Risk Perception through Exemplarity: Hurricanes as Climate Change Examples and Counterexamples in Norwegian News Media
Keywords:climate change, hurricanes, risk perception, exemplarity, risk society, semiotic worldview
This article explores how hurricanes are used in news media to exemplify the consequences of climate change. This is done by a close reading of Norwegian newspaper articles on the hurricanes Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Harvey and Irma (both 2017). The geographical distance between the disaster areas and the media audience enables an exploration of how these weather events are made meaningful across long distances, as global concerns. The article shows how these hurricanes are textualized and turned into signs in nature that are pointing towards a climate-changed future, and how they work as modelling examples for imagining the possible disastrous state of such a future. It further argues that reasoning with hurricane examples is a certain kind of risk perception involving a temporal and spatial entwining of the future and the present, that represents a notion of cultural catastrophization by calling upon a fear of an uncontrollable disastrous future. The uses of the hurricane example in news media imply an epistemological shift from probability to exemplarity. This shift provides an argumentative space for climate change skeptics to perform counterarguments that juggle between probability and exemplarity. The article explores how this is done, and how statistics and mentioning of other hurricanes are used to argue that hurricanes Sandy, Harvey and Irma were not extraordinary events in terms of intensity, and thus that they cannot possibly be fueled by climate change. The climate change skeptics’ attempts to claim these hurricanes to be local and normal phenomena, independent of human action, may be regarded as attempts to de-catastrophize contemporary society.
Anshelm, Jonas & Martin Hultman (2015): Discourses of Global Climate Change: Apocalyptic Framing and Political Antagonism. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315769998
Bauman, Richard and Charles L. Briggs (1990): “Poetics and Performances as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life,” Annual Review of Anthropology, 59–88. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.19.100190.000423
Beck, Ulrich (1992): The Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.
Boykoff, Maxwell T. (2011): Who Speaks for the Climate: Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511978586
Cochet, Yves (2015): “Green Eschatology,” Clive Hamilton, François Gemenne, & Christophe Bonneuil (eds.): The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking modernity. Abingdon: Routledge, 112–119. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315743424-9
Dagbladet (2005): “Enda mer ekstremt vær,” 31 August, 2005, 2. [Editorial] Daston, Lorraine & Fernando Vidal (2004): “Doing What Comes Naturally,” Daston, Lorraine & Fernando Vidal (eds.): The Moral Authority of Nature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1–23.
Douglas, Mary &Widavaky, Aaron (1983): Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers. Berkeley, Ca: University of California Press.
Doyle, Julie (2011): Mediating Climate Change. Farnham: Ashgate.
Dunlap, Riley E. & Aaron M. McCright (2010): “Climate Change Denial: Sources, Actors and Strategies,” Lever-Tracy, Constance (ed.): Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 240–259.
Dunlap, Riley E. & Aaron M. McCright (2011): “Organized Climate Change Denial,” Dryzek, John S. Richard B. Norgaard & David Schosberg (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199566600.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199566600-e-10, (accessed 11/19/19).
Dynes, Russell & Havidán Rodríguez (2007): “Finding and Framing Katrina: The Social Construction of Disaster,” Brunsma, David.L., David Overfelt & J. Steven Picou (eds.): The Sociology of Katrina: Perspectives on a Modern Catastrophe. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 23–33.
Eklund, Trygve (2017): “Synlige klimadebattendringer,” Aftenposten, 2 October, 2017, 17.
Ellestad Ole Henrik (2017): “Orkaner i USA – manipulert valgkampformidling,” Reset, 4 October 4, 2017, October, 2017: https://resett.no/2017/10/04/orkaner-i-usa-manipulert-valgkampformidling/, (accessed 03/08/19).
Eriksen, Anne, Ellen Krefting & Anne Birgitte Rønning (2012): “Eksempelets makt,” Eriksen, Anne, Ellen Krefting & Anne Birgitte Rønning (eds.): Eksempelets makt: Kjønn, representasjon og autoritet fra antikken til i dag. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press, 9–38.
Field, Christopher B., Vicente Barros, Thomas F. Stocker, Dahe Qin, David Jon Dokken, Kristie L. Ebi, Michael D. Mastrandrea, Katharine J. Mach, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Simon K. Allen, Melinda Tignor & Pauline M. Midgley (eds.) (2012): Managing the Risk of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaption: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fitzpatrick, Patrick J. (2006): Hurricanes: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio.
Frye, Northrop (1982): The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Gelbspan, Ross (2005): “Hurricane Katrina’s real name,” New York Times, 31 August, 2005: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/opinion/30iht-edgelbspan.html?_r=1,(accessed 01/25/19).
Gelley, Alexander (ed.) (1995): Unruly examples: On the rhetoric of exemplarity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Gilje, Nils & Tarald Rasmussen (2002): Tankeliv i den lutherske stat: Norsk idéhistorie, vol. 2. Oslo: Aschehoug.
Halden arbeiderblad (1994): “Ikke storm da havariet fant sted,” 29 September, 1994, 8.
Heidenblad, David Larsson (2012): Vårt eget fel: Moralisk kausalitet som tankefigur från 00-tallets klimalarm till förmoderna syndastraffsföreställningar. Höör: Agerings bokförlag.
Hertsgaard, Mark (2006): “Global Storm Warning”, Reed, Betsy (ed.): Unnatural Disaster: The Nation on Hurricane Katrina. New York: Nation Books, 17–21.
Holm, Isak Winkel (2012): “The Cultural Analysis of Disasters,” Carsten Meiner & Kristin Veel (eds.): The Cultural Life of Catastrophes and Crises. Berlin: de Gruyter, 15–32.
Hulme, Mike (2008): “The conquering of climate: Discourses of fear and their dissolution,” The Geographical Journal, 174:1, 5–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4959.2008.00266.x
Hulme, Mike (2011): “Reducing the Future to Climate. A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism,” Osiris, 26:1, 245–266. https://doi.org/10.1086/661274
Hulme, Mike (2017): Weathered: Cultures of Climate. London: Sage Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473957749
Hörnfeldt, Helena (2018): “The End of the World: Apocalyptic Narratives in Children’s Fears,” Ethnologia Scandinavica, 48, 153–170.
Johns-Putra, Adeline (2016): “‘My Job Is to Take Care of You’: Climate Change, Humanity, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road,” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 62:3, 519–540. https://doi.org/10.1353/mfs.2016.0041
Kermode, Frank (1967): The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kluger, Jeffrey (2005): “Is Global Warming Fueling Katrina?,” Times Magazine, 29 August, 2005: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1099102,00.html, (accessed 01/25/19).
Kverndokk, Kyrre (2015): Naturkatastrofer: En kulturhistorie. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press.
Kverndokk, Kyrre (2019): “The End of the World: From the Lisbon Earthquake to the Last Days,” Jordheim, Helge & Erling Sverdrup Sandmo (eds.): Conceptualizing the world: An Exploration across Disciplines. New York: Berghahn Books, 226–239.
Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson (1980): Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lilly, Ingrid Esther (2016): “The Planet’s Apocalypse: The Rhetoric of Climate Change,” Kelly J. Murphy and Justin Jeffcoat Schedtler (eds.): Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents through History. Minneapolis: Fortress, 359–379. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7n8.20
Lindahl, Carl (2012): “Legends of Hurricane Katrina: The Right to Be Wrong, Survivor-to-Survivor Storytelling, and Healing,” Journal of American Folklore, 125: 496, 139–176. https://doi.org/10.5406/jamerfolk.125.496.0139
Lyons, John D. (1989): Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400860814
Nasjonalbiblioteket [The National Library of Norway]. “NB N-gram Beta”: https://www.nb.no/sp_tjenester/beta/ngram_1/#ngram/query?terms=ekstremv%C3%A6r&lang=all&case_sens=0&freq=rel&corpus=avis, (accessed 01/24/19).
Nilsen, Yngve (2014): “Fra storm til ekstremvær: En 150 år lang historie,” Tidsskrift for kulturforskning, 13:3, 22–35.
Nilsen, Yngve & Magnus Vollset (2016): Vinden dreier: Meteorologiens historie i Norge. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic press.
Norgaard, Kari Marie (2011): Living in Denial. Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life. Cambridge, Ma: The MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262015448.001.0001
Northcott, Michael (2015): “Eschatology in the Anthropocene: From the chronos of deep time to the kairos of the age of humans,” Clive Hamilton, François Gemenne & Christophe Bonneuil (eds.): The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking modernity. Abingdon: Routledge, 100–111. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315743424-8
Mooney, Chris (2007): Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming. New York: Harcourt.
Ophir, Adi (2010): “The Politics of Catastrophization: Emergency and Exception,” Didier Fassin & Mariella Pandolfi (eds.): Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions. New York: Zone Books, 59–88.
Ryghaug, Marianne (2006): “‘Some like it hot’: Konstruksjon av kunnskap om klimaendringer i norske aviser,” Norsk medietidsskrift, 13:3, 197–219.
Rønning, Ole Chr. (2012): “Tidenes kraftigste orkan, kjære redaktør?,” Telen, 11 November, 2012, 11. https://doi.org/10.32964/TJ11.11
Sandberg, Tom (2012): “Lukker øynene for klimakatastrofen,” Dagsavisen, 3 December, 2012, 10.
Schenk, Gerrit Jasper (2009): Katastrophen von Undergang Pompejis bis zum Klimawandel, Ostfildern: Thorbecke.
Schlosser, Kolson (2018): “Geohumanities and climate change skepticism,” Geography Compass, 12:10: e12402. https://doi.org/10.1111/gec3.12402
Skrimshire, Stefan (2014): “Climate change and apocalyptic faith,” WIREs Climate Change 2014:5, 233–246. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.264
Smith, John E. (1969): “Time, Times, and the ‘Right Time’: ‘Chronos’ and ‘Kairos’,” The Monist, 53:11, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.5840/monist196953115
Turner, Victor 1974. Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Vassnes, Bjørn (2005): “Vi bor alle i New Orleans,” Klassekampen, 7 September, 2005, 9.
Copyright (c) 2020 Kyrre Kverndokk
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Copyright for all manuscripts rests with the author(s). The editors reserve the right to edit manuscripts. Contributors are responsible for acquiring all permissions from the copyright owners for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables, etc. Each author must, before final publication fill, in a publishing agreement provided by LiU E-Press.
Since 2021 Culture Unbound uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license for new articles, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given. For older articles please see each article landing page.