CICERO - Center for International Climate Research

Recognitions and responsibilities: On the origins and consequences of the uneven attention to climate change around the world

Ben Orlove, Heather Lazrus, Grete K. Hovelsrud, Alessandra Giannini

Though climate change is a global process, current discussions emphasize its local impacts. A review of media representations, public opinion polls, international organization documents, and scientific reports shows that global attention to climate change is distributed unevenly, with the impacts of climate change seen as an urgent concern in some places and less pressing in others. This uneven attention, or specificity, is linked to issues of selectivity (the inclusion of some cases and exclusion of others), historicity (the long temporal depth of the pathways to inclusion or exclusion), and consequentiality (the effects of this specificity on claims of responsibility for climate change). These issues are explored through a historical examination of four cases—two (the Arctic, low-lying islands) strongly engaged with climate change frameworks, and two (mountains, deserts) closely associated with other frameworks of sustainable development rather than climate change. For all four regions, the 1960s and 1970s were a key period of initial involvement with environmental issues; the organizations and frameworks that developed at that time shaped the engagement with climate change issues. In turn, the association of climate change with a few remote areas influences climate change institutions and discourses at a global scale.

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