„Contrarians“ – their role in the debate on climate change (global warming) and their influence on the Austrian policy making progress

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.

Project duration: 2011–2013
Project management: Univ-Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brand, Institute for Political Science, University of Vienna
Collaborators: FAS Research, Institute of Meteorology of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Catholic Theological Private University, Linz; Denkstatt, Vienna; Institute of Political Science of the University of Vienna
Funding: The research project was funded by the Climate and Energy Fund (KLIEN).