The role of Greta Thunberg's discourse in the global conversation about climate change on Twitter
Bienvenido Leon – University of Navarra. Spain
María Carmen Erviti – University of Navarra Spain
Ana Martínez García – University of Navarra Spain
Pablo Urruchi – University of Navarra Spain
In August and September 2019, world media coverage of climate change experienced a peak (Boykoff et al, 2019) that seems to be related to the strength of the citizen movement created by activist Greta Thunberg. This Swedish teenager fostered a change in the global discourse about climate change, stressing the climate emergency, and managed to mobilize young people around the world.
This research analyzes the relevance of the messages and references to Greta Thunberg in the world conversation about climate change on Twitter, a social medium that has been widely employed to spread this emergent movement. Through a content analysis that uses big data techniques, we have searched the terms global warming, climate change, climate crisis and climate emergency (in English and Spanish), during the period Sept. 16th to Oct. 6th that included the “New York Climate Week”, in which Greta Thunberg participated in the UN Climate Action Summit. By using this method, we collected over 6.300.000 tweets, 1% of which was connected to Greta Thunberg's discourse.
Using this sample, we have analyzed the main characteristics of the messages, in order to understand in what way the discourse of climate emergency fostered by Greta Thunberg has influenced the global conversation on climate change. Our analysis includes geographical origin, distribution along the sampling period and emotions (positive, negative or neutral expressions connected to Thunberg's discourse). We have also compared the results of the tweets in English and Spanish.
Results indicate that Greta Thunberg's discourse has played a leading role in the global conversation about climate change in the period around the UN Climate Action Summit. In addition, the focus on the climate emergency (rather than climate change) has played a key role in the twitter conversation about this topic.
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