UK Web Archive blog

13 August 2015

Characterisations of Climate Change

If you have read any of my previous blogs (Beginner’s Guide to Web Archives 1,2,3) you will know that as part of my work at the British Library I have been curating a special web archive collection on climate change. But why did I choose this subject?

World-changing issue

Having begun as a topic of scientific interest, the threat of climate change has developed into a potentially world-changing issue with major implications for how we live our lives. The projected impacts of climate change have profound impacts on things like food, water, human health; and therefore on national and international policy and the ‘business as usual’ world economy. Naturally therefore, the topic is heavily debated in the public arena, from the science of global warming and its associated effects to the policies designed to mitigate or adapt to it.

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We might expect different individuals and organisations – as for any topic – to portray the issue in different ways. But how exactly is climate change characterised on the internet? For instance, while there are many websites that accept the current understanding of climate science and actively promote action to limit global warming, there are many others that partially or completely deny the science. How is the issue portrayed by these different groups? Or another example: how is the issue portrayed by renewable energy companies compared to fossil fuel companies, two groups with very conflicting interests? As climate change progresses, how will its online characterisation change? I wanted to build a collection that could help to answer some of these questions.

Special interest groups

The collection consists of websites from different societal groups that have an active interest in the subject: for example academics; the energy sector; policy makers; special interest groups; the media and some members of the public. Websites generally fall into one of the following categories: personal blog pages/twitter feeds, non-governmental organisations/coalitions, news, government, energy companies, religious organisations, educational websites, learned societies and university institutions. The proportion of each website devoted to climate change ranges from almost 100 % (some blogs/specialist websites) to more limited coverage. Some websites may be notable for the complete absence of climate change references. For example, after discussions in Cardiff, I have included each of the main UK energy companies, even when their websites do not mention climate change. Such information was considered to be useful in terms of the questions posed above.

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The collection is an evolving beast, so if you have any suggestions regarding extra websites we could include, please fill in the online form here. We are hoping to make as many of the websites openly available as possible, but don’t forget that if you want to view the whole collection, you will need to head to your nearest legal deposit library to do so.

 Peter Spooner, Science Policy Intern



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