2020 Undergraduate Research Showcase

The Linguistics of Climate Change: Exploring Metaphor in Climate Change Media Discourse

Percy Haley, Boise State University
Chris VanderStouwe, Boise State University


Climate change is argued to be the single greatest sociopolitical issue of this generation, and the language used to frame this issue affects popular opinion and predicts future outcomes. Building on Shaw and Nerlich's 2015 paper covering metaphor in policy influencing scientific papers and Lakoff's 2004 discussion of metaphor in political discourse, this paper examines metaphor as a linguistic tool of persuasion through opinion-based news media from both traditionally conservative and liberal sources published from December 2019-January 2020. Using a Critical Discourse Analysis framework (Van Dijk 1995). I focus on examining the metaphor "CLIMATE CHANGE AS BATTLE", a fight between maintaining the status quo and ultimate destruction, and the way this metaphor allows media to pose them as the only two options in a complicated landscape of possibilities. I analyze the success of this metaphor and explore the potential success of alternative framings of climate change discourse. Ultimately my goal is to move beyond the binary view of climate change options of continuing current economic growth or facing a looming demise, so that in the years to come efforts can focus on fighting for a better world, rather than clinging to the current system, flaws and all.