ArgLab • Workshop

Practical argumentation in the energy and climate debates

The international workshop on Practical argumentation in the energy and climate debates: Values, argumentative strategies, and discursive representations will gather scholars (from The UK, The USA, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Portugal) investigating reasoning and argumentation in our choices regarding activities related to energy production and climate change.

 

The workshop is part of a larger project which aims to methodically analyse and evaluate practical argumentation in the public debates over European energy and climate policies. Crucial questions are asked today across Europe: Shall we keep buying natural gas from Russia? Or invest more in wind and solar energy? Or instead return to coal or nuclear energy? Or go for the shale gas exploration? In all that, what are our primary goals and values? What should be our criteria for such critical decisions? Are national energy security, global climate justice, and economic efficiency compatible as “no-regret” options – or are they mutually exclusive? These questions lead to competing views and arguments being hotly debated across the European Union and beyond. The on-going multi-party debates (polylogues) are expected to produce one consistent pan-European energy policy. What are the chief components of these debates in terms of practical arguments produced for and against proposed courses of action? In order to understand the discursive contributions of the parties to the European energy and climate change debates, the international team involved in the project will examine the linguistic manifestations of practical arguments, main argumentative strategies, and values on which arguments are based. The project will use a corpus of available local, national and EU debates and documents.

Programme
10:00 – 10:10
Opening by Prof. João Costa, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FCSH), Universidade Nova de Lisboa
10:10 – 10:30
Presentation of the project by Marcin Lewiński (ArgLab, IFILNOVA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa), project’s Primary Investigator
10:45 – 11:30
Isabela Fairclough, University of Central Lancashire, UK
Deciding the future of shale gas development in the UK: A study of decision-making in institutional contexts
11:30 – 12:15
Norman Fairclough, University of Lancaster, UK
European energy and climate policy formation: Argumentation (debate) in its proper place
12:15 – 13:00
Mark Aakhus, Rutgers University, USA
Argumentation analysis of large scale practice: The case of the natural gas from shale supply chain
14:30 – 15:15
Steve Oswald, University of Fribourg, CH
Charges of conspiracy in climate change controversy: The case of Werner Munter’s arguments against anthropogenic climate change
15:15 – 16:00
Jan Albert van Laar, University of Groningen, NL
Fair and unfair strategies in public controversies
16:15 – 17:00
Jean Wagemans, University of Amsterdam, NL
Argumentative relations between debate propositions
Resume
Isabela Fairclough, University of Central Lancashire, UK
Deciding the future of shale gas development in the UK: A study of decision-making in institutional contexts

This paper looks at the decision made by the Lancashire County Council (LCC) in June 2015 to reject Cuadrilla’s applications for exploratory drilling in the Fylde area. It looks at the arguments made in favour of shale gas exploration, as formulated by the applicant, the LCC’s Officer’s report and other interested parties, on the one hand, and at the arguments against, made by members of the public and representatives of NGOs, on the other, analyzing the way they were weighed together, prior to the decision made by Development Control Committee of the LCC to reject the applications. By comparing and contrasting these arguments, variously based on alleged positive or negative outcomes (including benefits, risks and impacts), but also on allegedly non-overridable constraints (laws, policies, legally binding commitments, human rights, socially shared values), the paper aims to uncover the institutional constraints on decision-making operating in democratically elected political institutions and thus provide an analytical framework for the analysis of energy and climate debates.

Norman Fairclough, University of Lancaster, UK
European energy and climate policy formation: Argumentation (debate) in its proper place

Our aim is to understand the policy debate (argumentation). This requires understanding the place of debate in political problem solving (policy making/implementing). There are a lot of discourses, declarations, policies and strategies around, but they don’t all get to be worldchanging, and which ones do depends on the argumentation in the debate. There are ‘competing arguments’ in the debate – competing policies and strategies. Is the issue ‘argumentative strategies’, or rather argumentation as an inherent facet of energy/climate strategy choice and conflict? How is the current energy/climate state of affairs variously problematized, how do different problematizations (+ values) link to different goals, how are contradictions between multiple goals (cf value hierarchies) addressed in the debate? How do normative and explanatory critique figure in evaluation of the debate from within the debate and by analysts? What are the terms of debate? Do strategies for hegemonic change (implicit eg in ‘zero growth’ positions in the debate) depend on changing these terms?

Mark Aakhus, Rutgers University, USA
Argumentation analysis of large scale practice: The case of the natural gas from shale supply chai

This presentation discusses the potential for argumentation analysis of large scale societal practices such as production networks around shale gas production and consumption. Data and analysis from an ongoing project around the social organization of the “fracking” controversy in the Marcellus shale region of the Northeastern United States is used to scaffold theoretical and methodological considerations about argumentation analysis. Theoretical considerations include scaling up the conceptualization of argument as repair in human practice for analyzing large scale practices in society. Methodological considerations include the building of macroscopes for describing and reconstructing argumentation at scale through the uses of computational techniques for dealing with big data, such as social network analysis and natural language processing methods. Both considerations address the socio-materiality and polylogical features of large-scale pratice and the role of argumentation in organizing the actional and epistemic consequences of practice.

Steve Oswald, University of Fribourg, CH
Charges of conspiracy in climate change controversy: The case of Werner Munter’s arguments against anthropogenic climate change

This talk focuses on the debate between supporters of climate change accounts (IPCC and the scientific community at large) and climate change denialists (who self-identify as climate change sceptics) and in particular on the argumentative strategies deployed by the latter. In an attempt to characterise the argumentative profile of denialist discourse, I analyse the arguments voiced by Werner Munter, a well-known and retired Swiss mountain guide, against the account presented in IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports – these reports representing the scientific consensus that climate change is human-induced. One of the argumentative strategies that will be discussed in detail is the charge of conspiracy (which Zarefsky refer to as “the conspiracy argument”, see Zarefsky 2014: 205-206); Munter indeed accuses the scientific community of lying and scaring the general public in order to preserve economic interests, which is a well-represented strategy among denialists. Drawing on recent literature on conspiracy theories, I try to characterise the argumentative features of such conspiracy charges both from an argumentative and rhetorical perspective and suggest lines of research to account for the likely persuasive success of these strategies.

Jan Albert van Laar (& Erik C.W. Krabbe), University of Groningen, NL
Fair and unfair strategies in public controversies

Contemporary theory of argumentation offers many insights about the ways in which, in the context of a public controversy, arguers should ideally present their arguments and criticize those of their opponents. We also know that in practice not all works out according to the ideal patterns: numerous kinds of derailments (fallacies) are an object of study for argumentation theorists. But how about the use of unfair strategies vis-à-vis one’s opponents? What if it is not a matter of occasional derailments but of one party’s systematic trivialization of the other party’s problems, without taking the other seriously? What if one party systematically forgoes any form of critical testing and instead seems to resort to pressure in the form of threats or blackmail? Can this be countered by the tools of reason? Or should one pay one’s opponent back in the same coin? To gain some grasp of these issues, we describe a number of strategies used in the public controversy about the induced earthquakes in Groningen. We check whether these strategies are fair, i.e. balanced, transparent, and tolerant. We also investigate the effects of the choice for a particular kind of strategy. It appears that, in circumstances, choosing a fair strategy may be detrimental for resolving the controversy and choosing an unfair one beneficial. Following up ideas from social psychology and political science, we formulate some guidelines for the choice of strategies. At the end we stress the importance – especially for those who carry little weight – of having a society in which the ability to perceive the (un)fairness of strategies is widespread.

Jean Wagemans, University of Amsterdam, NL
Argumentative relations between debate propositions

This talk addresses the theoretical issues of (1) which types of propositions may occur in debates and (2) how these propositions are related argumentatively. First, a typology of debate propositions will be expounded. Attention will be paid to the characteristic differences between the types and to the question of how to identify and reconstruct them in natural language. Then, on the basis of an analysis of the different types of arguments, the PED-model of debate propositions will be presented. It will be explained how this model reflects the various argumentative relations existing between the propositions to be found in debates.