Anthony Leiserowitz and Nicholas Smith
Affective imagery, or connotative meanings, play an important role in shaping public risk perceptions, policy support, and broader responses to climate change. These simple “top-of-mind” associations and their related affect help reveal how diverse audiences understand and interpret global warming. And as a relatively simple set of measures, they are easily incorporated into representative surveys, making it possible to identify, measure, and monitor how connotative meanings are distributed throughout a population and how they change over time. Affective image analysis can help identify distinct interpretive communities of like-minded individuals who share their own set of common meanings and interpretations. The images also provide a highly sensitive measure of changes in public discourse. As scientists, political elites, advocates, and the media change the frames, images, icons, and emotions they use to communicate climate change, they can influence the interpretations of the larger public. Likewise, as members of the public directly or vicariously experience specific events or learn more about climate risks, they construct their own connotative meanings, which can in turn influence larger currents of public discourse. This article traces the development of affective imagery analysis, reviews the studies that have implemented it, examines how affective images influence climate change risk perceptions and policy support, and charts several future directions of research.
Social scientists and media critics have often been befuddled about how and why news coverage of important issues takes the shapes that it does. While some issues seem to behave according to well-established patterns, others don’t. The issue of climate change is one that has been explained in numerous ways, often from a cyclical perspective. This perspective suggests that news attention naturally varies up and down, often cued by certain focusing events that draw attention for a time, after which attention wanes again. These observations are usually matched with the perspective that attention should normatively not be cyclical, that the issue is one that deserves continuous attention until it is resolved.
All of this is in the context that there are significant doubts about the objective role of newsmakers in this process. Climate change is an issue that has cut across a period of news evolution in which objectively neutral news has become even less prominent than it once was, if it ever was. News outlets with specific ideological agendas, a plethora of bloggers and websites with an axe to grind, and a variety of conspiracy theories about climate have obscured how news can even hope to cover this issue. With “belief” in climate change now becoming an important token of how one identifies oneself politically, we can wonder whether the issue can ever receive a fair hearing from a scientific perspective.
Linda S. Prokopy, Wendy-Lin Bartels, Gary Burniske, and Rebecca Power
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.
Agricultural extension has evolved over the last 200 years from a system of top-down dissemination of information, from experts to farmers, to a more complex system in which a diversity of knowledge producers and farmers work together to co-produce information. An example from the Southeastern United States illustrates how innovative institutional arrangements enable land-grant universities to actively engage farmers and extension agents as key partners in the knowledge generation process. A second U.S. example shows that private retailers are more influential than extension in influencing farm management decisions of the large scale farmers in the Midwestern United States. However, these private retailers trust extension as a source of climate change information, and thus partnerships are important for extension. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been an important source of extension services for small holder farmers across the world, and examples from the NGO CARE (Cooperative Assistance for Relief Everywhere) indicate that a participatory and facilitative approach works well for climate change communication. Collectively these examples emphasize that the role of agricultural extension in climate change communication is essential in both developed and developing contexts and with both small holder farmers and large scale farmers. These case studies illustrate the effectiveness of a co-production approach, the importance of partners and donors, and the changing landscape of agricultural extension delivery.
Julia B. Corbett and Brett Clark
The communication strategy of simply sharing more scientific information has not effectively engaged and connected people to climate change in ways that facilitate understanding and encourage action. In part, this is because climate change is a so-called wicked problem, given that it is socially complex, has many interdependencies, and lacks simple solutions. For many people, climate change is generally seen as something abstract and distant—something that they know about, but do not “feel.” The arts and humanities can play an important role in disrupting the social and cultural worldviews that filter climate information and separate the public from the reality of climate change. Whether it is the visual arts, dance, theater, literature, comedy, or film, the arts and humanities present engaging stories, corporally sensed and felt experiences, awareness of interdependency with the world, emotional meanings, and connection with place. Climate stories, especially those based on lived experiences, offer distinct ways to engage a variety of senses. They allow the “invisibility” of climate change to be seen, felt, and imagined in the past, present, and future. They connect global issues to conditions close to home and create space to grieve and experience loss. They encourage critical reflection of existing social structures and cultural and moral norms, thus facilitating engagement beyond the individual level. The arts and humanities hold great potential to help spur necessary social and cultural change, but research is needed on their reach and efficacy.
Donald W. Hine, Wendy J. Phillips, Aaron B. Driver, and Mark Morrison
Scientists and policy makers face significant challenges when attempting to engage the public about climate change. An important first step is to understand the number and nature of the audiences one plans to target—a process known as audience segmentation. Segmentation involves identifying, within an audience or target population, homogenous subgroups that share similar demographic and/or psychographic profiles. After segmenting an audience, climate change communicators can target their messages based on the unique characteristics of each subgroup. For example, to stimulate engagement and behavior change, messages aimed at audiences that are skeptical about climate change may require different content and framing than messages aimed at audiences already deeply concerned about climate change.
The notion of matching message content to audience characteristics has a long history, dating back to the Ancient Greeks. More recently, audience segmentation has played a central role in targeted advertising and also social marketing, which uses marketing principles to help “sell” ideas and behaviors that benefit society. Applications to climate change communication are becoming more common, with major segmentation and communication initiatives being implemented across the globe.
Messages crafted to meet the needs of specific audience segments are more likely to be read, understood, and recalled than generic ones, and are also more likely to change behavior. However, despite these successes, the approach has not been uniformly embraced. Controversies have emerged related to the cost effectiveness of segmentation strategies, choice of segmentation variables, potential effects related to social stigmatization, whether segmentation encourages shallow (as opposed to deep) change, the extent to which segments are “found” as opposed to socially constructed by researchers, and whether interindividual differences are best conceptualized in terms of categories or dimensions.
Mikko Rask and Richard Worthington
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.
Public engagement refers to processes that provide a distinct role for citizens or stakeholder groups to contribute to policy making. Such engagement is distinctive because it aims to create opportunities for mutual learning among policy makers, scientists, stakeholders, and members of the public. In so doing, public engagement involves a particular type of voice in public debate and policy making that is different from more established discourses, such as those expressed through official policy-making channels, among scientific institutions, by civil society activists, or in the public media. By the early 1970s, public engagement had emerged in the context of an overall democratization movement in Western societies through such innovations as the “Citizen Jury” in the United States and “Planning Cells” in Germany. Today it is often more pragmatically motivated, as for example in the European Commission, where public engagement is seen as tool for ”responsible research and innovation” that helps to anticipate and assess potential implications and societal expectations of research and innovation, and to design more inclusive and sustainable research policies.
The first global public engagement processes in history were created to incorporate citizen voices into United Nations conventions on biodiversity and climate change. Building on theories of deliberative democracy and tested practices of public engagement, a new World Wide Views process was developed to provide informed and considered input from ordinary citizens to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This and subsequent World Wide Views deliberations have demonstrated that public engagement can potentially open up policy discourses that are constricted and obfuscated by organized interests. A telling example is provided by the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy deliberation held on June 5, 2015, where nearly 10,000 ordinary citizens gathered in 76 countries to consider and express their views on the issues to be addressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later that year. In a noteworthy departure from prevailing media and policy discourses, two thirds of the participating citizens saw climate change as “mostly an opportunity to improve our quality of life,” while only a quarter saw it as “mostly a threat to our quality of life,” a result that was consistent across high, middle, and low income countries.
Recent research on public engagement has indicated that, when effectively implemented, such processes can increase the legitimacy, quality, and capacity of decision making. The specific impacts include cognitive and attitudinal changes (e.g., better awareness of environmental and scientific issues), development of new capacities (e.g., new professional skills, methods, and platforms of collaboration), and mobilization of resources for addressing scientific and societal challenges (e.g., research funding, political commitment, public awareness, and social acceptance). Earlier aspirations for broader impacts, such as the democratization of policy making at all levels, are now less prominent, but arguably, are indispensable for achieving both immediate and longer-range goals. The relatively new concept of a deliberative system captures this complexity by moving beyond the narrow focus on single public engagement events encountered in much research to date, recognizing that single events rarely affect the course of policy making. The evolving prospects for public engagement in biodiversity and climate change policy can therefore be seen as requiring ongoing improvements in the capacities of the deliberative system.
Julie Doyle, Nathan Farrell, and Michael K. Goodman
Since the mid-2000s, entertainment celebrities have played increasingly prominent roles in the cultural politics of climate change, ranging from high-profile speeches at UN climate conferences, and social media interactions with their fans, to producing and appearing in documentaries about climate change that help give meaning to and communicate this issue to a wider audience. The role afforded to celebrities as climate change communicators is an outcome of a political environment increasingly influenced by public relations and attuned toward the media’s representation of political ideas, policies, and sentiments. Celebrities act as representatives of mass publics, operating within centers of elite political power. At the same time, celebrities represent the environmental concerns of their audiences; that is, they embody the sentiments of their audiences on the political stage. It is in this context that celebrities have gained their authority as political, social, and environmental “experts,” and the political performances of celebrities provide important ways to engage electorates and audiences with climate change action.
More recently, celebrities offer novel engagements with climate change that move beyond scientific data and facilitate more emotional and visceral connections with climate change in the public’s everyday lives. Contemporary celebrities, thus, work to shape how audiences and publics ought to feel about climate change in efforts to get them to act or change their behaviors. These “after data” moments are seen very clearly in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary Before the Flood. Yet, with celebrities acting as our emotional witnesses, they not only might bring climate change to greater public attention, but they expand their brand through neoliberalism’s penchant for the commoditization of everything including, as here, care and concern for the environment. As celebrities build up their own personal capital as eco-warriors, they create very real value for the “celebrity industrial complex” that lies behind their climate media interventions. Climate change activism is, through climate celebrities, rendered as spectacle, with celebrities acting as environmental and climate pedagogues framing for audiences the emotionalized problems and solutions to global environmental change. Consequently, celebrities politicize emotions in ways that that remain circumscribed by neoliberal solutions and actions that responsibilize audiences and the public.
Climate change communication in Japan is characterized by governmental campaigns for carbon dioxide emission reduction and mass media coverage of international events on climate change issues. A series of governmental campaigns included “Cool Biz,” “Warm Biz,” and “Team Minus 6%” for the Kyoto protocol; “Challenge 25” for the Hatoyama initiative; “Fun to Share” and “Cool Choice” for the new mid-term Greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 26%. Those campaigns are popular among public. As for media coverage of international events on climate change issues, one of the biggest events was the COP3 in Kyoto, in 1997; another is the release of AR5 from 2006 to early 2007, and following events of the G8 summits of Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007, and of Toyako, Japan in 2008.
Until now, not much attention has been paid to climate change communication research, as social scientists seldom join research projects concerning climate change science. But recent severe weather, such as stronger or early-season typhoons, heavier rainfalls, early arrival of spring (e.g., earlier bloom of cherry blossoms), and the bleaching of coral reefs bring awareness not only to the general public but also to social scientists. Lack of participation by social scientists in climate change communication research has meant a very narrow range of communication with the public. Experts try to “teach” the science of climate change, and actions such as “50 easy things for tackling global warming,” but it seems those are not what ordinary people want to know. Furthermore, there seems to be no debate on what climate change will bring us, what kinds of energy we should choose, who might be more vulnerable. Debate on ethical issues, justice issues, and sharing of responsibility will be need to be part of future climate change communication.
Indigenous experiences with climate change have become increasingly visible through media stories of rising sea levels, heavy storms, and coastal erosion due to climate change in places as different as Tuvula in the South Pacific and Shishmaref in the Alaskan Arctic. Despite these bursts of attention, indigenous concerns and experiences have not been well or diversely represented in media coverage, nor have they been consistently studied in media scholarship—nor until recently, have indigenous people or knowledge been mentioned in major climate agreements and scientific assessments. There is, however, a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship that draws on indigenous knowledge, experiences, and activism related to climate change.
Indigenous peoples comprise 5% of the world’s population and live in over 90 countries around the world. Because indigenous communities are often located outside major urban centers, indigenous peoples are likely to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change. Many indigenous people live in close connection with the ecosystems in their region, and collectively held Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is passed down through multiple generations, providing in-depth, systematic, meaningful, and historically informed views of climate change and potential pathways for resilience and adaptation.
Indigenous people have often been portrayed in media coverage as victims with little attention paid to TEK, communal resilience, human rights and climate justice frameworks, or the historical contexts that may amplify climate change impacts. While indigenous people have diverse circumstances and histories, many are likely to have suffered enormous upheaval in recent centuries due to colonialism, resource development, economic shifts, loss of human rights, and lack of self-determination. Climate change often intensifies existing vulnerabilities and risks. These deeply intertwined social and environmental crises create distinct challenges for considering how and what climate change means for diverse indigenous peoples, how to address it at all levels of governance, and how media can and should be accountable to and represent indigenous publics.
M. Teresa Mercado-Sáez and César Galarza
Climate change research in Argentina focuses on its physical aspects (natural sciences) and not so much on the social aspects, beyond the various surveys measuring perceptions and concerns of Argentinians about climate change. There are few studies that address the problem of communicating the issue from a social sciences standpoint, and these refer to analysis of its coverage in the leading newspapers. And almost all have been published in Spanish. The links between media coverage, policy, and public perceptions in Argentina have not been the subject of academic research thus far. Given the lack of specific bibliography examining the climate change communication from a transversal outlook, in-depth interviews were used to find this out. This study presents an overview of the communication of climate change in Argentina considering not only the journalistic point of view but also that of other social actors. Five areas of interest were defined: the political, the scientific, the media, NGO environmentalists, and what this article refers to as “other sectors.” This fifth area incorporated other voices from the business sector or the non-specialized civil sphere in order to complement the panorama of representative actors that have something to say about the communication of the climate change in Argentina.