2011-03-29 23:19:06Communicating climate change to mass public audiences
John Cook

Great document on communicating climate change - what not to do and what to do. I especially like the idea of encouraging people to think about "we", not "I" - to think of acting as a group, not individuals. Much food for thought:


2011-07-20 08:33:56a key passage
Tom Smerling


Rereading this excellent article that John C brought to our attention, , I ran across this key passage.   It is especially relevant to ClimateBites.org, but also to all SkS communicators.   

If you can wade through the dense cognitive psychology jargon (hey, why are cognitive psychologists such lousy communicators??) there's a very important message here:

"Whilst ‘getting the language right’ is important, it can only play a small part in a communication strategy.  More important than the language deployed (i.e. ‘conceptual frames') are what have been referred to by some cognitive linguists as 'deep frames'.    

Conceptual framing refers to catchy slogans and clever spin (which may or may not be honest).   At a deeper level, framing refers to forging the connections between a debate or public policy and a set of deeper values or principles.

Conceptual framing (crafting particular messages focussing on particular issues) cannot work unless these
messages resonate with a set of long-term deep frames."

John pointed us in this direction recently when he noted that in Made to Stick, the Heath brothers stress that the best "sticky messages" are not only be "core" but also "profound" -- i.e. they offer something deep to chew on.

I have to confess that, so far ClimateBites in its "Bites" has focussed mostly on what these authors (rather dismissively) as "conceptual framing" -- i.e. "catchy slogans and clever spin."  

I think they understate the power of conceptual framing. But I agree that it is far, far from sufficient.    As CB, we are turning now, in the "Tools section"  to developing the "deep frames" communicators need to be aware of when speaking about climate -- values, emotions, frames, storylines, archetypes, cultural cognition, etc. 

For some reason, virtually all the cognitive psychologists who are so great at analyzing the problem, fall flat when it comes to crafting language and solutions.  ("Dr. heal thyself.")   That requries a talented wordsmith.    Where is our "Frank Luntz" (minus his dishonesty and manipulation)?

We look forward to exploring these "deep frames" in dialogue with SkS authors.

2011-07-20 09:18:42Climate Communication 2.0
John Cook


Okay, the fad of 2.0 labelling is a bit cliche but it is a useful metaphor/schema so I think it might help clarify thinking on this issue:

Climate Communication 1.0: the old fashioned method of explaining the science to the public, usually in language the scientist is comfortable in. When scientists realised the public had no clue what they were talking about, they tweaked their method, replacing big words like "anthropogenic" with "man-made", thinking they'd successfully fulfilled their job as communicators. But tweaking the jargon is just Science Communication 1.1. It's not a major upgrade, it's just tacking a few features on the old model.

Climate Communication 2.0: speaking in the language of the human brain. Scientists are trained to think in the abstract but the average layperson thinks in concrete terms, with narratives and stories and processes everything through the filter of their values, emotions and ideology. A climate communicator engaging in Science Communication 2.0 is aware of the cognitive science telling us how people process information.

And Tom makes a good point. The failure of cognitive psychologists in communicating this successfully demonstrates that knowing the science is not enough. Communication is as much art as science. It requires creativity, experimentation and the willingness to try something original, novel and risky in order to get the message out.

My hope is that the SkS community will be the "Frank Luntz" (sans evil) of climate communication - that as we write articles, we're training each other in becoming more effective communicators. Don't critique blog posts just on getting the science accurate - go deeper and explore how our narratives can connect with the reader more effectively.

2011-07-20 09:31:32Right track


I don't have anything to add other than I think you two are on the right track!


2011-07-20 09:42:29A 2009 NOAA talk: "Climate Change Communication 2.0"
John Cook


Just came upon an MT account of a talk "Climate Change Communication 2.0" back in 2009, slightly different take:

He proposed a shift from what he termed, “Communication 1.0” which focuses on education and persuasion oriented communication aimed at individuals to “Communication 2.0” that is aimed at communities or groups of individuals based on their social ecology and focuses less on education and more on behavior change through the passage of policies that will then, over time, shift attitudes. This, of course, is in contrast to Communication 1.0 whereby education and persuasion are viewed as a means for first altering attitudes that will then result in a shift in behaviors.

Intriguing stuff. Would like to dig into Maibach's work more deeply.

Another thought - another element of 2.0 will be using new media and web 2.0 networking to get the message out through friends, family and social networks. Another piece in the puzzle!

2011-07-20 12:13:30nice idea
Tom Smerling


I know Ed M.   Local boy.   Great guy.   Brilliant plus lots of spirit + good cheer.

Only problem is. . . virtually none of academics even come close to being able to implement their ideas (Bill McKibben is an exception, though he's more writer than academic).

Wow.    SkS as Frank Luntz sans evil.    I'm trying to picture that one!   

couple of points

1) Larger War.    Something we haven't talked about much -- it's like the elephant in the room -- is that at least in the U.S. the climate science vs. denial battle is just one front in a larger war between two political sub-cultures.   Some call it the (conservative) "faith-based community" (religion or ideology) vs. the (liberal) "reality-based community."

Many of the features of our battle (denial, epistimological closure, monied interests allied with right-wing populism, etc.) are not much different on other fronts.    e.g. The shrill advocacy of supply-side economics (cutting taxes will always increase tax revenues) when there's zero evidence -- and virtually no serious economists -- to support it, and lost of evidence and economists contradicting it.

2) Audience.   We need to focus more closely on understanding and getting to know better our audience.    Presumably its not the deniers, but the partially-open minded skeptics, undecideds, and dismissives not paying attention yet.   To date, we've been very "message focussed" rather than "audience focussed."

John C has pointed the way by drawing to draw open-minded skeptics into the conversation at SkS, in order to better understand their point of view.   Though such dialogues soon dry up, it seems.