Imke Hoppe; Fenja De Silva-Schmidt; Michael Brüggemann; Dorothee Arlt

Published On


Page Range

pp. 121-160

Print Length

39 pages

Sense-Making of COP 21 among Rural and City Residents

The Role of Space in Media Reception

This chapter explores the role of space in making sense of climate change coverage. The role of space is analyzed in the form of (a) (attributed) spatial distance and/or proximity to climate change, (b) personal nature and weather experiences attributed to climate change and (c) social spaces. The study compares how the United Nations’ summit COP 21, which resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015, has been perceived and interpreted in an urban (Hamburg) and a rural setting (Otterndorf), both located in Northern Germany. In each setting, two focus group interviews were held (n = 15), one with long-term inhabitants and one with newly relocated citizens. This data was complemented by media diaries (including standardized and open questions), in which participants documented their communicative engagement with the climate summit on a daily basis. Media use in both cases is fairly similar, with participants in the rural setting using their local newspaper more intensively. Yet, local newspapers’ quality of reporting the summit was deemed as highly deficient, failing to provide a local angle to the climate summit and to the broader topic of climate change. Media, apparently, have not explained the issue well: climate change and politics are perceived as overly complex and distant. Space plays an important role: people in the rural setting—with the rising tides of the North Sea behind the dikes—felt more personally concerned by climate change than inhabitants of Hamburg. Furthermore, long-term inhabitants drew much stronger links between climate change and their region. The duration of stay in a certain setting thus turns out to be an important moderator of spatial influence on interpretations of climate change.


Imke Hoppe


Dorothee Arlt