Can scientists, academics, campaigners and communicators all work together to engage the public in taking action on climate change? It is rare to see these groups share the same public platform. Could this be a consequence of everyone getting off on the wrong foot to tackle a seriously complicated global crisis? The gap between these cultures is one challenge authors Adam Corner and Jamie Clarke discuss in their recently published book, Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement.
While President Trump rapidly dismantles years of progress in climate policy, getting the public onboard with climate change has never been more important. En masse, people engaged on the topic can still direct policy and the future of the planet. Corner and Clarke set out to tackle the many social and psychological challenges that come with engaging the public in climate change from the perspective of the people who might feel that they have yet to be invited to the conversation. These are the forgotten public, put off by either the scientific jargon or their perception of a left wing environmentalist lifestyle.
This stereotyping of the expert and campaigner is an unchallenged set back in their collaborative attempts to engage the public on climate change. The book encourages some helpful self-reflection if you categorise yourself among these cultures and the barriers you’ve encountered when trying to engage the public effectively. Corner and Clarke also offer brief explanations of the challenges of reaching out to a disengaged audience, such as climate change being a distant issue and the off-putting use of apocalyptic terminology.
The authors deliver a set of communication principles which include lessons on framing narratives that can resonate with wider audiences. By following these guidelines, the authors argue, we can take climate change from a scientific reality to a social reality. In a social reality, everyone feels that they have a part to play in taking action on climate change, whether it’s putting pressure on government and corporates or ingraining deeper communal values into their own behaviours.
Talking Climate summarises years of behavioural psychology in an easily digestible format, including research carried out by the organisation Corner and Clarke both work for, Climate Outreach. Climate change has proven to be a controversial topic with tonnes of baggage. If there are two things to take away from this book, it is that we all need to get better at talking about climate change, and that, if we want everyone to take climate change as the serious global issue that it is, we need to step outside our own bubble, collaborate and listen to each other.
Tara Clarke is an alumna of Imperial’s Science Communication Unit
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