Poster: The challenge of communicating unwelcome climate messages

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<ol><li> 1. The challenge of communicating unwelcome climate messages Tim Rayner and Asher Minns, Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia Abstract Better engagement of policymakers, planners and wider society with climate scientists and other experts, to evaluate evidence and move towards adaptive responses, requires new approaches to communication. With the probability that global mean temperature rise can be kept below the 2o C target continuing to diminish, citizens and organisations need to engage with the kind of knowledge about the likelihood and implications of severe future impacts that few want to hear. The EU-funded HELIX project brought together individuals from a range of disciplinary and organisational backgrounds for a workshop to discuss how the challenges of high-end scenarios can most effectively be communicated. Participants suggested that unless the complexity of dealing with the thousands of decisions that might be affected by high-end climate change can be simplified, and the emotional implications are handled sensitively, simply presenting audiences with the prospect of a 4o C world is more likely to provoke rejection, fatalism and disengagement than adaptive responses. New forms of communication, with new audiences in new venues are needed, through which unwelcome messages can be conveyed to citizens and decision makers in a more context-specific manner. What are the unwelcome messages? The likelihood of higher levels of warming and greater extremes, potentially occurring sooner than previously thought e.g. 4o C rise in 2060s may be increasing. Higher-end impacts jeopardise increased prosperity and lower inequality. Underestimating the likelihood of exceeding 2o C may render much current policy and planning maladaptive. Adaptation may need to be transformational, involving e.g. abandonment of currently cherished policy objectives and settlements. Meeting the 2C target means leaving 1/3 of oil reserves, 1/2 of gas reserves and &gt;80% of coal unused from 2010 to 2050, (McGlade and Ekins 2015). Policy responses will likely become more interventionist and disruptive, presenting ideological difficulties for many. HELIX is sixteen climate research organisations funded through the EU to work together to explore consequences and responses to the challenge of high-end global warming. To whom are they unwelcome? The workshop focused on how to communicate to a number of audiences: politicians, planners, businesses wider publics. Results will be available as a HELIX project briefing. What lessons from climate communication efforts to date? If decision stakes and uncertainties high, post-normal science/ co-production is the ideal - not linear-rational or information-deficit models. People who generate their own unwelcome messages are more likely to accept them. Communication of uncertainty is under-explored. Over-reliance on geoscientific language can frame climate change as unstoppable and catastrophic, or in terms of global mean temp. limits that fail to resonate. Neglecting insights from psychology has been a waste. Fear messaging can be counter-productive (leading to disengagement, defensive avoidance or rejection), if not accompanied by information for remedial actions. Certain framings of the challenge appeal to some, but repel others, depending on the values they reflect; the term adaptation may not resonate for many audiences. Stressing implications for localities where people live can improve engagement. So how should these messages be communicated? The worst-case, not accurate prediction, is most relevant to risk-based decision making. But on this there is relatively little communication, even from IPCC AR5. Avoid arbitrary future cut-off dates, which can exclude largest impacts. Pay less attention to the central tendency (what is most-likely), and more to the significant chance that climate sensitivity is high, and the implications. Communicate the impacts important to specific decision makers. Utilise individuals who could be great communicators in their own networks. Tools and wherewithal to use knowledge are necessary; peer-to-peer learning can be especially useful (see Mayors Adapt EU cities initiative, World Banks Turn Down the Heat MOOC) Highlight to planners the analytical frameworks available for robust decision making that can reduce complexity in dealing with myriad decisions. For the wider public, dont always start with climate, but with places people value, then showing how climate affects them. Include narratives and stories; more experiential learning activities. Recognising emotions, loss and the need for hope Friendly communicators of frightening climate science must remain human, recognizing their own feelings and emotions, and those of others. More safe spaces for this can lead to emotional connections that open up energy and engagement. There is a need to: do something braver than try to save the world we have known. We must accept the fact that the world we have known is going to change in hideous and damaging ways (McKibben 2010). Positive experiences of bad news communication Honestly conveying bad (terrifying) news carries risks for established academics, wary of accusations of alarmism, but also clear rewards, as Susanne Moser and others have found ... Towards principles of communicating unwelcome climate messages To avoid being narrators of doom, but instead foster adaptive coping strategies, communicators must move: 1. from delivering unwelcome messages to participating in difficult dialogues 2. from delivering scientific findings to making a human connection 3. from thinking we just speak to the mind to deliberately engaging the heart 4. from merely giving bad news to taking people on an emotional journey 5. from triggering fight-or-flight to motivating active engagement This presents significant new demands on communicators, and the venues in which they communicate, requiring a move beyond traditional formats for communication such as lectures and debates. To build a relationship with particular audiences takes more time and attention to process; first to hear their concerns, then to offer science and help conceive of possible solutions. This is likely to need multi-disciplinary teams and new skill sets among communicators. I hope to make it required reading for the [agency] management team and the Climate Cabinet. (Brian) I have just finished "Getting Real About It" [] with both horror and enormous gratitude for the way you are able to tell us what's really happening with clarity and compassion. (Wendy) Visioning inspiring, dignified futures Despite this, hope must be maintained. This requires that the unwelcome outcome is uncertain, not assured. The most hopeful are those who are the most engaged and who maintain strong social networks. Real hope requires: Clear-eyed diagnosis: Where are we at? Vision of a worthwhile outcome: What is achievable? Feasible path: How can we get from here to there? Strategy for setbacks and interim goals: What to do when the going gets tough? Meaningful role for me: What can I do? Doing it together: What will you (others) do? Drawings by: Moser, S.C. (2012) Getting real about it: Navigating the psychological and social demands of a world in distress. In: Rigling Gallagher, D. et al (eds), Sage Handbook on Environmental Leadership, SAGE. Moser, S.C. (2014) Whither the Heart(-to-Heart)? Prospects for a humanistic turn in environmental communication as the world changes darkly. In: Hansen, A. and R. Cox (eds.), Handbook on Environment and Communication. London: Routledge. IPCC WG1 AR5 SPM Fig7 </li></ol>


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