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Kjersti Fløttum (UiB) - Language and climate action - expressions of responsibility and obligation

In a joint DIGSSCORE & Bergen Energy Lab lunch meeting, professor Kjersti Fløttum from the department of foreign languages spoke about "Language and climate action - conceptions and expressions of responsibility and obligation"

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Kjersti Fløttum
Professor Kjersti Fløttum

In order to tackle climate change, both political measures and individual action are needed. But how does the public view climate change, what actions do they think are needed, and how do they use language to express their associations, attitudes and responses?

Professor Kjersti Fløtumm from the department of foreign languages gave an answer to these questions on a joint lunch seminar between DIGSSCORE and Bergen Energy Lab on the 23rd of January. She presented results from a study conducted through the Norwegian Citizen Panel, where open-ended survey questions were used. By using open-ended questions, rather than close-ended questions, respondents are able to freely formulate their attitude and opinions giving more valuable answers with rich and nuanced data.

In the survey-study, 4634 respondents answered to the question: "Concerning climate change, what do you think should be done?"

By applying a technique called Structural Topic Modelling (STM), Kjersti and her colleagues were able to define distinct topics based on the frequencies of words used in the open-question answers. Seven topics were induced; Transportation, energy transition, attribution of climate change, emission reduction, the international dimension, lifestyle/consumption and government measures, suggesting that Norwegians put emphasis on mitigation rather than adaptation.

The majority of respondents are clear about that something should be done to tackle climate change. Generally, they claim that something must be done, and that all should contribute and take responsibility. However, many of the survey’s respondents do not provide further specifications about who is responsible for what; the expressed willingness thus becomes quite vague. The citizens’ answers suggest a willingness to accept stronger mitigation action (quasi-absence of adaptation), but claim that authorities and politicians at both local and national level should facilitate “green” choices (and contribute to bridging policy and individual action).

The study has provided new knowledge on constraints on and opportunities for climate action, which are fundamental to decision-making. If you want to read more about this, Endre Tvinnereim, Kjersi Fløttum, Øyvind Gjerstad, Mikael Poul Johannesson and Åsta Dyrnes Nordø have published a paper on this, and see Kjersti's presentation below.