Costly Knowledge—Unaffordable Denial: The Politics of Public Understanding and Engagement on Climate Change

This chapter from "The Politics of Climate Change" (edited by Maxwell Boykoff) looks at the cognitive, affective and behavioral challenges to fostering public engagement in climate change policy in the developed world and the structural, institutional and economic issues that should be considered when addressing different groups. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The public can be motivated to take a proactive role in climate change solutions and policy-making by considering them as part of a larger societal unit that also includes industry, business, civic institutions and all levels of government. Overall, government should take a leadership role.
  • The cognitive, affective and behavioral engagement of individuals can be increased by addressing the unique costs and barriers to them while paying equal attention to individuals’ motivations, beliefs, emotions, social and political norms/identities.
  • Knowledge and information is only one aspect of public engagement.
  • Communication and outreach campaigns need to naturally coincide with policy changes that remove or assist in addressing barriers to public engagement.
  • An integrated approach to engagement that includes trustworthy, tailored messengers, framing an issue through already established concerns, mass media and face-to-face communication and an emotional appeal that is both urgent and positive is effective in overcoming existing habits, long-held beliefs and values, existing infrastructure, and policy commitments.


Date: 2009
Authors: Susanne Moser
Organization: Routledge
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Evaluation, Framing, Other
Organization: Routledge
Strategic Approach: Engagement, Evaluation, Framing, Other

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