Headline: Constructing Climate Change in the U.S. Rust Belt. Political Discourse, the Media and Climate Policy Frames in Michigan and Indiana

The dissertation studies climate policy discourses in Indiana and Michigan. These two U.S. Rust Belt states are among the country's ten largest greenhouse gas emitters and have shown relatively low climate protection ambitions. The lessons learned from the research matter in particular, as emission-intensive states such as Michigan and Indiana play a crucial role in meeting climate targets agreed upon by many countries in the Paris Climate Agreement. The dissertation understands the politics of climate protection as a discursive struggle in which actors seek to promote certain policy meanings. It reconstructs the meanings of climate policy at the state-level by analyzing how different types of actors frame climate policy and how policy frames manifest in climate policy approaches in Indiana and Michigan. The research strategy followed is a qualitative, interpretive analysis of climate policy discourse in the years from 2000 to 2008 in two venues: Media discourse and discourse in the state governments. The dissertation combines elements of discourse and interpretive policy analyses in its approach to studying policy frames. It relies on a set of materials which includes some 40 stakeholder interviews, articles from state newspapers as well as government documents. Through its frame approach, it first traces the interplay between environmental policy and industrial growth and decline in the Rust Belt over the past decades. This serves as a foundation for an analysis of the interpretive landscape of global warming issues in Indiana and Michigan. The dissertation then reconstructs which climate policy frames exist in each state. Moreover, it assesses how these frames resonate within the respective state contexts and which frames materialize in political discourse of the state executives and legislatures. The results show that the interpretive landscape in media discourse is surprisingly broad in Indiana and Michigan. Actors understand climate policy from moral and economic perspectives. The analysis yields six larger frames: Environmental stewardship, responsibility, economic opportunity, green leadership, energy security and liberty. Some of these frames constitute a re-framing of climate policy which departs from the states' previous approaches to environmental challenges. Not all of these climate policy frames, however, materialize at the political level: In Indiana, hardly any of the media frames manifest in political discourse. In Michigan, particularly economic frames manifest in political discourse. In Indiana, frame sponsors' efforts to frame climate policy as an environmental policy that benefits the economy thus remain mostly unsuccessful during the study period. In Michigan, however, frame sponsors successfully manage to initiate a re-framing of climate policy from a purely environmental or economic issue to one of modernization and technological leadership for the state that resonates with the state context. The dissertation thus makes an empirical contribution to the - so far - narrow knowledge base on climate policy and discourses in the U.S. Rust Belt states. The policy implications, however, surpass the narrow context of the Rust Belt states. They allude to the strategic importance of framing for the successful translation of policy frames into action. Frames can serve to improve the resonance of a policy with a state context by emphasizing particular policy co-benefits and connecting climate discourses to energy and economic discourses. Frame sponsors can thus contribute to this resonance in their communication of policies by tailoring their framing to the political culture and specific economic, environmental or energy system-related challenges of a state. Nevertheless, the dissertation reveals that the innovative ideas and interests which climate policy proponents express through their frames do not translate easily into policy responses.

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Thielges, S. (2019). Constructing Climate Change in the U.S. Rust Belt. Political Discourse, the Media and Climate Policy Frames in Michigan and Indiana. PhD Thesis, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin.

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Pathways to Sustainable Energy Global Energy Transition