Tools for a new climate conversation: A mixed-methods study of language for public engagement across the political spectrum

Lorraine Whitmarsh, Adam Corner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (SciVal)


Political orientation and ideology are amongst the most significant influences on climate change attitudes and responses. Specifically, those with right-of-centre political views are typically less concerned and more sceptical about climate change. A significant challenge remains to move beyond this ideological impasse and achieve a more open and constructive debate across the political spectrum. This paper reports on novel mixed-methods research in the UK to develop and test a series of ‘narratives’ to better engage citizens with centre-right political views. Qualitative work in Study 1 revealed two particularly promising narratives. The first focused on the idea that saving energy is predicated on the ‘conservative’ principle of avoiding waste; the second focused on the advantages of ‘Great British Energy’ (based on patriotic support for domestic low-carbon technologies). An online experiment in Study 2 with a representative UK sample compared these narratives with a more typically left-of-centre narrative focused on the concept of ‘climate justice’ with a representative sample of the UK public. Results indicate that the first two narratives elicited broad agreement and reduced scepticism amongst centre-right participants, while the ‘climate justice’ narrative (which reflects a common environmental message framing) polarised audiences along political lines. This research offers clear implications for how climate change communicators can move beyond preaching to the converted and initiate constructive dialogue about climate change with traditionally disengaged audiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-135
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Climate change attitudes
  • Communication
  • Ideology
  • Narratives
  • Political orientation
  • skepticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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