- How is climate change currently framed as a security issue within climate policy and climate campaigns in the UK?
- What are the different meanings that climate change campaigners attach to discourses of security and insecurity, and how are their communication and campaigning strategies affected by such discourses?
- How does security as a narrative frame enable, narrow or obstruct effective climate change communication and public and policy engagement?
Background and rationale:
Climate change communication has become increasingly sophisticated, despite the problems associated with representing abstract and complex scientific processes (Doyle 2011). Environmental NGOs and social movement groups play a crucial role in framing climate change, in an effort to influence UK climate and social policy. Frequently these framings and narratives are contested and are outcomes of competing policy or campaigning agendas (Schlembach 2011). Security has underpinned a key narrative in mediated and policy discourses of climate change (Dalby 2002), employed by actors as diverse as international governmental organisations, national administrations, climate scientists, NGOs and grassroots activist groups.
The link between climate change and security has been stressed as risks of conflict over resources and territory, threats to national infrastructure and public safety, or increased crime and forced migration. However, “security” itself remains difficult to conceptualise (Neocleous 2008). This studentship will critically examine how security discourses have entered and altered the climate change communication and campaigning strategies of campaigning organisations in the UK, from international NGOs to grassroots activist groups. Simultaneously the project will critically explore and map the challenges and limitations of the security narrative in climate change communication at a time when environmental activists and protesters are also seen as potential security risks.
An effect of the ‘securitisation’ of climate change could therefore be the criminalisation, control and surveillance of activists, social movements and NGOs. The research will utilise qualitative methodologies and apply theoretical insights drawn from communication studies, criminology and social movement theory. It will offer important insights into the rapidly changing socio-political landscape of climate communication and will also consider the potential implications for climate activism and policy-making.
This PhD studentship will contribute to the ESRC priority area that addresses ‘issues relating to climate governance, risk and communication’. Situated across sociology, politics and criminology, this project has a clear link to UoA 22 through its focus upon the potential impact of climate change policy upon the climate communication and campaigning strategies of NGOs. In exploring the relationship between governmental and not-for-profit work in the context of the increasing securitisation of climate change, it will also reflect upon its potential impacts upon public engagement.
This qualitative study will use a mixed-methods approach.
1. The project will identify relevant UK environmental, social and security policy and analyse it using discourse analysis in order to understand how climate change is framed as a security problem.
2. The student will collect primary data regarding the campaigns of UK-based NGOs and/or environmental activists, using in-depth interviews with campaign organisers and activists. Discourse and frame analysis of this data will be used to understand how the security narrative changes campaigning priorities.
3. The project will explore the implications of the 'securitisation' of climate change for those constructed as a security risk, which includes the ‘criminalisation’ of environmental activism itself.
Here the student will use recognised methods in social movement research (focus groups / Sociological Intervention (SI)) to collect and analyse primary data about movement-internal discussions. Using this mixed-methods approach will permit a critical evaluation of changes in climate change communication and the opportunities/limitations of the security narrative for public/policy engagement.
The prospective student will need advanced training in qualitative methods, such as ethnographic and participatory methodologies, interviewing techniques and qualitative data analysis (e.g. discourse analysis, visual content analysis, media and communication analysis). It is desirable that the student has a proven understanding of campaigning and communication strategies in non-governmental organisations or activist groups.