The Challenge of Communicating Unwelcome Climate Messages – see the live scribed visual record

Our workshop, 16-17 April 2015, mixed together climate scientists, social scientists, policymakers and planners, development, artists, psychologists, media people, and communication specialists from public and private sector for interdisciplinary perspectives on the Challenge of Communicating Climate Messages. Here we present the outcomes as live scribing, drawn as the workshop unfolded. A Briefing Note will follow as a full publication of the proceedings.

Thursday 16 April, Introduction
The chances of climate impacts worsening as average global temperature rise exceeds 2◦C – or even 4◦C – by mid-century, are increasing as emissions increase. How can scientists and communicators of science be more than ‘narrators of doom’, instilling defeatism, but instead help to stimulate engagement and adaptive responses from policy makers, organisations and publics? How can individual citizens and organisations engage with the kind of knowledge that few want to hear? If communication efforts based on the linear-rational model have failed sufficiently to motivate, what should take their place?

Part 1: What do we know so far about the communication of climate science?
Presentation: Communicating difficult messages to different audiences – what lessons have been learned on how to communicate climate change and engage audiences beyond the echo-chamber? Moving beyond ‘linear-rational’ models of science-policy advice and communication. If linear-rational models of science – policy communication have been discredited, what could take their place? How far is there a ‘disconnect’ between climate scientists and academics who study how science and policy actually interact, and how should it be addressed?

Exercise. What are the potential unwelcome messages from ‘beyond 2◦C’, to whom are they unwelcome, why? What are the opportunities and risks associated with communicating the findings of high-end emission scenario work?

Part 2: Policy perspectives
Presentation: How do international policy makers digest ‘unwelcome climate messages’? How could/should they encourage science to provide relevant evidence? What if the findings of science are politically inconvenient?

Exercise: Feedback from previous night’s exercise on engaging emotions, how to build personal resilience and facilitate positive responses to unwelcome climate change messages?

Part 3: Adaptation beyond 2C
Presentations: Is adaptation to climate change beyond 2 degrees always a bleak prospect? Can more positive narratives be found in discourses of ‘transformation’? What is a planner’s perspective on a 4◦C world? Is it useful to distinguish the need for transformation vs incrementalism in adaptation? ‘Simply presenting people with the prospect of a 4◦C world is unhelpful and disempowering unless the complexity of dealing with the thousands of decisions that might be affected by climate change can be simplified’ (Stafford Smith et al. 2011, pp204-5). Are there analytical frameworks that can help policy makers in their decision-making today decide how radical their responses to high-level climate change should be (from incremental to ‘transformational’), in the face of uncertainties over the impacts that will be experienced in future? Can they be readily adopted?”

Communicating high-end climate in developing countries
Exercise. A) What reasons can you highlight about why high-end climate change is important? B) How might distinctions between incremental and transformative adaptation be relevant to communication in this context?

Susie Moser, Susie Moser Research and Consulting, Stanford, U.California. The Humanistic Imperative of Environmental Communication in a World of Crisis, via Skype

Friday 17 April
Presentation: High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes, HELIX in detail.

Exercise. How would you frame high-end results for developed-world audiences? How to engage with different key audiences?

Final activity: Are their overarching principles of communicating unwelcome climate messages? Your personal journey, are their common threads?