662   Linked papers

Act Now: Is the time for science communication about climate change over, or just beginning?

The effects of climate change are now being felt around the world, and yet cohesive and collaborative policymaking to mitigate impacts are moving too slowly. Indeed the latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have until 2030 to reduce emissions and limit warming to 1.5C above pre-Industrial levels.

International protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion are now stepping up non-violent direct action, with a core demand to Act Now. The movement involves several professional groups such as scientists, doctors and psychologists, who have advocated for their peers to move beyond communication[1].

Meanwhile, science communication efforts focus on individuals "“ imploring us to change our personal behaviours to benefit the environment. However, psychological and social research indicates that asking individuals to change their behaviour against the norms of society is at best ineffective, and at worst harmful to the individual through the resulting guilt, shame and eco-anxiety.

In this series of linked papers, we will discuss whether science communication on climate change has failed. Outreach and education are important, but 30 years of advocacy have seen emissions continue to rise. We argue that science communication therefore needs to focus on creating societal change in order to enable and encourage individual behaviour change. We will discuss where this leaves the neutrality of science, and the role of science communicators in direct action.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02734-x


Author: Laura Fogg-Rogers
University of the West of England, United Kingdom

Time to focus on society

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers (Chair) is a Senior Lecturer in STEM Education and Communication at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. She is also a member of Extinction Rebellion Psychologists and has set up a local community environmental action group to take action in the UK.

Laura will discuss the EU project ClairCity, which focussed on citizen-led air pollution and carbon emissions reduction in cities. The project spanned six cities in Europe and reached over 50,000 people, with a focus on engaging citizens in policymaking. Several creative public engagement strategies were trialled, including crowdsourcing issues and solutions in each city, an interactive policy game, video-making for older people and debates for schools. Different behaviours including shopping or commuting have also been modelled in an innovative way so that organisations can relate to the practices which create pollution. Laura is now applying this research in her own personal time through her community action groups. A full evaluation of ClairCity has taken place over the four year project across the six cities, and this presentation will talk about the process and challenges of a societal approach, so that others can learn from the project developments.

Tensions in the interpretation of “engagement” about climate change research

Speaker: Rhian Salmon
Centre for Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Dr Rhian Salmon designed and led the Engagement Programme of the Deep South National Science Challenge in New Zealand. This was one of five programmes in a $24M, 5-year, cross-institutional, interdisciplinary, mission-led research effort focused on climate change. While it was laudable that Engagement was recognised and funded at a leadership level, several unexpected tensions arose, many of which were related to the definition and expectations of “Engagement”. Community engagement? Industry engagement? Engagement with indigenous communities? Dialogue and participation? Or media and communications? Factual science communication or environmental advocacy?

This presentation will explore the implications of these multiple expectations and definitions. This includes tensions between delivering (and evaluating) a robust and theoretically-grounded engagement strategy with the need to meet (or manage) expectations for ‘outreach’ and ‘comms’ from the science community, government funders, and different publics and end-users. It will also unpack issues associated with connecting a publics-oriented mission with the science research and funding culture at its core.

It will end with some lessons that we believe would be helpful if taken into consideration in the early planning stages of climate engagement from the science sector including (a) explicit articulation and wide agreement around expectations of engagement and its evaluation; (b) a need to build capability in engagement about difficult choices; and (c) a need to set engagement goals that are realistic of practitioners, respectful of participants, and acknowledge limitations of the research process.

Rhian is co-founder and deputy director of the Centre for Science in Society, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research seeks to inform the communication practice of scientists, especially climate scientists, using knowledge taken from other disciplines. She worked closely on this research project with Dr Joanna Goven.

Shape our City - from public engagement to citizen action

Speaker: Margarida Sardo
University of the West of England, Bristol, Portugal

Dr Margarida Sardo is a Senior Research Fellow in Science Communication at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She was the evaluator for the Shape Our City project, where citizens in Bristol (UK) were encouraged to reflect on their behaviour for healthy urban development, in order to understand the city’s priorities for achieving healthy urban development. The project was fully evaluated using a range of different methods such as online questionnaires, snapshot interviews, structured observations and self-reflective logs. Margarida will discuss how to engage with different audiences from marginalised communities, as the project team worked with schools, festivals and community groups to either discuss one or multiple aspects of urban development and how it impacts on our health. She will discuss how Shape our City brought together art, economics and health science into the same space, using a range of creative consultation methods to engage a wide range of city users, both digital and face-to-face. The presentation will explore how art and health science can be used to engage people with issues such as healthy urban development and air pollution and how art can spur people into action or fill them with fear.

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