From Facts to Frames: Examining Dominant and Alternative Meanings of Climate Change in Public Deliberation Initiatives

Gwendolyn Blue

This chapter explores the issue of framing in the development of public deliberation. Focussing on climate change and ABCD, the chapter emphasizes the importance of presenting a diverse possibility of frames to foster meaningful dialogue rather than limiting possibilities to the perspectives of privileged social actors. Gwendolyn Blue particularly looks at the prominent discourses of mitigation and adaptation in relation to climate change to illustrate her point. 

Chapter Takeaways:

  • Issue framing is an important part of public deliberation. Often framing is not given the attention it deserves. Issue frames inform how we make sense of policy issues by defining the problem and proposing solutions. Issue frames also implicitly support certain forms of expertise over others.
  • Framing for public deliberation provides people with a range of different frames for consideration in order that trade offs and underlying values can be examined. Providing participants with only one frame can lead to framing effects where the scope of deliberation is biased in favor of the interests of certain social actors and not others.
  • Climate change can be framed in many ways, although dominant frames tend to be the ones that are most typically encountered. Dominant frames emphasize mitigation (the reduction of GHG emissions) through technology or market-based mechanisms. They also tend to focus on the intersection between energy and climate change. Dominant frames do not question the status quo. Alternative frames highlight other dimensions of climate change such as water, food and biodiversity loss and emphasize adaptation as well as mitigation. Alternative frames also foreground the importance of social relations and social justice. Some frames examine alternative economic or political systems.
  • Ideally, public deliberation with climate change should provide a means by which professionals, policy makers and citizens are exposed to a range of different issue frames and the social perspectives and values to which they align. 

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When issues are framed for persuasion, the arguments and courses of action are established in advance and the focus is largely instrumental. By contrast, framing for deliberation presents and clarifies different ways of addressing an issue so that people can compare them in order to weigh appropriate courses of action.
— Gwendolyn Blue