Climatic Change

, Volume 140, Issue 3–4, pp 413–422 | Cite as

Who speaks for climate change in China? Evidence from Weibo

  • John Chung-En LiuEmail author
  • Bo Zhao


Social media provides a new and expanding forum to discuss climate change. Existing research in this area has focused mainly on Twitter and discussions in the United States, while online discussion of climate change in China has been largely unexamined. To fill this gap, we analyzed discussion about climate change on China’s premiere microblogging website, Weibo, over a two month period surrounding the Paris Climate Summit. The results show that institutional users-state media and international actors-dominate the discussion, while Chinese NGOs and public intellectuals are mostly absent from the scene. Discussion on climate change is concentrated in major urban areas, especially in Beijing. A significant proportion of Weibo posts aim to raise climate change awareness; few users discuss topics such as climate science, climate change’s actual impacts on China, or China’s low-carbon policy measures. Climate change appears as a global threat that has little connection to China's national context.


Climate Change Pearl River Delta Public Intellectual World Wildlife Fund Climate Change Information 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Auer MR, Zhang Y, Lee P (2014) The potential of microblogs for the study of public perceptions of climate change. WIREs-Clim Chang 5:291–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cody EM, Reagan AJ, Mitchell L, Dodds PS, Danforth CM et al (2015) Climate change sentiment on Twitter: an unsolicited public opinion poll. PLoS One 10, e0136092CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Farrell J (2016a) Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:92–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Farrell J (2016b) Network structure and influence of the climate change countermovement. Nat Clim Chang 6:370–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fedorenko I, Sun Y (2015) Microblogging-based civic participation on environment in China: a case study of the PM 2.5 campaign. VOLUNTAS 1-29Google Scholar
  6. Jacques PJ, Dunlap RE, Freeman M (2008) The organisation of denial: conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. Environ Polit 17:349–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jasny L, Waggle J, Fisher DR (2015) An empirical examination of echo chambers in US climate policy networks. Nat Clim Chang 5:782–786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kay S, Zhao B, Sui D (2015) Can social media clear the air? A case study of the air pollution problem in Chinese cities. Prof Geogr 67:351–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kirilenko AP, Stepchenkova SO (2014) Public microblogging on climate change: one year of Twitter worldwide. Glob Environ Chang 26:171–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Koteyko N, Nerlich B, Hellsten I (2015) Climate change communication and the Internet: challenges and opportunities for research. Environ Commun 9:149152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Liu JC-E (2015) Low carbon plot: climate change skepticism with Chinese characteristics. Environ Sociol 1:280–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Liu JC-E, Leiserowitz AA (2009) From red to green? Environmental attitudes and behavior in urban China. Environment 51:32–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Martin S, Brown WM, Klavans R Boyack KW (2011) OpenOrd: an open-source toolbox for large graph layout. In IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging. International Society for Optics and PhotonicsGoogle Scholar
  14. Newman TP (2016) Tracking the release of IPCC AR5 on Twitter: users, comments, and sources following the release of the Working Group I Summary for Policymakers. Public Underst Sci 1:11Google Scholar
  15. O’Neill S, Williams HT, Kurz T, Wiersma B, Boykoff M (2015) Dominant frames in legacy and social media coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Nat Clim Chang 5:380–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pearce W, Holmberg K, Hellsten I, Nerlich B (2014) Climate change on Twitter: topics, communities and conversations about the 2013 IPCC Working Group 1 report. PLoS One 9, e94785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pearce W, Brown B, Nerlich B, Koteyko N (2015) Communicating climate change: conduits, content, and consensus. WIREs-Clim Chang 6:613–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schafer MS (2012) Online communication on climate change and climate politics: a literature review. WIREs-Clim Chang 3:527–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Segerberg A, Bennett WL (2011) Social media and the organization of collective action: using Twitter to explore the ecologies of two climate change protests. Commun Rev 14:197–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sina Weibo Data Center (2015) Weibo user development report 2015 (in Chinese)
  21. Stokes B, Wike R, Carle J (2015) Global concern about climate change, broad support for limiting emissions. Pew Research CenterGoogle Scholar
  22. Sullivan J, Xie L (2009) Environmental activism, social networks and the internet. China Q 198:422–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Veltri GA, Atanasova D (2015) Climate change on Twitter: content, media ecology and information sharing behaviour. Public Underst Sci. doi: 10.1177/0963662515613702 Google Scholar
  24. Williams HT, McMurray JR, Kurz T, Lambert FH (2015) Network analysis reveals open forums and echo chambers in social media discussions of climate change. Glob Environ Chang 32:126–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (2012) Public climate change awareness and climate change communication in ChinaGoogle Scholar
  26. Yang G, Calhoun C (2007) Media, civil society, and the rise of a green public sphere in China. China Inf 21:211–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations