Communicating Climate Change: How to engage the public

communicating climate change

Climate change communication has been the subject of much research in the past decade. Despite a consensus among the scientific community on the existence and causes if not precise impacts of climate change, public engagement and political action on this issue have been weak. On the other hand, the hydrocarbon industry has invested much money and effort in perpetuating the idea that the anthropogenic nature of climate change is debatable turning scientific research into a matter of opinions and political positioning. As a result, 25 years after the IPCC second assessment which concluded that human activity was affecting the global climate, climate denialism remains an important part of political debate in the Anglosphere, in particular in the US and Australia.

There was initially the belief that this was the result of a lack of scientific knowledge and that all we needed was more communication on climate change and a popularising of scientific findings. However, research has consistently shown that people’s values and political views have a bigger influence on their attitudes about climate change than their level of scientific knowledge.

So if communicating more is not enough, how can we communicate better? How can we humanise and localise the issue of climate change? How can we convince people that changing their behaviour is necessary and beneficial for them, their loved ones, and their community? What is the role of fear and hope in climate change communication? How can the media report on climate change without being accused of opportunism or political bias?

To discuss these questions, we will be joined by two experts of the topic, George Marshall and Professor Matthew Nisbet.

George Marshall is the Founding Director of Climate Outreach, a British charity which leads the research on public engagement with climate change. Mr Marshall has 30 years of experience at all levels of communications and advocacy - from community level protest movements, to senior positions in Greenpeace and the Rainforest Foundation, to advisory roles for governments, businesses and international agencies. He is an award winning documentary maker and author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change which addresses the psychology of climate change.

Professor Matthew Nisbet is a Professor of Communication, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University and editor-in-chief of the journal Environmental Communication. He has also served as editor-in-chief for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication project.

This event will be live-streamed to our YouTube channel here: