A Discourse Analysis: How Politicians and Citizens talk about their own Carbon Footprints
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Freeden, Elspeth E. R.
The majority of scientific findings on Global Warming indicate that it is taking place and that it is largely caused by the activities of human beings. This implies that psychology, especially social psychology, has a vital role to play in reducing the impact human activity is having on our planet. Several discourse analyses, including that by Kurz, Donaghue, Rapley & Walker (2005), have looked into how people talk about their impact on the environment in reference to specific areas, in Kurz et al.’s (2005) study this was water and energy conservation. The current study aimed to find how politicians and citizens in Scotland talk about the more all encompassing topic of their own carbon footprints and their opinions of climate change. Eight citizens and four politicians from a Scottish city were recorded having semi-structured interviews. The interview was held as an informal discussion and the respondents were encouraged to speak openly. The recordings were then transcribed and analysed, finding three key themes. Firstly respondents were found to present themselves in a positive light in spite of confessions to unsustainable actions. Secondly, respondents discursively distanced themselves from the ultimate responsibility of reducing carbon emissions. Thirdly, respondents used discursive features to justify an unsustainable action they perform or a sustainable action they cannot take. These findings have implications for wording used in environmental campaigns.