Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Silencing Climate Change in Utah through Extremist Rhetoric and Stakeholder Processes: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Silencing Climate Change in Utah through Extremist Rhetoric and Stakeholder Processes: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper utilizes Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to explore the dimensions of domination and freedom within two significant public forums on climate change in Utah: (1) the resolution HJR 12 passed in the Utah State Legislature in 2010 and (2) the Blue Ribbon Committee on Climate Change (BRAC) process organized in 2006. The resolution HJR 12 reflects an extremist or inflammatory rhetoric point of view, while BRAC presents itself as a beacon of bureaucratic rationality, efficiency, and hierarchy. Forums such as these are force-feeding Americans subtly and not so subtly with divisive discourse and restrictive visions that pollute American politics and weaken the nation's capacity to address and solve its most challenging problems. HJR 12 exemplifies the role interpretive control plays in silencing those who disagree. The BRAC process illustrated how bureaucracy and rationalization may constrain future vision and action, reinforce current power structures, and encourage extreme rhetoric further down the road. This analysis uncovers the idealization of rational power underlying both forums. This idealization creates an unstable ground where powerplays, poorly disguised as rational policy making, dominate while silencing other voices. Scholars, government bureaucracies at all levels, and the American public wishing to deal with today's complex challenges must purposefully address destructive assumptions associated with idealized rational processes, while recognizing the important role uncertainty, values, worldviews, and interests play in encouraging or discouraging policy change.

Keywords: climate change, extremist rhetoric, stakeholder processes, critical discourse analysis, cap and trade, politics, values, Utah

1. Introduction

Many have said that in a democracy controversy is healthy. It is reasonable to assume that complex issues such as health care, immigration and military intervention will not lend themselves to simple, consensual solutions (Gutmann, 2007). Michael Heazle explains that, "States pursuing their respective national interests are constantly engaging in a broad range of policy issues 'where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent'. Moreover, they do so in an anarchical environment shaped by perceptions of power and self-interest where intangibles dominate and distinctions between 'reliable knowledge' and 'speculation' seldom exist (Heazle, 2010, ρ 12)". One such issue in the United States is climate change and the associated push to diversify the energy industry (green energy). Within Utah this debate has received a large amount of attention from both the Democratic and Republican Parties. This paper will focus on two significant public forums on climate change that have taken place within the last 7 years in Utah: (1) the bill HJR 12 passed in the State Legislature and (2) the Blue Ribbon Committee on Climate Change (BRAC) process conducted several years earlier.

American citizens are starting to see a link between divisive discourse that pollutes our politics and the political system's diminished capacity to address intelligently and solve our most challenging problems (Gutmann, 2007). The passage of resolution HJR 12 in the Utah State Legislature in February of 2010 is a perfect illustration of how inflammatory discourse silences a large portion of the public and hamper the ability to move forward in finding solutions. Within this resolution, the House of Representatives accused climate change science and scientists as being part of a conspiracy. However, many are unaware of how bureaucratic control over stakeholder committee processes may also silence, limit movement forward, and open a space for future inflammatory discourse. Governor Jon M. Huntsman organized the Blue Ribbon Committee on Climate Change (BRAC) on August 25, 2006. Its purpose was to provide a forum where representatives from government, industry, environment, and the community could have a productive dialogue regarding energy options available in Utah to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. …

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