Collaborative Climate Change Communications: An Assessment and Recommendations for the Future
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The threat posed by anthropogenic climate change to the world’s wildlife and natural systems has prompted the conservation community in the United States and across the globe to make communicating about climate change one of their highest, if not the highest, priorities. At one level, these communication efforts seem to be working. Multiple surveys confirm that most Americans believe that climate change is occurring, and that it is caused at least in part by human activities. However, in recurring national surveys, climate change has consistently ranked near the bottom of environmental issues Americans are concerned about. This Master’s Project assesses the current state of climate change communications at federal agencies, conservation organizations and other entities that are working to address the impacts of climate change on wildlife and natural systems, and identifies best practices in climate communications. As part of the project, a survey was conducted of professional communicators from multiple federal agencies, conservation organizations, professional societies and groups representing states and tribes. Data analysis of the survey, as well as a review of current literature on effective climate change communications and public attitudes, has been used to develop recommendations for improved future climate communications efforts. The survey revealed that while nearly all participating organizations place a high priority on addressing climate change – and on climate change communications – most do not have a dedicated and clearly articulated climate change communications strategy. Nearly all recognize the need for a broader climate communications effort, but none have the resources to mount a broad communications campaign. The survey revealed support for a collaborative effort on climate change communications that could leverage the existing resources of participating organizations to communicate more effectively about climate change to a broader public. This effort would of necessity need to be limited in scope and focus on climate specific change impacts and adaptation strategies, rather than legislative and policy solutions to address greenhouse gas emissions. By articulating a few key shared messages, repeated across multiple channels by the scientific and technical experts of each organization, these entities could take the first step toward a collaborative climate communications effort.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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