Climate change social science: How communication can help us solve climate change
Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges facing humanity. Scientists have worked tirelessly to collect data, run models, and put together intergovernmental reports on the state of the climate and what may happen if we do not act. The efforts to collate evidence and communicate about it have truly been history making – and as climate scientists argue in the latest IPCC report AR6: “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere” (Summary for Policymakers, p. 4).
But why is it that in 2022, governments still lag in making meaningful reductions to greenhouse gas emissions? Does the unequivocal evidence not speak for itself? This seminar will argue that, unfortunately, it does not. Climate change may be a scientific problem, but it has evolved into a deeply divided social political issue, especially in western democracies. We see deep polarisation in Australia on climate change, and communication is key in breaking the deadlock and being able to build a social mandate for climate change. This talk will explore the social science of climate change and highlight that if we begin to understand the complexity in humans, we can foster meaningful climate change engagement and reach solutions.
Nic’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A discussion with Dr Linden Ashcroft, Lecturer in Climate Science and Science Communication from the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Nic's sources for this presentation:
- James Hansen speech 1988: https://pulitzercenter.org/sites/default/files/june_23_1988_senate_hearing_1.pdf
- Haslam, S. A. (2000). Psychology in organizations: The social identity approach. Psychology in Organizations: The Social Identity Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446278819 https://sk.sagepub.com/books/psychology-in-organizations
- The Royal Society. (1985). The Public Understanding of Science. Royal Society. Retrieved from https://royalsociety.org/- https://royalsociety.org/~/media/royal_society_content/policy/publications/1985/10700.pdf /media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/1985/10700.pdf
- Suldovsky, B. (2017). The Information Deficit Model and Climate Change Communication. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.301 https://oxfordre.com/climatescience/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228620-e-301
- The Australia Institute. (2021). Climate of the Nation 2021: Tracking Australia’s attitudes towards climate change and energy. Canberra. Retrieved from https://australiainstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/211013-Climate-of-the-Nation-2021-WEB.pdf
- van der Linden, S. (2017). Determinants and Measurement of Climate Change Risk Perception, Worry, and Concern. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science (Issue April). https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.013.318 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2953631
- Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2(10), 732–735. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1547 https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate1547
- Hornsey, M. J., Harris, E. A., & Fielding, K. S. (2018). Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations. Nature Climate Change, 8, 614–620. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0157-2 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0157-2
- Colvin, R. M., & Jotzo, F. (2021). Australian voters’ attitudes to climate action and their social-political determinants. PLoS ONE, 16(3), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248268 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0248268
- Howe, L. C., MacInnis, B., Krosnick, J. A., Markowitz, E. M., & Socolow, R. (2019). Acknowledging uncertainty impacts public acceptance of climate scientists’ predictions. Nature Climate Change, 9(11), 863–867. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0587-5 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0587-5
- McLoughlin, N., Corner, A., Clarke, J., Whitmarsh, L., Capstick, S., & Nash, N. (2019). Mainstreaming low-carbon lifestyles. https://climateoutreach.org/reports/mainstreaming-low-carbon-lifestyles/
- Fielding, K. S., Hornsey, M. J., Thai, H. A., & Toh, L. L. (2020). Using ingroup messengers and ingroup values to promote climate change policy. Climatic Change, 158(2), 181–199. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02561-z https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-019-02561-z
- Goldberg, M. H., van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2019). Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(30), 14804–14805. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1906589116 https://www.pnas.org/content/116/30/14804
- Gustafson, A., & Rice, R. E. (2020). A review of the effects of uncertainty in public science communication. Public Understanding of Science, 29(6), 614–633. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662520942122 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963662520942122
- James Hansen image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Hansen.jpg
- Q and A program by ABC, video located on YouTube channel “abcqanda” URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXuRvvKLwtw
- Shi, J., Visschers, V. H. M., Siegrist, M., & Arvai, J. (2016). Knowledge as a driver of public perceptions about climate change reassessed. Nature Climate Change, 6(8), 759–762. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2997 https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2997
This event has been organised with the financial support of the European Union’s Partnership Instrument. The opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
Nic Badullovich is a PhD candidate in the Resources, Environment & Development group at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
His research centres around the communication of climate change with a particular focus on the role of framing in communication. He is interested in the social and political context and complexity that surrounds climate change and believes this is essential to consider when communicating.
He has published his research in academic journals such as Environmental Research Letters and presented at conferences such as The Conference On Communication and Environment and Australia Science Communicators annual symposium.
Nic has also been contracted as a consultant for communications work and has gained practical experience through his work at Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre) in Canberra. He currently holds an ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions (ICEDS) scholarship and is due to submit his PhD thesis in mid-2022.
Linden Ashcroft grew up in country Victoria on the lands of the Yorta Yorta people and is a lecturer in climate science and science communication at The University of Melbourne. She is also a historical climatologist, and uses pre-1900 documents and weather observations to explore the climate of Australia’s past so we can better prepare for the future.
Her career has spanned the academic, non for profit and government sectors, including a stint at the Bureau of Meteorology, and managing a national citizen science project.
Linden is a regular on community radio, gives frequent public talks, has contributed to over 40 media articles since 2018, and was featured in the 2019 Best Australian Science Writing Anthology.
She was a 2019–2020 Science and Technology Australia Superstar of STEM, received the 2020 Australian and Meteorological Society Science Outreach award, and was selected as a Victorian Tall Poppy by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science in 2021 for her excellence in scientific research and outreach.