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Effective Climate Change Communication


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A presentation prepared for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, June 6, 2018.
Event description: "Join the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity on Wednesday, June 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as we answer Pope Francis’ call to 'each person on this living planet' to care for our common home. Because everyone’s home is different, creating effective campaigns around this initiative can be challenging. During this seminary, Assistant Professor of Journalism Jill Hopke of DePaul University will share insights from the latest social science research on how to design communication strategies that connect climate change to daily life and tips for choosing engaging climate visuals. Participants will get ideas for how to tell new narratives about the human toll of our changing climate, as well as for building community resiliency and climate hope."

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Effective Climate Change Communication

  1. 1. Jill Hopke, Ph.D. Archdiocese of Chicago June 6, 2018 Effective Climate Change Communication
  2. 2. Belief in climate change harm Source: Data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. County and district-level opinion data are estimates based on survey responses from more than 18,000 U.S. adults (age 25 and older) collected from 2008 and 2016. Graphics by: New York Times
  3. 3. Climate change as as a distant, far-off problem? Polar bears as a “condensation symbol” on climate change
  4. 4. What climate change means for Chicago
  5. 5. Climate Change Beliefs
  6. 6. Climate change belief – The “Six Americas” Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2018, March), warmings-six-americas/.
  7. 7. • Personal experience with extreme weather events can impact likelihood someone believes global warming is occurring Extreme weather and climate beliefs Damaged boats dropped in a heap by the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey shore. Source:
  8. 8. Climate change as a moral and justice issue Source: Roser-Renouf, C., Maibach, E., Leiserowitz, A., Feinberg, G., & Rosenthal, S (2016). Faith, Morality and the Environment: Portraits of Global Warming's Six Americas. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
  9. 9. Climate justice – Connecting climate change to economic and social justice Example: Green the Church • Disproportionate effects • Caused largely by industrialized nations • Affected people disenfranchised in climate change talks • Unsustainable production/consumption
  10. 10. What have been your experiences talking with people about climate impacts and solutions?
  11. 11. Overcoming Psychological Distance on Climate Change
  12. 12. • Climate change is viewed as a distant, far-off risk for many people • “Not here” and “not now” • Challenge to perceive cumulative, long-term impacts, doesn’t activate “fight or flight” mechanism Psychological distance of climate change
  13. 13. Empowerment can lead to action Credit: Climate Outreach, “Managing the Psychological Distance of Climate Change.”
  14. 14. • Self-efficacy – Belief I can effectively take action • Response efficacy – Belief my actions meaningfully contribute • Collective efficacy – Belief the group is capable of taking action • Collective response efficacy – Belief advocacy will influence policymakers and/or policies can reduce climate change/impacts Types of efficacy
  15. 15. Efficacy and empowerment can lead to action Source: Feldman, L. & Sol Hart, P. (2016). Using political efficacy messages to increase activism: The mediating role of emotions. Science Communication, 38(1), 99-127. Available at: Empowering Messages Increased Efficacy Hope Meaningful Action
  16. 16. Promoting hope and action by connecting to what people love Example: “Show the Love” Climate Coalition (UK) campaign
  17. 17. What do you love that is impacted by climate change?
  18. 18. Developing New Climate Narratives
  19. 19. Lead with what you know – Not what you don’t • Be clear on the scientific consensus o Use graphics o Use messengers seen as trustworthy to communicate consensus o Find a values-match Source: Corner, A. et al. (2015). The Uncertainty Handbook. Bristol: University of Bristol.
  20. 20. Focus on certainty in terms of “when,” not “if” Source: Corner, A. et al. (2015). The Uncertainty Handbook. Bristol: University of Bristol.
  21. 21. • Answer the following: – What do we know? – What don’t we know? – Why do we care? Break down climate research Image source:
  22. 22. “Consensus messaging” makes a difference… Share climate science.
  23. 23. • What’s your “So what?” – Tailor to your audience • Support your message – Facts – Statistics (limited) – Examples Focus on what you know Image source:
  24. 24. Trusted peers matter… Have face-to-face conversations.
  25. 25. • Frame in a way that’s meaningful for people – Think about timing – Provide examples and context – Clarify information, not simplify Make it meaningful Image source:
  26. 26. Making things tangible… Connect to climate impacts that hit close to home.
  27. 27. Example frames, or angles, and their audiences Available at: • Avoiding wastefulness – Positive for all audiences; particularly conservatives • Health benefits • Balance – Speaks to core values of center-right audiences
  28. 28. Meet people where they are in terms of climate beliefs… Ask “How did you come to this belief?”
  29. 29. Five principles for public engagement Corner, A. & Clarke, J. (2017). Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement. Palgrave Macmillian: Cham, Switzerland. 1. Learn from previous campaigns and test assumptions 2. Start from “values-up” not from “numbers-down” 3. Tell new stories to shift climate change to a social reality 4. Shift from “nudge” to “think” on climate citizenship 5. Promote new voices
  30. 30. The Importance of Climate Visuals
  31. 31. Source: Corner, A. (2017, Dec. 4). COP-out: Why are so many media outlets failing to tell the climate story? Climate Outreach. Available at: First Common Frame: “Negotiators in Suits”
  32. 32. Source: Corner, A. (2017, Dec. 4). COP-out: Why are so many media outlets failing to tell the climate story? Climate Outreach. Available at: cop-out-why-are-so-many- media-outlets-failing-to-tell- the-climate-story/ Second Common Frame: “Protesters in Polar Bear Suits”
  33. 33. • Climate change is hard to visualize – Intangible and abstract, large-scale global problem • Problem with polar bears – Gives impression the problem is far off and distant Going beyond polar bears Source: Corner, A., Webster, R. & Teriete, C. (2015). Climate Visuals: Seven principles for visual climate change communication (based on international social research). Oxford: Climate Outreach.
  34. 34. • Show real people – Don’t stage! • Tell new stories – “Classic” images = fatigue – Go for less familiar, thought-provoking Climate visuals: Key recommendations “Kids Planting Flowers Our research found that images of children engaging in climate-related actions generated positive emotional responses.” Source: stories/#gallery/gallery-images-that-tell-a-new-story/127
  35. 35. • Show causes at scale – People don’t understand links to daily life • Climate impacts = emotion / overwhelming – Put with actions people can take Climate visuals: Key recommendations “Traffic Jam USA Our research found that people often had difficulty linking individual behaviours to climate change - so showing personal behaviours 'at scale' is more effective.” Source:
  36. 36. • Show localized impacts – Balance with bigger picture • Be careful with protest imagery – Most people don’t identify with Climate visuals: Key recommendations Image source: march_n_5857902.html
  37. 37. Climate Outreach (UK) – Climate visuals resource
  38. 38. What would it take to have participatory public engagement on climate issues?
  39. 39. Questions? Jill Hopke, Ph.D.