Understanding the Climate Change Discourse on Twitter Among the Political and Scientific Communities

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Jennifer Marlon
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Twitter provides a unique platform for the dissemination of climate information, news and opinions that inform Americans’ perceptions toward climate change. This study seeks to compare the contribution of scientists and US senators to this conversation via Twitter, considering how the two groups differ in topics of interests, sentiments, and frequency of climate-related tweets in particular. Additionally, this study compares social media activity among US senators affiliated and unaffiliated with the Climate Solutions Caucus in order to assess whether group membership is associated with different levels of public engagement on the popular social media platform. Findings indicate that scientists communicate with much more frequency about climate change on Twitter as compared to their peers in the Senate, regardless of their affiliation with the Climate Solutions Caucus. In addition, scientists tend to have a more comprehensive communication style, focusing on the causes, effects, solutions, and intricacies of climate change, whereas senators tend to focus mostly on policy-related topics, and specifically energy-related solutions to the climate crisis. Finally, findings show that scientists and senators alike convey approximately equal amounts of positive and negative sentiments in their tweets about climate change, perhaps an indication that both groups are confronting the realities of climate change, while simultaneously attempting to instill hope and a sense of agency in their audiences as they confront this grave problem.