oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - Persuasión y prescripción en el discurso del cambio climático

Volume 4, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



In the last decades, climate change and global warming appear as a paradigm example of problems in "risk societies", where risks are invisible and can be known through interpretations made by scientists. Climate is by definition an averaging of weather conditions over a given time and space, and is not immediately experienced, like a catastrophic weather event. Communication media play an important role in constructing knowledge about climate change. In general, media are accused of sensationalism, exaggerating scientific claims, converting hypothesis in certainties, and translating the complexities of the problem in concrete actions through prescriptions aimed at mitigating the effects. We present and analyze a corpus of articles on climate change from science magazines and specialized sections in newspapers. We focus on prescriptions of actions to prevent or mitigate climate change, trying to establish relationship between certainty expressed on climate change causes and type of audience. We focus also on actions prescribed and modal agency (person or group responsible of carrying out the actions prescribed). We have identified the textual segment (or rhetoric move) in which prescriptions are made, and have determined the illocutionary structure, main speech act and supporting functions, as justifications and specifications. Texts show variations in persuasive strategies according with actions prescribed and modal agent. Prescriptions aimed at governments and average citizens, are supported in fear and catastrophic predictions, which are expressed with high certainty about human influence on climate change. On the contrary, prescriptions of cognitive actions aimed at scientists are supported through strategies typical of academic discourse, such as reference to research results, and claims are expressed with low certainty. In conclusion, texts whose authors assume the political role of prescribing concrete actions to governments and citizens, show high certainty and persuasive strategies aimed to provoke fear and concern. On the other hand, articles aimed at more restricted and specialized audiences, show low certainty and persuasive resources typical of scientific discourse.

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