CONTRA – „Contrarians“ – their role in the debate on climate change (global warming) and their influence on the Austrian policy making progress
Duration: March 2011 – September 2013
The project “Contrarians” aims to investigate the influence of “climate sceptics” on the policymaking process in Austria. It is funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund and conducted by FAS Research, the Institute of Meteorology of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU, Vienna), the Catholic Theological Private University (Linz), Denkstatt (Vienna), and the Institute of Political Science of the University of Vienna. The political science analysis consists of four steps:
- First, contrarians and alliances of contrarians in Austria (and their international connections) will be identified and categorized with respect to institutional settings, positions, and the paradigmatic issues in Austrian climate politics contrarians address. The empirical focus is on the Renewable Energy Act (Ökostromgesetz) and the Emissions Trading Act (Emissionszertifikategesetz).
- Second, the specific direct and indirect lobbying strategies used by contrarians in order to pursue their aims within the political system will be explored.
- Third, since public discourses on climate change policies are important sources of political legitimation, the corridors of publicly and politically acknowledged politics will be examined. This is the first step in understanding not just how but also why contrarians are able to influence climate politics. We aim to analyse how the discourse on climate change in Austria and the positions of contrarians mutually influence each other. Drawing on selected newspapers and documents of the actors identified in Step 1, we will analyse the public discourse around paradigmatic issues and ask to what extent the public discourse strengthens or weakens the positions of contrarians and also, vice versa, to what extent contrarians shape the public discourse.
- Fourth, answering the question concerning why contrarians exert influence also requires an institutional analysis aside from the discursive analysis to be conducted in Step 3. Thus, in Step 4 we will ask in what sense the Austrian national polity (i.e., the institutional structures of policymaking) is biased towards specific policies (i.e., laws, regulations, distribution of financial and knowledge resources, and recognition) which make the polity responsive to the influence of contrarians so that effective climate change policies are blocked. In other words, we will explore the specific “structural selectivities” (Claus Offe) or “strategic selectivities” (Bob Jessop) of the state. This will be done by analyzing government documents and conducting interviews with state representatives.