One Year of Climate Change on Twitter – One Year of Trump Arousing Attention?

Review of Twitter communication on climate change in 2017: Which events triggered tweets about climate change and to which domains do these tweets link to?

The analysis of our online media monitor (OMM) reveals that the number of climate change-related tweets has risen compared to 2016. Still – and this year even more – Donald Trump’s statements and action trigger most Twitter communication on climate change. This year’s highest peaks of attention were related to climate political events in the USA. Most tweets were published on 2nd June 2017, one day after US-president Donald Trump declared that the USA will quit Paris climate agreement. The second most discussed event was Trump’s order to review Obama’s clean power plan, in which he lifted the ban on coal leases and discarded expert thinking on true cost of carbon emissions. The third event triggering climate change related tweets was the inauguration of Donald Trump as US-president. In contrast, other political events like the climate summit in Bonn received only little attention. Besides events from the political sphere, also extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey in August and Hurricane Irma in September triggered a huge amount of climate change-related tweets. One peak of Twitter communication in August 2017 was provoked by the release of a scientific report which concludes that Americans already feel the effects of climate change. This means that also scientific events have the potential to trigger debate, although in 2017 mainly political issues seem to have caused communication. Generally, it bears mentioning that almost exclusively US-American events received a lot of attention. This is remarkable against the backdrop that the online media monitor does not only capture tweets with the hashtags or key words #climatechange or “climate change” or “global warming”, but also the German word “Klimawandel”.

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We also analysed the domains climate change-related tweets link to, i.e., which sources they use. A look to the Top 10 domains reveals that most tweets link to other tweets or other content published on Twitter, e.g. photos. Apart from that, journalistic news websites are the main source of reference. Especially the British newspaper “The Guardian” plays a leading role, followed by other rather liberal and progressive outlets like the “New York Times”, “The Independent” and “Washington Post”. Interestingly, conservative news outlets only appear in the Top 20 sources of reference, e.g. Breitbart. Not only classic journalistic outlets, but also innovative journalistic websites are among the Top 10 sources, e.g. “Inside Climate News” – a Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment, or “Thinkprogress”, an editorially independent news site of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Interestingly, also the hybrid outlet “Climatecentral” belongs to the Top 10 sources of reference. It is edited by leading scientists as well as journalists researching and reporting facts about climate change and its impact on the public.

Top 10 domains of the latest 365 days (state: 19 December 2017) that Tweets about climate change link to.

Domain Count
1.     twitter.com 107891
2.     www.theguardian.com 10606
3.     www.nytimes.com 6071
4.     www.independent.co.uk 5042
5.     www.washingtonpost.com 4577
6.     www.youtube.com 2448
7.     insideclimatenews.org 2309
8.     www.climatecentral.org 1756
9.     thinkprogress.org 1401
10.  nyti.ms 1289

Our online media monitor (OMM) provides ongoing monitoring of the transnational online media debate on climate change by searching for related tweets. For already two years, the OMM collects Tweets if they contain the following hashtags or key words: #climatechange OR “climate change” OR “global warming” OR “Klimawandel”. Additional criteria are that the tweets got at least 5 retweets and contain at least one link.