Scale framing in the climate change controversy

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The appropriate scales for science, policy and decision-making about climate change issues cannot be unambiguously derived their physical characteristics, and often involve a struggle about the appropriate scales at which to frame climate issues. In general framing refers to the way actors make sense of issues by making particular aspects of an issue more salient in a communicative context. Scale is a powerful resource for framing issues, especially in the case of climate change where a multitude of scales and levels are potentially relevant. The framing of an issue as a local, regional or global problem, or as a short term or long term problem, is not without consequences. Framing an issue at a certain level on a certain scale carries implications for who is to blame, who is responsible and what should be done. Framing involves a normative leap from ‘what is’ to ‘what ought to be’ and thus directs the search for solutions towards certain alternatives and not others (e.g. framing climate adaptation as a local issue directs the search for solutions towards local rather than national or global solutions). In the controversy about climate science that became known worldwide as ‘climategate’, scale framing has played an important role too. Already by its naming, the issue of the hacked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia was scaled up to the proportions of a big scandal. The issue was also scaled up from a CRU issue to a global issue of international climate science and the IPCC. Interestingly, this upscaling allowed afterwards for the downscaling of ‘climategate’ towards a national level issue in other countries – thus the parliamentary hearing about ‘climategate’ in the UK was mirrored by a parliamentary hearing in the Netherlands about national climate policy. Given that climate issues are very susceptible to scale framing, it is crucial to account for this process in any attempt at scale-sensitive governance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventScaling and Governance Conference 2010 - Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 10 Nov 201012 Nov 2010


ConferenceScaling and Governance Conference 2010

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Scale framing in the climate change controversy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this