Silencing Climate Change in Utah Through Extremist Rhetoric and Stakeholder Processes: A Critical Discourse Analysis

Grace Elizabeth Bjarnson


This paper utilizes Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to explore the dimensions of domination and freedom within two significant public forums on climate change in Utah: (1) the resolution HJR 12 passed in the Utah State Legislature in 2010 and (2) the Blue Ribbon Committee on Climate Change (BRAC) process organized in 2006. The resolution HJR 12 reflects an extremist or inflammatory rhetoric point of view, while BRAC presents itself as a beacon of bureaucratic rationality, efficiency, and hierarchy. Forums such as these are force-feeding Americans subtly and not so subtly with divisive discourse and restrictive visions that pollute American politics and weaken the nation's capacity to address and solve its most challenging problems. HJR 12 exemplifies the role interpretive control plays in silencing those who disagree. The BRAC process illustrated how bureaucracy and rationalization may constrain future vision and action, reinforce current power structures, and encourage extreme rhetoric further down the road. This analysis uncovers the idealization of rational power underlying both forums. This idealization creates an unstable ground where powerplays, poorly disguised as rational policy making, dominate while silencing other voices. Scholars, government bureaucracies at all levels, and the American public wishing to deal with today’s complex challenges must purposefully address destructive assumptions associated with idealized rational processes, while recognizing the important role uncertainty, values, worldviews, and interests play in encouraging or discouraging policy change.

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email:

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