15 February 2011

Communicating Climate Change to Mass Audiences

Sourced from the Public Interest Research Centre website, 14 February 2011

'The Climate Change Communication Advisory Group (CCCAG) is made up of a diverse range of individuals from academia and the third sector, with expertise in climate change communication and engagement.

CCCAG’s aim is to use current academic research and practitioner-based expertise to best inform government and non-governmental climate change communications and engagement.

CCCAG’s first report was presented to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in August 2010.

Download the report'

Excerpts from the Seven Principles detailed in the report are:

'1. Move Beyond Social Marketing

...too little attention is paid to the understanding that psychologists bring to strategies for motivating change, whilst undue faith is often placed in the application of marketing strategies to ‘sell’ behavioural changes.

2. Be honest and forthright about the probable impacts of climate change, and the scale of the challenge we confront in avoiding these. But avoid deliberate attempts to provoke fear or guilt.

There is no merit in ‘dumbing down’ the scientific evidence that the impacts of climate change are likely to be severe, and that some of these impacts are now almost certainly unavoidable. Accepting the impacts of climate change will be an important stage in motivating behavioural responses aimed at mitigating the problem. However, deliberate attempts to instil fear or guilt carry considerable risk.

3. Be honest and forthright about the impacts of mitigating and adapting to climate change for current lifestyles, and the ‘loss’ - as well as the benefits - that these will entail.

Narratives that focus exclusively on the ‘up-side’ of climate solutions are likely to be unconvincing. While narratives about the future impacts of climate change may highlight the loss of much that we currently hold to be dear, narratives about climate solutions frequently ignore the question of loss. If the two are not addressed concurrently, fear of loss may be ‘split off’ and projected into the future, where it is all too easily denied.

3a. Avoid emphasis upon painless, easy steps.

Be honest about the limitations of voluntary private-sphere behavioural change, and the need for ambitious new policy interventions that incentivise such changes, or that regulate for them. People know that the scope they have, as individuals, to help meet the challenge of climate change is extremely limited. For many people, it is perfectly sensible to continue to adopt high-carbon lifestyle choices whilst simultaneously being supportive of government interventions that would make these choices more difficult for everyone.

3b. Avoid over-emphasis on the economic opportunities that mitigating, and adapting to, climate change may provide. There will, undoubtedly, be economic benefits to be accrued through investment in new technologies, but there will also be instances where the economic imperative and the climate change adaptation or mitigation imperative diverge, and periods of economic uncertainty for many people as some sectors contract. It seems inevitable that some interventions will have negative economic impacts.

3c. Avoid emphasis upon the opportunities of ‘green consumerism’ as a response to climate change.

...Campaigns to ‘buy green’ may be effective in driving up sales of particular products, but in conveying the impression that climate change can be addressed by ‘buying the right things’, they risk undermining more difficult and systemic changes.

4. Empathise with the emotional responses that will be engendered by a forthright presentation of the probable impacts of climate change.

Belief in climate change and support for low-carbon policies will remain fragile unless people are emotionally engaged. We should expect people to be sad or angry, to feel guilt or shame, to yearn for that which is lost or to search for more comforting answers . Providing support and empathy in working through the painful emotions of 'grief' for a society that must undergo changes is a prerequisite for subsequent adaptation to new circumstances.

5. Promote pro-environmental social norms and harness the power of social networks

One way of bridging the gap between private-sphere behaviour changes and collective action is the promotion of pro-environmental social norms… There are different reasons that people adopt social norms, and encouraging people to adopt a positive norm simply to ‘conform’, to avoid a feeling of guilt, or for fear of not ‘fitting in’ is likely to produce a relatively shallow level of motivation for behaviour change. Where social norms can be combined with ‘intrinsic’ motivations (e.g. a sense of social belonging), they are likely to be more effective and persistent. Too often, environmental communications are directed to the individual as a single unit in the larger social system of consumption and political engagement. This can make the problems feel too overwhelming, and evoke unmanageable levels of anxiety. Through the enhanced awareness of what other people are doing, a strong sense of collective purpose can be engendered.

6. Think about the language you use, but don’t rely on language alone

… Whilst ‘getting the language right’ is important, it can only play a small part in a communication strategy. More important than the language deployed (i.e. ‘conceptual frames') are what have been referred to by some cognitive linguists as 'deep frames'. Conceptual framing refers to catchy slogans and clever spin (which may or may not be honest). At a deeper level, framing refers to forging the connections between a debate or public policy and a set of deeper values or principles. Conceptual framing (crafting particular messages focussing on particular issues) cannot work unless these messages resonate with a set of long-term deep frames.

7. Encourage public demonstrations of frustration at the limited pace of government action

Private-sphere behavioural change is not enough, and may even at times become a diversion from the more important process of bringing political pressure to bear on policy-makers. The importance of public demonstrations of frustration at both the lack of political progress on climate change and the barriers presented by vested interests is widely recognised – including by government itself.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment here. Please note these stories are posted for information rather than for debate; if you wish to disagree with something posted, no problem, but since I post both things that I do and don't support, it would be appreciated if the criticism was about the issue.