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Title:Communicating Climate Change: Climate Rhetorics and Discursive Tipping Points in United States Global Warming Science and Public Policy
Author(s):Besel, Richard D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Finnegan, Cara A.
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Speech Communication
Abstract:This dissertation addresses the paradoxical phenomenon that lies at the heart of global climate change science and policymaking in the United States. On the one hand, we are faced with the ever-increasing mountains of scientific evidence acknowledging the threats of global climate change. Nearly all reputable climate scientists have no doubt that the world stands at the threshold of a climate catastrophe. On the other hand, legislative attempts to find solutions to the problem continue to fail. In light of the vast scientific evidence, why have policymakers been unable to pass meaningful legislation aimed at reducing U.S. global warming gas emissions? I contend the answer to this question is as rhetorical as it is scientific, political, or economic. By analyzing the ways global climate change science has entered, influenced, and faded out of policymaking contexts in the United States during specific historical periods, this dissertation demonstrates how the United States has moved through a series of climate rhetorics, with the current climate rhetoric being the only one where policies have been seriously considered and defeated. This dissertation illustrates that global climate change policymaking has reached an important discursive tipping point where arguments that were once successful in previous climate rhetorics are no longer be viable options in hearings and debates. After offering a brief rhetorical history of global climate change, this dissertation uses the tools of rhetorical theory and criticism to analyze three important contemporary cases: James Hansen's testimony to the U.S. Senate in the late 1980s, debates and hearings about U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and the defeat of the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003. As the United States moves from a nation in which only scientists engage global climate change issues to one in which climate change solutions and costs---not science---are a concern for scientists and the public alike, we have reached a point of policy paralysis. This dissertation offers suggestions for how we can manage this rhetorical rift between stakeholders who are still engaging questions of science and those who are not.
Issue Date:2007
Description:218 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3290178
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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