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Moral (dis)engagement with anthropogenic climate change in online comments on newspaper articles.

Woods, Ruth; Coen, Sharon; Fern�ndez, Ana


Sharon Coen

Ana Fern�ndez


Anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is widely acknowledged to be morally significant, but little is known about everyday moralising around ACC. We addressed this gap via quantified thematic analysis of 300 online comments to British newspaper articles on ACC, drawing on Bandura's moral disengagement theory. Moral disengagement through denial of ACC was widespread. Other disengagement strategies, such as palliative comparison and diminishing agency, occurred less often. There was also some moral engagement, most often through assertions of the existence of ACC and/or its harmful effects. Moral disengagement was significantly more common in comments on right wing than left wing newspapers, while the opposite was true of moral engagement. While Bandura's framework provided a useful starting point to make sense of ACC moralising, it did not capture moral concerns that extended beyond its 'harm / care' remit. In particular, many 'denial' comments included a 'dishonesty' discourse, whereby ACC proponents were accused of deception for ulterior motives. To classify this discourse as moral disengagement obscures its engagement with a different set of moral issues around trust and honesty. We suggest that Bandura's theory represents one possible 'moral landscape' around ACC, and could be extended to encompass a broader range of moral concerns.


WOODS, R., COEN, S. and FERNANDEZ, A. 2018. Moral (dis)engagement with anthropogenic climate change in online comments on newspaper articles. Journal of community and applied social psychology [online], 28(4), pages 244-257. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 8, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 13, 2018
Publication Date Aug 31, 2018
Deposit Date May 11, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 11, 2018
Journal Journal of community and applied social psychology
Print ISSN 1052-9284
Electronic ISSN 1099-1298
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 244-257
Keywords Climate change; Moral; Disengagement; Media; Ethics
Public URL


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