Communicating efficacy: How the IPCC, scientists, and other communicators can facilitate adaptive responses to climate change without compromising on policy neutrality

Niall McLoughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adopts a solution-oriented approach to communicating climate change, but does not advocate any specific mitigation or adaptation options. While this helps to maintain a neutral stance in relation to policy advocacy, this approach may also create reluctance amongst IPCC scientists to communicate affective information about climate change, which could help to facilitate behavioural and societal transitions to manage climate risks. Research from the social sciences demonstrates that communications can influence cognitive, affective, and behavioural engagement with climate change. Specifically, there is ample evidence that people’s sense of ‘efficacy’ — beliefs about personal or collective capacity to respond, and effectiveness of responses — must be appealed to sufficiently alongside communication about the threats posed by climate change, to help facilitate mitigation and adaptation responses. This essay draws on a range of research findings to argue that the IPCC’s scientists and communications personnel can nurture efficacy beliefs about climate change, without compromising on values of policy neutrality, or undermining public trust. Specifically, the essay draws on communications strategies related to vicarious learning, mastery experiences, highlighting success stories, and use of language and imagery, which have been shown to increase efficacy. The essay has implications for how IPCC scientists and the organisation as a whole engages with a range of audiences, and suggestions also have relevance for other communicators of climate change, such as governments, academics, journalists, health professionals, community leaders, and creative practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalClimatic Change
Volume169
Issue number1-2
Early online date2 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Efficacy
  • Framing
  • Language
  • Visuals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Communicating efficacy: How the IPCC, scientists, and other communicators can facilitate adaptive responses to climate change without compromising on policy neutrality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this