Communicating Climate Change: Opportunities and Challenges for Closing the Science-Action Gap

This chapter from "The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society" identifies four main strategies that have been employed over the last 20 years to elicit public engagement, outreach and education and how these have often been ineffective in fostering lasting engagement and action, and how this knowledge can be harnessed for future communications.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ignorance of climate change science and facts isn’t preventing concern or action, as believed in the “information deficit model.” “Values, beliefs, incentives, skill and a sense of efficacy, social support, peer pressure, practical assistance” are more effective in changing behaviors.
  • Attention grabbing mechanisms – fear mongering or calls to quick easy fixes – don’t always facilitate action. Fear is often a turn-off. These mechanisms should be integrated with positive, doable actions.
  • People have attention cycles – climate change will not always be the number one priority for people. Frame climate change in the context of people’s daily issues and concerns: the economy, children, health and safety.
  • Identify what people care about and value and how they think about climate change and related matters. One type of presentation will not impact all audiences.
  • Frame issues within the cultural context of the audience.
  • Trust in the messenger may be more important to believability than the construction or presentation of the message itself.
  • Face-to-face communication and dialogue is often more effective at mobilizing people to action than mass media campaigns.
  • Public policy needs to diminish obstacles or the public intention to change will be frustrated and ineffectual.


Date: 2010
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Framing
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Framing

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