Carnegie Mellon University
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Challenges in Climate Change Communication on Social Media

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posted on 2021-07-07, 18:52 authored by Aman TyagiAman Tyagi
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, internet users depend on social media platforms to obtain and debate essential socio-political and economic topics. However, this same vital source suffers from various challenges. On social media platforms, such as Twitter, users do not necessarily face a lack of information; instead, they are overwhelmed with diverse information sources. These myriad sources of information on social media can make users unknowingly confined to or associated with other users or groups. Moreover, facts or news can be reported in ways that create
confusion and affect public sentiment on scientific actualities. Such social media challenges can cause a long-lasting impact in reshaping our society, slowing down
scientific progress, and dampen regulatory endeavors. Thus, social media’s impact on socio-political and economic topics must be analyzed. In this thesis, I analyze each of these problems using conversations and news articles about one of the most significant challenges our society faces today, i.e., climate change. In my first study, I analyze climate change discussions on Twitter to study users confined to competing belief groups. I classify Twitter account users into: (a) users who believe in the anthropogenic cause of climate change (Believers); and (b) users who don’t (Disbelievers). I study the differences in communication topics and network structure in Disbelievers and Believers. I find that both Disbelievers and Believers talk within their group more than with the other group; this is more so the
case for Disbelievers than for Believers. In my second study, I develop a framework to quantify hostile communication between Believers and Disbelievers. I show that Disbelievers of climate change are more hostile towards Believers than vice versa. I examined the framing bias of climate change news articles shared on Twitter as part
of my third study. I find that climate change news articles are predominantly framed as related to policy issues in the context of a social group’s traditions, customs, or values. Finally, I explore the spread of conspiracy theories in climate change conversations on Twitter. Results suggest that Disbelievers are primarily responsible for sharing messages that contain keywords related to conspiracy theories. Overall, my work in this thesis develops frameworks to analyze social media challenges and contributes to climate change communication research.




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • Engineering and Public Policy

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kathleen M. Carley

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