Mapping Press Narratives of Decarbonisation

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  • Title: Mapping Press Narratives of Decarbonisation: Insights on Communication of Climate Responses
  • Author(s): Brenda Mc Nally
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Climate Change: Impacts and Responses
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses
  • Keywords: Press Narratives of Decarbonisation, Climate Change Communication, Representations of Low Carbon Transition
  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 1835-7156 (Print)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Mc Nally, Brenda . 2018. "Mapping Press Narratives of Decarbonisation: Insights on Communication of Climate Responses." The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses 10 (1): 39-57. doi:10.18848/1835-7156/CGP/v10i01/39-57.
  • Extent: 19 pages


Responding to the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions requires significant social transformations including changing social practices as well as public expectations about well-being and social progress. However, reports of increasing public apathy about climate change and doubts about our collective ability to tackle the challenge represent barriers to broad citizen participation with processes of decarbonisation and low carbon transition (LCT). This has led researchers to focus on communication strategies that connect public(s) with climate responses, in other words, public engagement strategies that move beyond simply “telling science” and a focus on science literacy. This shift has implications for news media analysis of LCT. As conveyors of mainstream public narratives about decarbonisation, news media discourses have significant persuasive power and can connect citizens with LCT by shaping future imaginaries and/or expectations about societal responses to climate change. However, few studies specifically examine press discourses of LCT and evaluate press narratives about decarbonisation. Therefore, this interdisciplinary analysis maps Irish press discourses of LCT to develop novel insights for communication about building socially resilient climate responses. This article critically assesses the narrative components of press discourses and assesses how the dominant narratives about LCT perform as affective inputs. The findings show that storylines of dominant discourses present apocalyptic visions of the consequences of inaction or promote narratives of stasis via business-as-usual predictions of green benefits. These narratives do not offer visions of social or cultural change, or describe collaborative approaches for reducing our high-carbon lifestyles. Thus, Irish press narratives about climate responses limit possibilities for connecting with public(s) and building socially resilient solutions. The findings illuminate the need for journalism about climate responses to incorporate a wider range of narratives about LCT. The study further highlights a role for scientists in contributing to socially compelling narratives of decarbonisation.