A new report examines how to communicate about climate change in a way that fosters effective, positive action. The report is a collaboration between the ICF Climate Center and our academic partners from Communication and Organizing for Sustainability Transformations (COAST) Montpellier. Montpellier Business School (MBS) launched COAST in March 2021 to explore the various drivers of societal change and transition mechanisms required to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
What is the aim of the report?
The report examines in detail some of the latest trends in climate communications. The team outlines some of the barriers and challenges to effective communication around climate change. And most importantly, they also offer their own expert insights and concrete strategies for better engaging with citizens on this issue.
Their ultimate aim of the report is to inspire large-scale shifts in human behaviour. The intention is to arm both governments and businesses with the insights they need to educate and mobilize citizens around climate change.
The importance of mobilizing individual citizens
The authors frame their report by emphasizing the critical role that they believe that individual citizens will play in helping to avoid the impacts of climate change. The report argues that once businesses and governments commit to taking steps to address climate change, they then need to bring their stakeholders on board to support them in achieving their aims. Effective communication will be fundamental to this effort.
The central question addressed in the report is how to best communicate with citizens and customers to help them to act on climate issues.
In answering this challenge, the authors draw on the latest insights from organizational, behavioural, social, and communication science in order to provide communicators with the tools they need.
They cover four key areas:
- Overcoming socio-psychological barriers to climate action.
- Avoiding the pitfalls of climate science communication.
- The role of social norms and social contagion frames to foster climate action.
- Do’s and don’ts of communicating with younger generations in order to engage them on climate change.
What does the report reveal?
The findings of the report are extensive, and we would urge anyone with an interest in communicating more effectively about climate change to read it in full. Key findings include:
- Using strategies such as emotion-symbolic work can transform negative emotions around climate change into positive emotional energy.
- Engaging communication can help break big challenges down into more manageable ones.
- Building credibility through transparency and scientific rigor, or by shifting focus away from problems to solutions, can overcome barriers caused by miscommunication.
- Driving societal change through the actions of a few individuals who then spread the word to others is one of the key levers of large-scale behavioral change.
- Messaging that focuses on immediate impacts and avoids negativity or guilt-inducing messaging can influence young audiences around climate change—it is most effective to deliver this in a visual, playful, and participatory way.
The report provides a concrete set of insights and recommendations that governments and organizations of all kinds can now use to communicate more effectively with citizens—encouraging them to play their part in achieving climate goals. Read the full report
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