A “bright blue ball”, “brushed with clouds” or “parched, scorched, and washed away”?
Barack Obama’s use of contrasting metaphors and stories in framing climate change
This paper examines President Barack Obama’s use of contrasting metaphors and metaphorical stories to frame the issue of climate change and the associated political controversies in a major policy speech at Georgetown University in 2013. One major theme in the speech contrasted a series of metaphors based on violence and destruction with a series of metaphors based on peace, tranquility, and health, all within an overall framing story about the Apollo 8 astronauts and the picture they took of the Earth from lunar orbit. Another major theme is the contrast between metaphors of passivity or obstruction and metaphors of movement and dynamic activity. Within these two sets of thematic contrasts are more subtle contrasts between metaphors associated with the effects of climate change and metaphors associated with ameliorative actions to counteract climate change. All of these themes are presented in a way that fails to acknowledge — and implicitly discredits — possible alternative frames. This, plus the obstruction / movement contrast, effectively aggravates the frame conflicts that have stymied fruitful discussion of these issues throughout the Obama administration. We close the analysis with some specific recommendations for increasing the potential for empathetic understanding through explicit awareness of the framing effects of language.
Keywords: transportation theory, framing, blending, story-metaphors, climate change
Published online: 10 July 2015
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