The Media Construction of Climate Change Quiescence: Veiling the Visibility of a Super Emitter

  • Raymond Murphy
Keywords: Climate Change, Media, Communication Power, Oil, Social Non-Problem


Castells hypothesized two possibilities concerning global warming: i) a world awakening to the danger with policies to reverse it, or ii) the defense of productivism at all costs. Canada is presently pursuing economic benefits of a fossil-fuel superexporter, which makes it a superemitter. By focusing on the discursive legitimation of practices that cause anthropogenic climate change, this article shows how communication power in the Canadian mass media veils the adverse consequences of extracting oil from bituminous sand. It demonstrates how concern about emissions is dampened and quiescence socially constructed. The mediation between scientific warnings of danger and polluting social practices by media communication power constitutes an important element explaining why Canada’s emissions are increasing. It also explains why science, an institution claimed to be particularly influential in reflexive, cosmopolitan modernization, is having little influence in societies like Canada when it brings troubling news. The article shows how a scientifically documented environmental problem becomes a societal non-problem.