Trump is erasing climatecChange... language. A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of the US online environmental communications under Obama and Trump


Climate change constitutes one of the major challenges of our time. The United States, in particular, represent one of the main greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Under the Obama administration, the US promoted a plan to reduce carbon pollution and incentivise clean energy. A constant stream of information on the impacts of climate change was disseminated online. By contrast, President Trump’s election has been linked to a tendency to discredit scientific knowledge. Pursuing an “America first energy plan”, Trump aims at rescinding environmental regulations he considers an impediment to business. The present study analyses a corpus of environmental information about global warming and energy policies published on official governmental websites, comparing the data and reports produced during Obama’s office with the most recent communications which reflect the priorities of Trump’s administration. Applying Corpus-Assisted Critical Discourse Analysis, the study investigates how scientific knowledge about climate change has been reproduced online to serve different interests and support contrasting ideologies. The paper investigates the selection and prominence attributed to specialised information, the argumentations exploited to justify political choices and the authoritative sources quoted to support positions. Particular relevance is assigned to the discourse accompanying the dismissal of basic climate change tenets and the demolition of environmental programmes operated by the current US Presidency. The study shows how Trump’s reshaping of environmental policy priorities involves refashioning online contents, by excising, hiding or limiting the importance of any mentions to climate change. Moreover, the present administration is shifting emphasis towards usage of fossil fuels, based on an anachronistic contrast between stewardship of natural resources and economic development.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v29p147

Keywords: Critical Discourse Analysis; Corpus-Assisted Discourse Analysis; climate change; political discourse; environmental discourse


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