Research on climate change communication is a neglected field in Austria. Only slowly, scientists as well as policy makers are entering the domain of communicating climate change, especially in subprojects of larger funding initiatives by the Austrian Environment Ministry and the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. In the field of communication research, only sporadic studies can be found: Some of them are investigating science-policy-interfaces and communication among stakeholders; others are focusing on awareness of climate change, especially in climate sensitive areas like (winter) tourism, agriculture, and forestry, which are significant economic fields in Austria and in which major efforts have to be taken to enhance adaptive capacities. Only a few studies are dealing with media representations of climate. Therefore, this article outlines a future research program, based on the assessment of existing scholarship. More scientific efforts should be given to the following fields of research: public communication of stakeholders, studies on media representation of climate change and framing and its effects as well as comparative studies with countries sharing comparable climate scenarios, and the strong need for adapting to climate change (e.g., from Alpine regions) as well as similar political structures.
Yves Pepermans and Pieter Maeseele
Climate change communication in Belgium takes place in a socio-economic context characterized by an economic surplus and an ecological deficit. This implies that in the short term the benefits of the structures and behaviors that sustain carbon capitalism and cause climate change are larger and more tangible than the consequences of global warming, which are exported to more vulnerable places with less adaptive capacity. Nevertheless, with regard to physical consequences, climate change communication in Belgium also takes place in a context in which heavy thunderstorms and rainfalls, as well as floods, have increased significantly. In general however, Belgians have the means to distance themselves from climate change’s existing impacts. In other words, climate change communication (and public engagement) takes place in a context in which climate change serves primarily as a cultural idea to be acted upon rather than particular geophysical changes, such as weather disruptions.
Belgium is characterized primarily by a consensual, technocratic policy environment, in which debate is limited to a relatively limited spectrum of views and in which citizens are targeted primarily according to the (information) deficit model. However, increasingly initiatives are being taken from a social marketing or public participation approach. In the case of civil society, there is a rich tradition of social movements communicating and campaigning about climate change. These campaigns have primarily focused on individual behavior change and more recently also on collective forms of behavior change such as transition initiatives or collaborative/confrontational strategies of political action. Media research has revealed how the United Nations climate process sets both the agenda and the terms of the debate in Belgian newspapers. Only in the case of an alternative news site were different discourses found that approached climate change communication in terms of a genuine debate about the direction climate policy is taking. Finally, while Belgian citizens clearly acknowledge the urgency of the matter and the need for action, many feel powerless, because of a social, spatial, and temporal distance towards the issue or because it is perceived as a threat to their identity or routines.
Luisa Fernanda Lema Vélez, Daniel Hermelin, María Margarita Fontecha, and Dunia H. Urrego
Colombia is in a privileged position to take advantage of international climate agreements to finance sustainable development initiatives. The country is a signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreements. As a non-Annex I party to the UNFCCC, Colombia produces low emissions in relation to global numbers (0.46% of total global emissions for 2010) and exhibits biogeographical conditions that are ideal for mitigation of climate change through greenhouse gas sequestration and emission reductions. Simultaneously, recent extreme climatic events have harshly compromised the country’s economy, making Colombia’s vulnerability to climate change evident.
While these conditions should justify a strong approach to climate change communication that motivates decision making and leads to mitigation and adaptation, the majority of sectors still fall short of effectively communicating their climate change messages. Official information about climate change is often too technical and rarely includes a call for action. However, a few exceptions exist, including environmental education materials for children and a noteworthy recent strategy to deliver the Third Communication to the UNFCCC in a form that is more palatable to the general public. Despite strong research on climate change, particularly related to agricultural, environmental, and earth sciences, academic products are rarely communicated in a way that is easily understood by decision makers and has a clear impact on public policy. Messages from the mass media frequently confuse rather than inform the public. For instance, television news refers to weather-related disasters, climate variability, and climate change indiscriminately. This shapes an erroneous idea of climate change among the public and weakens the effectiveness of communications on the issue.
The authors contrast the practices of these sectors with those of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Colombia to show how they address the specific climate communication needs facing the country. These NGOs directly face the challenge of working with diverse population groups in this multicultural, multiethnic, and megadiverse country. NGOs customize languages, channels, and messages for different audiences and contexts, with the ultimate goal of building capacity in local communities, influencing policymakers, and sensitizing the private sector. Strategies that result from the work of interdisciplinary groups, involve feedback from the audiences, and incorporate adaptive management have proven to be particularly effective.
Mikkel Fugl Eskjær
Climate-change communication in Denmark was initially related to a broader environmental agenda and to discussions surrounding U.N. charters on sustainability, reflecting a traditional strong Scandinavian commitment to U.N. institutions. Although climate-change communication has since developed into an independent field among academics and environmentalists, some of the earlier links to questions of sustainability and development have been preserved.
Consequently, climate-change communication has been studied in a variety of public arenas in addition to the media system. These venues include parliamentary debates, regional discussions of renewable energy systems, cultural and artistic representations, as well as commercial and strategic discourses on green technologies—the latter representing an important Danish export market. Thus, climate-change communication is studied in several academic disciplines involving both quantitative and qualitative research strategies.
Media representations of climate change comprise the largest area of research on climate-change communication and have been investigated by media, communication, and journalism studies. Climate-change reporting is marked by substantial public consensus concerning the scientific evidence of climate change and the moral obligations of the industrialized world. It reflects a Scandinavian culture based on political corporatism in both the political system and the media system, which under normal circumstances results in a moderate rather than polarized public debate. Outright climate-change denial has consequently been marginal, although the controversies generated by Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, on how to prioritize climate change in relation to other global problems, can be regarded as the Danish equivalent to climate skepticism.
Another characteristic of Danish climate change communication is the imprint left by the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15), which was experienced as particularly traumatic in the host country. Like most countries, Denmark experienced a sharp decline in climate change coverage in the aftermath of COP15. However, whereas other countries have slowly picked up the intensity of media reporting following COP15, a similar increase has not materialized in Denmark, illustrating how a failed climate (and media) event can have lasting effects on a nation’s climate change communication.
Mike S. Schäfer
Climate change communication has a long history in Germany, where the so-called “climate catastrophe” has received widespread public attention from the 1980s onwards. The article reviews climate change communication and the respective research in the country over the last decades. First, it provides a socio-political history of climate change communication in Germany. It shows how scientists were successful in setting the issue on the public and policy agendas early on, how politicians and the media emphasized the climate change threat, how corporations abstained from interventions into the debate and how skeptical voices, as a result, remained marginalized. Second, the article reviews scholarship on climate change communication in Germany. It shows how research on the issue has expanded since the mid-2000s, highlights major strands and results, as well as open questions and ongoing debates.
Taiwan and Hong Kong are similar in their determination to combat climate change. Not only have they set up objectives about carbon emission reduction, but they also have actively enacted laws and policies to achieve these goals. However, the public is not considered to play an important role in policymaking in either Taiwan or Hong Kong. On the other hand, these two regions differ in several aspects about how and why they are addressing this issue. First, Taiwan’s efforts to reduce carbon emission are voluntary, with the goal of gaining international recognition, whereas Hong Kong is obliged to engage in carbon reduction due to its subordinate status to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Second, while Taiwan is trying to reduce its reliance on nuclear power as an energy source, Hong Kong sees it as a useful way to cut down carbon emissions. Third, Taiwan has established new, specialized governmental institutions to integrate resources, whereas efforts taken by Hong Kong mainly revolve around existing government agencies. In terms of public opinion about climate change, the Taiwanese are much more concerned about the issue and know more about it than their counterparts in Hong Kong. Finally, the media in Taiwan pay more attention to climate change than the media in Hong Kong. This article suggests potential directions for future research in this area.
Emmet Fox and Henrike Rau
Climate change communication research in Ireland has only recently emerged as a distinct field of inquiry. Research to date reveals the marginalization of climate change in the mainstream media, which is further amplified by its segregation from closely related topics of major public concern in Ireland such as extreme weather events, flooding, energy resources, or economic recovery. Content analyses of media coverage from the late 1990s until today show the coexistence of different narratives, with ecological modernization emerging as an increasingly dominant discourse that is supported by powerful actors in Irish society.
In contrast, more radical and alternative perspectives on the subject of climate change, including those associated with class-centered and growth-sceptic views of society and economic development, remain largely absent. Efforts to date by key public figures, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), and environmentalists to promote a more nuanced and citizen-centered climate change debate have concentrated on both traditional and nontraditional news outlets in an attempt to reach diverse audiences. Conventional media such as the national broadcaster RTÉ or the broadsheet newspaper The Irish Times nevertheless continue to fundamentally shape public debate in Ireland, making their future involvement in nuanced and balanced climate change debates central to any effort to shift thinking, policy, and action.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.
Climate change communication in Israel is embedded primarily in environmental communication and less in science communication. This form of communication is considered low risk compared to the war and terrorism that are part of everyday life in Israel.
Only in the 1970s did environmental communication emerge in various media channels and on the public agenda, while climate change communication has slowly begun to gain salience only in the last decade.
Mass media coverage of climate change in Israel is generally quite low compared to other developed countries in the West, with the new media channels partially used by interested nongovernmental organizations and individual activists. It seems the media still give voice to skeptics and are reluctant to give more salience because of the cross-business ownership of the media, mainly newspapers, television, and websites.
From time to time, media events on climate change, organized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and world summits that have political interests, serve to increase coverage and raise public interest. As in other countries, coverage is usually local rather than global, even though climate change is clearly a global problem.
How effective is climate change communication in Israel? Research has only partially answered this question. It seems that the legacy of low media coverage contributes to the weak salience of climate change on the government and public agenda. Moreover, the atmosphere of uncertain risks and outcomes for Israel has not created a climate of urgency for policy makers.
Lorenzo Beltrame, Massimiano Bucchi, and Enzo Loner
Climate change communication in Italy is preeminently “commonsensical” and pragmatic. Italian mass media represent climate change as an undisputable fact scaled to the everyday domestic and local experience of common people. While the causes of climate change are rarely discussed, its consequences are instead presented in very practical terms (from environmental catastrophes to weather anomalies) and the issue is framed as something linking, embedding, and drawing together multiple social dimensions (the economy, politics, science and technology, and everyday life). Mass media discourse has contradictory effects on public perceptions of the issue. Review of existing studies and use of available social survey data show that the Italian public is largely aware of the seriousness of climate change, but climate change is considered less urgent than other matters of concern related to the economic situation. In developing their environmental awareness, Italian citizens rely mainly on information provided by traditional mass media, while environmental organizations’ claims and public communication by scientists play a marginal role. Finally, perceptions of climate change in Italy are prevalently built on the direct experiences of anomalies in seasonal temperatures rather than on evidence-based scientific communication.
Javier Urbina-Soria and Karina Landeros-Mugica
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.
Mexico has always stood out as an active and committed participant at international meetings on climate change; it was one of the first countries to fulfill the mandates of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has submitted five national communications. Furthermore, in the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) held in Cancun, Mexico, in 2011, the Mexican government proposed the creation of a Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was approved and is already operating. Interest in climate change has increased within political, economic, and environmental domains. In the past, most academic and social studies focused on knowledge, beliefs, perception, and social representation of climate change, and only a few of them spoke to the communication process. Moreover, most inquiries centered on the review of literature or descriptive studies for specific samples. Specifically on climate change communication research, there is still a lot to be done; only a few studies on the subject have been completed. Most of the publications show campaigns, workshops, or educational programs that aim to increase knowledge and improve understanding of climate change. The National Strategy on Climate Change along with the Special Program on Climate Change included two lines of action: a) risk perception research and divulgation, and b) risk communication and environmental education. However, it was not until 2006 that the government started to invest in campaigns about climate change, like an internet portal, chats and workshops, stories for kids, or guides for efficient use of household energy. By 2007 and 2008, attention came not only from scientists but also from society; this was due mainly to coverage of the topic in the mass media, along with several publications for specific audiences (children, young, adults, specialists, politicians, and stakeholders). From 2008 to 2014, climate change topics were introduced in educational and cultural programs for students, especially at elementary and high school levels. Also, several publications and videos were released for the general public. In 2015, the first dialog between journalists was held to emphasize the important roll that journalists have when they broadcast scientific information. Nowadays, politicians and stakeholders are the main actors on communicating climate change, leaving academics, journalists, and broadcasters aside. Concerning the main topics, threats and disasters dominate the headlines, while information about mitigation or adaptation are hardly mentioned. Around the world, as well as in Mexico, there is a new discourse focused on future perspectives, accountability, and social legacy instead of immediacy. Mexico has enough material and technological infrastructure: mass media, libraries, museums, communication technologies, among others. However, these have been underutilized, because mass media treatment of ecological subjects have been fugacious, irregular, and surviving, limiting their development and strengthening.