Socio-economic transformations and societal challenges
Public discourse about identity and social justice
News reporting and media effects on opinions and attitudes
I am studying what I believe to be important questions concerning our collective future: How can we reconcile planetary boundaries with human self-determination? What keeps us from transitioning to a climate-friendly, just, and sustainable economy? And what ideas about ourselves, our identities, and our environment shape our politics?
In my view, these questions require thinking in terms of societal challenges and broad research questions, rather than within narrow disciplinary boundaries. Accordingly, over the years, I have engaged with a variety of social science disciplines, and I've built a wide repertoire of theories and methods I use in my research projects.
Currently, I work at the Department of Social Sciences, at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Together with my colleagues in Michael Brüggemann's group, I study different aspects of public discourse about socio-ecological transformations: media coverage, discussions on social networking sites, opinion polling. I am particularly interested in how ideas about identity and social justice shape how people engage with climate change and other societal challenges.
In 2021, I finished my doctoral studies in climate change communication. Focusing on Germany and the United States, my research investigated what drives public discourse about climate science and politics and what needs to happen to move our conversation forward. In my dissertation, I argue that Germany has moved beyond a societal tipping point, and the rapid exit from greenhouse gas emissions is now a quasi-consensus position. What's left to be done is to push policymakers to put this commitment into action.
Informing people about the scientific consensus on climate change is an effective way to boost support for climate action — but the research underlying this finding is mainly done in the US and other English-speaking countries, where there is much more public debate about climate science und more political polarisation.
In this research project, I tested some of the literature's most important findings in Germany. My results show that many important relationships between beliefs about climate science and support for policy are similar. Yet, informing people with so called "consensus messages" does not appear to be very effective. The study is currently under revision, and will hopefully be published later this year.
With this research project, I investigated how different media report about the politics of climate change. I focused on how media portray known and new "political identities" (eg. Conservative, Socialist, Fridays for Future activist) and if and how they align them with a particular stance on climate change and climate policy.
And indeed, they do so by linking the issue to more and less fundamental aspects of the identity in question. But as I found out, there are strong differences between the US and German media. In addition, left- and right-leaning media tend to exaggerate differences between groups much more than media read by wider audiences. The paper about the study is currently undergoing revision and will be out later in 2021.