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date: 23 April 2017

Climate Change Communication in Denmark

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Climate change communication in Denmark was initially related to a broader environmental agenda and to discussions surrounding United Nations’ charters on sustainability, reflecting a traditional, strong Scandinavian commitment to U.N. institutions. Although climate change communication has since developed into an independent field among academics and environmentalists, it continues to be intricately linked to questions of sustainability and development.

As a consequence, climate change communication has been studied in a variety of public arenas, besides the media system. This includes parliamentary debates on climate policies, regional discussions of renewable energy systems, cultural and artistic representations of global warming, and commercial and strategic discourses on green technologies, the latter representing an important Danish export market. Finally, as development aid is increasingly being tied to climate change adaptation, a more specialized discussion on the complex relations between development, resilience, and climate change has emerged. Thus, climate change communication is studied in a number of academic disciplines involving both quantitative and qualitative research strategies.

Media representations of climate change comprise the largest area of research on climate change communication and have been investigated by media and journalism studies. Climate change reporting is marked by substantial public consensus concerning the scientific evidence of climate change and the moral obligations of the industrialized world. It reflects a Scandinavian political culture based on political cooperation on key social challenges as well as a Democratic Corporatist media system characterized by a moderate, rather than polarized, public opinion. Consequently, outright climate change denial has been marginal in Denmark, although the controversies generated by Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), on how to prioritize climate change vis-à-vis other global problems, can be regarded as the Danish equivalent to climate skepticism.

Another characteristic of Danish climate change communication is the imprint left by the failure of COP15 (Copenhagen 2009), which was experienced as particular traumatic in the host country. Like most countries, Denmark saw a sharp drop in climate change coverage in the aftermath of COP15, but whereas other countries have slowly picked up the intensity of media reporting since COP15, a similar increase has not materialized in Denmark, indicating how a failed climate (and media) event can have lasting effects on a nation’s climate change communication.