman Reports as well as co-authored a background paper for the 2007 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports. He is currently working on two books: one is called ‘Who Speaks for Climate? Making Sense of Mass Media Reporting on Climate Change’ for Cambridge University Press; the second is an edited book entitled ‘The Politics of Climate Change’ for Routledge/Europa.


All welcome.  No registration required

This is part of a  series of seminars by the Cultures of Climate Change Research Group.

Meetings are held on alternate Tuesdays in term-time, 17.00 to 19.00, at CRASSH.  Please see the link on the right hand side of the page for information on the group. 


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