Primer on The Psychology of Climate Change Communication

Framing Science blog logo Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions has released a research primer on the "Psychology of Climate Change Communication," which summarizes their findings from previous years. Emphasis is placed on the method and necessity of framing communication to the public, particularly as complex of an issue as climate change.

Posted Nov. 9, 2009
By Matthew C. Nisbet, Framing Science: What's Next in Public Engagement?

Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions has released a primer on
the "Psychology of Climate Change Communication," synthesizing much of
the research of the Center over the past several years. Written by
Debika Shome and Sabine Marx, the primer is available both in HTML (by
chapter) and in PDF format.

Readers will find of special interest the second chapter on the relevance of framing to communication. As I have noted, there is no such thing as "unframed" information. Whether you are a scientist, a public information officer, or a journalist, the choice is not whether to frame or not to frame, but rather how to frame a complex and uncertain issue for the public and with what goals in mind.

Here's how the Columbia University researchers define the relevance of framing:

Framing is the setting of an issue within an appropriate
context to achieve a desired interpretation or perspective. The
intention is not to deceive or manipulate people, but to make credible
climate science more accessible to the public. Indeed, since it is
impossible not to frame an issue, climate change communicators need to
ensure they consciously select a frame that will resonate with their
audience.

On this topic, a recent book chapter I wrote outlining four key
ethical guidelines when applying framing to science communication is
now in print as part of an excellent edited volume titled "Communicating Biological Sciences: Ethical and Metaphorical Dimensions." I will have more on this chapter and volume later this week.

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