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Published: 19 February 2016

Talking about climate change: the barriers to action

Dr Paul Hanna, Dr Caroline Scarles and Dr Scott Cohen explore how everyday climate change talk is a major barrier for action in sustainable tourism behaviour.

Why do so many of us click on that mouse and book tickets for another long haul flight to a far flung luxury destination, despite the environmental concerns we so often hear about? Perhaps this is due to a diminished sense of responsibility? A diminished responsibility that is facilitated through the way we talk about climate change?

In their recently published paper ‘Everyday climate discourses and sustainable tourism’, Dr Paul Hanna, Dr Caroline Scarles and Dr Scott Cohen of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Matthew Adams of the University of Brighton turn their attention to the comments section of an online BBC news article about climate change. Their findings show that comments sections can be useful platforms for analysing public attitudes to hotly-debated topical issues.

Their post-structural discourse analysis of the comments section finds three key ways in which responsibility to act against the effects of climate change is diminished. Firstly, through science-based scepticism, which challenges the idea that climate change even exists. Secondly, through ‘othering’ and blaming of other nations, thereby removing culpability from the UK-based commenter. Thirdly, the argument that increasing CO2 emissions is actually a good thing for the planet, through carbon boosting crop yields and tree growth.

Hanna et al. discuss the implications of these three ‘ways of talking’ and how they create barriers for efforts for more sustainable forms of tourism. In conclusion, Hanna et al. propose that stronger policy measures and a deeper understanding of everyday climate talk is essential if the tourism sector is to move towards more sustainable forms of consumption.

Read the full paper.