Framing Trade-offs: The Politics of Nuclear Power and Wind Energy in the Age of Global Climate Change

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Abstract

This article outlines recent debates over nuclear energy and wind farms in an age of growing concern about climate change. Proponents of these technologies have used “trade-off” frames to promote these technologies in the face of current and potential opposition to them. This article examines the nature and limits of the trade-off frames being used and their probability of success. We argue that using the language of trade-offs is generally a suboptimal framing strategy: trade-off frames remind the public of the costs associated with particular policies, and therefore play into the hands of policy opponents. However, policy advocates may turn to them when the costs of a technology are well known and are perceived as high. In such cases, trade-off frames may help to justify controversial policy solutions. Like any frames, the trade-off frames used in the debate over climate change solutions both illuminate and obscure the deeper issues involved in energy policy reform.

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