Impacts of climate change are increasingly felt in our daily lives. Although scepticism is still found among certain social groups, most lay discourses show awareness of the current environmental challenges. In order to move forward and develop action plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change, young people are an important voice to be heard. This research article tackles questions pertaining to the relation between climate change communication, education, and social perception of science, exploring social and cultural representations of climate change through the discourses of young people. Fieldwork involved eight focus groups conducted in Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain with a total of fifty higher education students of experimental/natural sciences and engineering and of social sciences and humanities. Discussions were organized around sixteen images referring to the causes, consequences, and responses to climate change. Without significant differences between knowledge areas or countries, findings point to awareness of multiple types of responses to climate change, even though students’ analyses were more grounded on common culture than on solid scientific evidence and language. Adaptation strategies were more rarely mentioned than mitigation actions. A strong emphasis was put on barriers to response implementation. Moderate optimism regarding some possible responses was impaired by distrust regarding the political and economic systems leading to calls for transformation at multiple levels.
While climate-change communication research has advanced in the last decade, we still lack a thorough discussion of the credibility aspects of climate-change information and communication. Concurrently, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, communication theories suggest that whether a (climate change) frame resonates with a particular audience is due partly to its perceived credibility. This article addresses the under-researched question of how a particular audience perceives climate-change information. Based on focus group (FG) discussions with Swedish farmers, this article explores both participants’ perceptions of climate-change information as well as the formation of these perceptions. The analysis of FG transcripts and frame credibility finds that participants use multiple ways of judging the credibility of information related to climate change. Specifically, the analysis suggests that participants hold different views concerning whether consistent or contradictory climate information landscapes constitute credible information; what constitutes credible knowledge production processes (e.g., analytical vs. experience-based approaches); and the credibility of frame articulators. Lastly, the article discusses how scientific evidence can be better communicated to more effectively inform climate-change decision-making and advocates paying greater attention to audience segmentation based on audience perceptions of climate change information credibility.
Scientists are under increasing pressure to communicate their findings effectively to decision-makers and undertake public engagement activities. Research councils require researchers to demonstrate the Pathways to Impact of their funding and within the Research Excellence Framework to demonstrate an “effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” (Stern 2014, 43). However, scientists are often ill-equipped or may be restricted by resource and capacity to effectively engage in activities that can ensure the broad dissemination and uptake of their findings. Similarly, adoption of the “information deficit approach” where more information is assumed to lead to better understanding, means the evidence-base on climate change can be abundant yet inaccessible and misaligned with the needs of different audiences. Cross-research collaboration and partnerships with artists could enable knowledge exchange and sharing of experiences to facilitate this. Processes through which scientists engage with the arts provide a unique opportunity to engage with different audiences in meaningful ways to enable scientific evidence on climate change to become salient and relevant, providing more potential to inform decision-making and practices. This commentary explores the science-arts relationship through an analysis of three case studies. “The Prediction Machine,” “A Conversation between Trees,” and “Cold Sun.” We discuss insights that can be gained from these art-science collaborations on climate change. In particular, we explore how these collaborations can support scientists to further enhance salience to climate change and co-produce resilient solutions at different scales, to maximise dissemination of research.