In September 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Working Group 1 report, the first comprehensive assessment of physical climate science in six years, constituting a critical event in the societal debate about climate change. This paper analyses the nature of this debate in one public forum: Twitter. Using statistical methods, tweets were analyzed to discover the hashtags used when people tweeted about the IPCC report, and how Twitter users formed communities around their conversational connections. In short, the paper presents the topics and tweeters at this particular moment in the climate debate.
The most used hashtags related to themes of science, geographical location and social issues connected to climate change. Particularly noteworthy were tweets connected to Australian politics, US politics, geoengineering and fracking. Three communities of Twitter users were identified. Researcher coding of Twitter users showed how these varied according to geographical location and whether users were supportive, unsupportive or neutral in their tweets about the IPCC. Overall, users were most likely to converse with users holding similar views. However, qualitative analysis suggested the emergence of a community of Twitter users, predominantly based in the UK, where greater interaction between contrasting views took place. This analysis also illustrated the presence of a campaign by the non-governmental organization Avaaz, aimed at increasing media coverage of the IPCC report.
Pearce, W., Holmberg, K., Hellsten, I. & Nerlich, B. (2014). Climate change on Twitter: topics, communities and conversations about the 2013 IPCC report. PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 4: e94785. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094785.