Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Lowry, Dennis


The social construction of climate change has been an enduring interest to media scholars. Extensive research has been done to explore how the mass media portrayed climate change and how the influence of their representations contributed to the social reality of climate change. However, most research focused on the news media in the United States and other developed countries and ignored China--the second largest greenhouse gases emitter in the world. This oversight has led to a sociological map of global climate change with the one of the biggest puzzle pieces missing. In addition, traditional news media were in the spotlight of most literature while little attention was turned to blogs--a rising power in the public discourse. This study expands the understanding of the social construction of climate change by bridging two gaps--the cross-national gap and the cross-media gap--by examining how the news media and the blogosphere in the United States and China--the top two greenhouse gases emitters--framed this arguably the most daunting challenge of the 21st century. Following framing theorists' call for using defragmented frame typologies, the design of this frame analysis derived from five traditions of research of media framing and the social construction of climate change: (1) "episodic vs. thematic" framing, (2) micro-issue salience, (3) audience-based frames, (4) attribution of responsibility and (5) skepticism towards climate change. A purposive sample using multi-stage probability sampling techniques was comprised of 638 articles from three prestige U.S. newspapers (New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post), two official Chinese newspapers (People's Daily and China Daily), and the American and Chinese blogospheres. The results delineated distinct characteristics of media framing that mirrored the social reality of climate change in both countries. Moreover, bloggers of both countries showed varying degrees of divergence from the news media, contradicting the argument that the blogosphere has been normalized by traditional news sources. Most importantly, this study synthesized its results with earlier literature and developed the B (Bloggers' understanding) - M (Media portrayals) - S (Skepticism) theoretical model that holds great explanatory power to harmonize inconsistent knowledge about the social construction of climate change, thus opening a new research avenue and significantly advancing our understanding in this area.




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