Climate Change and Social Media: Trust, literacy, legitimacy and subjectivity

Alex Hope, Robert Stewart Hunter, Julie McLeod

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Science on the causes and impacts of climate change is becoming increasingly certain, however public concern and opinion continue to vary widely. Public opinion, perceptions and attitudes are a critically important factor in the development of policy that seeks to drive climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. With this in mind it is important to recognise the way in which people access information as well as assess their legitimacy and accuracy. Whilst governmental information and media coverage exerts an important influence on the public understanding of climate change, increasingly people are turning to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and other social media sources to learn about what's happening in the world. It is necessary then for those seeking to communicate climate change, to develop an understanding as to the particular role that social media plays in communicating climate change impacts and opportunities. This paper presents results from a qualitative investigation into the nature of opinion, debate and information sharing on the issue of climate change taking place on the social media site Reddit. It discusses how the role of the individual has changed from the passive consumer of news to actively legitimising the information that they and others consume and whether this renders all information effectively subjective. We suggest that in order to achieve impact through communication and dialogue around climate change, it is essential that academics and policy makers examine issues of trust in information; legitimacy and subjectivity as well as understanding the distinction between creators and consumers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2015
EventGlobal Sustainability Institute Research Conference 2015: The Interface between Sustainability Research and Policy - Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jan 201527 Jan 2015


ConferenceGlobal Sustainability Institute Research Conference 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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