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Fox, Emmet; Rau, Henrike (2017): Disengaging citizens? Climate change communication and public receptivity. In: Irish Political Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2: pp. 224-246
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The mainstreaming of climate change through processes of media communication and political advocacy carries with it an imagined public. Drawing on qualitative data from 11 focus groups and 19 life history interviews carried out in the Republic of Ireland(1) in 2010, the paper reveals a significant mismatch between the perceived characteristics of this imagined audience, and the practices and experiences of a socially embedded Irish public. Moreover, we observe the emergence of restrictive forms of discourse around climate change that leave little room for connecting with the topic, thereby serving to delegitimise it as a matter of public interest. Given the necessity for climate action and decarbonisation efforts that reach across diverse social and cultural arenas, we see potential for a broadening of public debate in line with key principles of deliberative democracy, with a view to achieving a more open and inclusive politics of climate change. Although we recognise the limitations of mainstream deliberative democracy thinking, including its inherent rationalism, we believe that its explicit commitment to inclusiveness and transparency offers a viable alternative to current disengagement and exclusion of citizens from meaningful climate change debate and action.