LINGCLIM: Language, climate and lifestyle

Presentation for Viken County Council: "Language and Climate"

On Friday, January 15th, PhD candidate Runa Falck held a presentation on language and climate for Viken Fylkeskommune (Viken County Council).

Språk og klima
Presentation "Language and Climate" (held in Norwegian)
Runa Falck

What is the relation between climate and language? Which role does language play in the climate debate? How can language affect attitudes and behaviour? These were questions addressed by PhD candidate Runa Falck in her presentation for Viken County Council, Friday, January 15th 2020. Based on a previous study conducted by the LINGCLIM research group, she illustrated what people think of when hearing or reading the term "klimaendringer" (climate change). The results indicated that people's associations of climate change can be grouped into four categories: "weather/ice", "future/consequences", "money/consumption", and "causes", with "weather/ice" being the category mentioned most often.

Moreover, Falck referred to another, noteworthy finding, which shows that word associations can change remarkably over time. By asking people repeatedly over the years what they associate with the term "miljøproblemer" (environmental problems), the research group discovered that the percentage mentioning plastic pollution rose from 2,5% in 2015 to 45% in 2018 – probably a result of extensive media coverage on "Plasthvalen", a whale found at Sotra, Bergen, in January 2017, which had died because of its stomach filled with plastic.

Falck concludes by highlighting the ambiguous nature of language: Apparently obvious words can nevertheless be interpreted in various ways. This is something to keep in mind when talking about climate.