The social media life of climate change: platforms, publics, and future imaginaries

Warren Pearce, Sabine Niederer, Suay Melisa Özkula, Natalia Sánchez Querubín

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
359 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Social media is a transformative digital technology, collapsing the “six degrees of
separation” which have previously characterized many social networks, and breaking down many of the barriers to individuals communicating with each other. Some commentators suggest that this is having profound effects across society, that social media have opened up new channels for public debates and have revolutionized the communication of prominent public issues such as climate change. In this article we provide the first systematic and critical review of the literature on social media and climate change. We highlight three key findings from the literature: a substantial bias toward Twitter studies, the prevalent approaches to researching climate change on social media (publics, themes, and professional communication), and important empirical findings (the use of mainstream information sources, discussions of “settled science,” polarization, and responses to temperature anomalies).
Following this, we identify gaps in the existing literature that should be
addressed by future research: namely, researchers should consider qualitative
studies, visual communication and alternative social media platforms to Twitter.
We conclude by arguing for further research that goes beyond a focus on science
communication to a deeper examination of how publics imagine climate change
and its future role in social life.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere569
Number of pages13
JournalWIREs Climate Change
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2018

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