The Psychology of Climate Change Communication

The Psychology of Climate Change Communication

Category: Guides

Source: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions

Author(s): Debika Shome, Sabine Marx

Year: 2009


Research shows that most Americans do not feel a personal connection to climate change. They are aware of it, they may even rank it as a concern, but according to a 2008 Pew Research Center for People and the Press, they do not perceive it as a near-term priority on par with, say, the economic downturn or the need to reform health care. In fact, despite scientists’ calls for urgent action, climate change has slipped to the bottom of the list of American priorities.

Many people can recite at least a few things they could do to help mitigate global climate change, but are not. Why not? Somehow, and despite a lot of media attention following the release of An Inconvenient Truth, messages about climate change and what people need to do to help prevent it seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

There are many theories about why awareness of climate change does not inspire the kind of behavior changes it should. Addressing all of them goes beyond the scope of this guide. What this guide does provide are principles derived from the social sciences concerning how to communicate effectively about a topic that is complex, confusing, uncertain, sometimes overwhelming, and often emotionally and politically loaded.

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