Extreme weather events like the heat wave of 2018 reinforce public attention for climate change. Social media platforms facilitate, define and amplify debate about this topic. They give rise to counterpublic spaces through which counterpublics such as climate sceptics get a stage they would not easily get in mainstream media. Previous research suggests that sceptics use these spaces as safe havens, but also as bases for interventions in the hegemonic debate. Applying a multideterminant frame model, we analyse the Twitter debate among climate change ‘sceptics’ and ‘believers’. We study all tweets in which the heat wave was related to climate change and which were shared by Dutch and Flemish users between 28 July 2018 and 4 August 2018. Laying bare the worldviews underlying the frames of sceptics and non-sceptics, we first demonstrate the diversity of – unilaterally interacting – ideological interests. Building upon this analysis of the scope of the debate and analysing its form, we show that both groups mostly use similar antagonistic strategies to delegitimize and denaturalize their out-groups. We argue that these interventions promote polarization rather than a constructive agonistic debate. As such, this study refutes previous studies that consider sceptic frames as deconstructive and non-sceptic frames as constructive.
- online deliberation
- climate change