21 December 2009
Following a dismal first week where few tangible results were achieved, the Climate Conversation became an increasingly fraught and desperate affair during the second week and as the conference drew to a close.
Using the 1,000 most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts (3,000 in total), we analyse who the key influencers were, the topics that shaped the conversation, and ultimately, what was achieved by the largest gathering of political leaders, NGOs, Corporate Representatives, academics, media and other parties interested in combating climate change, the world has ever seen.
- Previously referred to as ‘Hopenhagen’, the lack of progress prompted one commentator to name the summit ‘Constipagen’ and another to write about the ‘rotting in Copenhagen’. Political leaders also added to the feeling of disappointment and low expectations surrounding a successful outcome, while leaders of developing nations who are most gravely affected by climate change, were forced to walk out in an effort to protest at what was seemingly a ‘small exclusive group’ of negotiators imposing their regulations on other countries.
- China, who had previously instilled optimism with an announcement that it would cut emissions by 40 – 45% of GDP by 2020, appeared to do a U-turn on its promise, following the realisation that as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter it would soon be classified as an industrialised nation subject to tougher greenhouse gas restrictions under a new treaty.
- The division between developed and developing nations increased as debate around the support wealthy countries should commit to and what they should offer developing countries in terms of funding. The offer from developed countries of a 10 million US dollar fund was rejected. Developing nations requested binding emissions cuts and hundreds of millions of US dollar funding to enable them to tackle climate change.
- The role of the US at COP15 and beyond, though still prominent in the Climate Conversation, dropped from the top five topics as it became clear China’s involvement was a key factor in a successful outcome to COP15. Chinese PM Wen Jiabao rose in prominence in the influencer tables, though with a less favourable tone than previously.
- Not entirely politically focused, reports of protests continued apace as the conclusion of the COP15 summit drew near. Criticism of the Danish police reaction to the protests taking place in the city was a prominent topic, particularly around the 1000 arrests that took place, as well as the legal adjustment that was made in the time that Danish police were allowed to detain climate activists without being charged.
- The resignation of Connie Hedegaard, President of the COP15 summit, was one of the more controversial events of the second week at COP15, and speculation over why she resigned was a popular topic in both print and the blogosphere.
- US politician and climate expert Al Gore released new scientific findings which received a mixed reception. The data, which suggested that the ice caps in the Arctic will have melted in five to seven years time if action on climate change isn’t taken, was given substantial attention (though not all of it favourable), and also brought US academic Dr Wieslaw Maslowski into prominence in the influencer rankings.
- The outcome of COP15 was described by NGOs and environmentalists as ‘weak’, but recognised by others as historic, as it was the first time that developed and developing nations have agreed to deal with emissions and climate finance together, despite not reaching a legally binding agreement. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband both rose in prominence following their 11th hour efforts to resurrect what appeared to be dwindling chances of an agreement being made.
The COP15 top-15
UK boosts prominence as efforts are recognised
- Throughout COP15, US President Barack Obama has been the most prominent figure in the Climate Conversation, securing over four times the number of mentions across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts, than any other figure. UK PM Gordon Brown’s early arrival at the summit garnered attention, moving him from third most prominent person in the Climate Conversation to second place. A new entrant to the top 15 was the UK’s minister for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband (number 13 most prominent figure overall in the Climate Conversation), who received recognition for his efforts to repair relationships between developed and developing nations on the last day of he summit.
Academic rises in prominence following Gore’s glacier gaffe
- A new entrant to the most prominent academics in the Climate Conversation was oceanographer Dr Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in the US. Dr Maslowski rose to prominence (joint 11th place with climate expert from the London School of Economics, Bob Ward) following unsubstantiated revelations from the former US Vice-President, Al Gore, that Artic glaciers are melting faster than previously thought.
Celebrities make right royal effort
- It appears that climate change is a popular subject with royalty. Of the top six celebrity influencers in the Climate Conversation, royals make up half. England’s heir to the throne, HRH Prince of Wales, is the most prominent celebrity, with more than double the number of mentions across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts. England’s Queen Elizabeth II sits in fourth place, and the Danish royal Queen Margrethe II in sixth when looking at the same data set.
Topics by media type
Chinese stance increases legislative discussions
- As speculation around whether China would agree to a treaty increased, so too did discussion around the ‘legislative implications of COP15′, from 18% to 34% of discussion in the most active print publications, and 8% to 23% of the most active blogs. Tweets were also up – from 19% to 25% of the most active Twitter accounts, moving the topic into the top five conversations in the last week of the COP15 summit.
Speculation as outcome remains unclear
- The favourite topic across print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts during the period were around ‘expectations of COP15 outcomes’ which increased in prominence across print and blogs thanks to ongoing speculation around what – if anything – would be achieved in the final fraught week of climate negotiations. This topic dominated 69% of the most active print publications (up from 61% last week) and 65% of blogs (up from 61%). Although the number of Tweets dropped from 56% to 51%, this still remained the most prominent conversation concerning COP15 in the Twittersphere too.
Influencer groups by topic
- Of the top five topics in the Climate Conversation, three continued to dominate over the period of the analysis, but last week saw two new topics emerge.
Scientific data moves ‘consequences’ debate back onto centre stage
- The ‘Consequences of Climate Change’ rose into prominence following the revelation from US politician and climate change expert Al Gore on the speed at which the ice caps in the Arctic are melting. The findings, which were subsequently shown to be inaccurate, prompted substantial discussion, particularly from academics who contributed to 33% of the conversation across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts.
Legislation discussions favoured by NGO leaders
- The topic ‘legislative implications of COP15′ moved into the top five topics in the Climate Conversation as debate around the possible outcomes of the treaty continued. Though politicians offered a fair share of their attention to this topic (13% of the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts) it was favoured by NGO groups who contributed 18% of their attention to the topic across the same data set.
Celebrities rally support around expectations of COP15
- Perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to save desperate climate negotiations, celebrities joined forces last week, increasing their contributions to the topic ‘expectations of COP15 outcomes’ three fold, from 21% to 53% across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts.
Influencers by media type
NGOs look to print as COP15 outcome becomes reality
- Previously a group that favoured online media, the outcomes of the COP15 summit prompted many NGO representatives to express their thoughts in print media. The last week of the summit saw the NGO output across the most active print publications increase from 9% to 14%, making them the second most prominent influencer group across this media type (politicians still dominated with 61% of their voice being covered by the most active print publications).
Topics by influencer group
Global emissions focus as COP15 draws to a close
- As the COP15 summit drew to a close, discussions regarding ‘global carbon emissions’ moved into the top ten topics of the Climate Conversation. The topic was led by the political voice, which contributed to 53% of discussions across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts, supported by academics who contributed to 15% of the wider conversation.
US and China takes political focus as last ditch attempt kicks in
- The topic ‘role of the US and China’ entered into the top 10 topics in the Climate Conversation as it became apparent that the success of COP15 hinged on the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters agreeing on commitments eachother should make. The topic was dominated by the political voice which contributed to 88% across the most active print publications, blogs and Twitter accounts.