Discourses of climate change causes and effects: An inter-institutional analysis

Sustainability and environment

John Currie, Daniel Lees Fryer, and Ben Clarke are presenting an analysis of climate change discourse across important institutions.

11 Oct 2022
14:30 - 16:00
Thanos, Patricia building

John Currie, Daniel Lees Fryer (Ostfold University College, Norway) and Ben Clarke, University of Gothenburg


Climate change is not only a scientific issue, but rather impacts, for example, our society, politics, economics, and culture. The entire discourse around climate change can thus be understood as a set of complex relations and networks between different institutions, including the scientific community, politics, activists, and news media (Anderson, 2014; Boykoff & Yulsman, 2013). Anderson (2014) has appealed for research which takes account of this complexity, as well as shifts across time. In our earlier work (Currie & Clarke, 2022), we considered climate change metaphors in the Conceptual Metaphor Theory tradition (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Kövecses, 2010) in the single institution of UK parliamentary debates between 2015 and 2019. One speculative trend in this earlier work, manifested through the analysis of Hallidayan transitivity patterns (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004), was a move from a predominance of addressing, or otherwise dealing with, climate change effects in earlier time periods of the data (e.g. “the wider problem of tackling flooding in the future” (2015)) towards addressing and dealing with climate change causes in later periods of the data (e.g. “urgent action is needed to tackle deforestation” (2019)).
Here, we build on our earlier work and respond to Anderson’s challenge of comparing multiple institutions; specifically, we examine the discussion of climate change effects vis-a-vis climate change causes across time and across the UK institutions of the Houses of Parliament, UK news media, climate activists and NGOs, and the IPCC between 2015 and 2022. We use a combination of corpus-based, and discourse analytic tools, to analyse causes and effects as the goal-participants, in Halliday’s (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004) terms, of the most frequently occurring verbs in our data. In our talk, we will present some preliminary findings which demonstrate both similarities and differences between the institutions when observed temporally. This focus on climate change effects relative to climate change causes is seen in the light of discussions concerning climate mitigation relative to climate adaptation (see e.g. Moser 2014).


Anderson, A. (2014). Media, environment and the network society (Palgrave studies in media and environmental communication). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boykoff, M. T., & Yulsman, T. (2013). Political economy, media, and climate change: sinews of modern life. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 4(5), 359-371.

Currie & Clarke. (2022). Fighting talk: The use of the conceptual metaphor climate change is conflict in the UK Houses of Parliament 2015-2019. Journal of Language and Politics.

Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004). Introduction to functional grammar. 3rd ed. London: Arnold.

Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Willis, R. (2019). The Role of National Politicians in Global Climate Governance. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 3(3): 885–903.