Skip to main content

The Mediation of Climate Change Induced Migration. Implications for meaningful media discourse and empowerment of key intermediaries to raise public awareness

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IKETIS (The Mediation of Climate Change Induced Migration. Implications for meaningful media discourse and empowerment of key intermediaries to raise public awareness)

Berichtszeitraum: 2017-04-03 bis 2019-04-02

The IKETIS project focused on the mediation of climate change induced migration and explored how UK online news media and non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) online campaigns represent climate change induced displacement and those affected by it. It found that similar representational practices shape media and NGOs discourses and frames about climate migration. Climate displaced people are categorised as a victimised and equally dangerous ‘Other’. This comes with consequences for policy options, as it risks working in favour of xenophobic sentiments and restrictive refugee and migration policies. The project examined how a framing shift to a justice-based climate migration framing can be facilitated to influence policy and public understandings of the issue. Through media analyses of the role of different actors in the production, communication, and consumption of climate change and migration issues, it explored uses of frames and narratives to align climate justice messages with the needs, values and identities of different audiences for communicating climate migration effectively in a rapidly changing political context for migration in general. The findings highlighted that tailored messages of climate justice, along with a media narrative that underscores the notion of ‘political agents’ to migrating people, could challenge dehumanizing approaches to climate migration. Based on the project’s findings, e-learning materials were created to build capacity among journalists, NGOs, and policy-makers in responding to the challenges of communicating about climate migration, as these actors are key opinion shapers impacting on how this issue is perceived.
The IKETIS project focused in the UK, a traditional host country for migrants and refugees in general, and highlighted that media and NGOs frames of climate migration contribute to both reducing the complexity of the issue and giving rise to anti-immigrant policies and attitudes. It used e-learning tools to promote narratives that depict climate migrants as creative and knowledgeable actors with voices, experiences, and aspirations. The sequence of the research consisted of four phases:

First, the policy, institutional, and definitional factors that impede meaningful discourse formulation and media coverage of the issue were identified. More particularly, the project explored why media coverage of the link between climate change and migration neglects topics such as vulnerable people’s inherent rights and justice in respect to climate change related risks and responsibilities. The research also identified the main factors that best describe the climate migration issue, and each of which emphasises a different subset of relations between climate change and migration, and explored how a climate justice frame would allow the evolution of conceptual perspectives that are more conducive to safeguarding vulnerable communities’ rights and interests.

Second, a critical discourse analysis (image and text) and frame analysis of the representations of climate change induced migration was performed in a cross-section of online news media in the UK that included quality, mid-range and tabloid news from 2014 to 2016. The project demonstrated how images interact with the text to co-construct and present specific discursive packages to the general public, and also pinned down their content more precisely to understand how they might affect policy and public understanding of the issue.

Third, using these findings, the research focused on how UK humanitarian and environmental NGOs utilized and challenged the frames identified by online news media coverage of climate displacement. It looked at existing environmental and humanitarian NGOs online campaigns imagery and text and employed qualitative research methods, such as interviews with NGOs staff members, to explore how the messages designed by NGOs convey and enact the notion of a responsibility to act. It offered a framework for understanding how the visibilities or invisibilities of certain aspects of the issue of climate change induced migration in NGOs campaigns relates to questions of the political agency of vulnerable communities, consequences on their inherent rights and implications upon the public understanding of the issue.

Then, based on the understanding of the representational practices that formulate climate migration mediated discourse and by employing quantitative research methods (behavior survey), the project promoted framing of climate change as a social justice issue (climate justice approach). It focused on capacity building of journalists, NGOs and policy-makers to best use climate justice frames and narratives, and respond effectively to the challenges presented by climate migration through e-learning strategies.
Far too little attention has been paid to media coverage of climate change induced migration and its consequences for policy developments in this area. The project helps to address these research gaps by critically analyzing textual and visual narratives of climate migration in online UK news media, and how these narratives can potentially affect the integration of climate migrants in host societies. It also focused on the underexplored but critical role that NGOs representations play in constructing a public narrative of climate change induced migration. As such, it fills a gap in current scholarship on climate mobility discourses. Τhe project also explored the challenges to pro-actively influence the media agenda to more meaningfully engage with climate migration in a climate justice framework. As such it contributes to climate change communication research and practice by identifying how a climate justice frame would allow the evolution of conceptual perspectives that are more conducive to safeguarding at-risk communities’ rights and interests, thus impacting upon policy, media and public perceptions.