climate change communication


How do we communicate effectively about a topic like climate change that is complex, confusing, uncertain, sometimes overwhelming, and often emotionally and politically loaded?
In order for people to become motivated and empowered to adopt the needed changes to reduce environmental threats, they must be able to interpret and respond to information. The impact of communications on behaviour varies dramatically based on how the communication is developed and delivered.

The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University and ecoAmerica, for example, have published a guide on effective cilmate change communication, and include the following 10 principles:

  1. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes
  2. Channel the power of groups
  3. Emphasise solutions and benefits
  4. Bring climate impacts close to home
  5. Connect climate change to issues that matter to your audience
  6. Use images and stories to make climate change real
  7. Make climate science meaningful
  8. Acknowledge uncertainty, but show what you know
  9. Approach skepticism carefully
  10. Make behavior change easy


Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) (2014) Connecting on climate: A guide to effective climate change communication. New York, NY: Earth Institute and Columbia University.



Climate Outreach (formerly COIN) have produced a range of excellent publications about climate change.

'The Uncertainty Handbook' lists the following strategies for communicating about climate change, particularly around uncertainties in the science. Their strategies include:

  1. Manage your audience's expectations
  2. Start with what you know, not what you don't know
  3. Be clear about the scientific consensus
  4. Shift from uncertainty to risk
  5. Be clear what type of uncertainty you are talking about
  6. Understand what is driving people's views of climate change
  7. The most important question for climate impacts is 'when' not 'if'
  8. Communicate through images and stories
  9. Highlight the positives of uncertainties
  10. Communicate effectively about climate impacts
  11. Have a conversation not an argument
  12. Tell a human story not a scientific one



Climate Outreach have also published Managing the Psychological Distance of Climate Change.  In this paper they discuss five important ‘do’s’ that climate communicators need to have in mind if they are to be effective and avoid backlash when they try to localise climate change:

  1. Communicate solutions
  2. Tell human stories
  3. Don’t trivialise
  4. Use the right image
  5. Focus on when, not if

To help communicators choose visual images to communicate important ideas about climate change, Climate Outreach have published the document Climate Visuals - Seven principles for visual climate change communication (based on international social research).  To accompany this, they also have created the Climate Visuals website.   This website contains a growing, interactive library of images to provide inspiration and guidance for journalists, campaigners, bloggers and anyone else using imagery to communicate about climate change.

Also from Climate Outreach:

How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing and trusted communicators

Guide: Communicating Climate Change Uncertainty

Guide: Why are people still skeptical about climate change?

Guide: Faith and Climate Change – Talking with People of 5 Major Faiths.

Report: Communicating flood risks in a changing climate

New Guide & Masterclass: Communicating effectively with the centre-right about household energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies 

Centres for research into communicating about climate change

Climate Outreach (formerly COIN) UK

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (Columbia)

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

Yale project on climate change communication



Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. (2009). The psychology of climate change communication: A guide for scientists, journalists, educators, political aides, and the interested public. Available at:

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. (2014). Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.

Climate Communications and Behavior Change A Guide for Practitioners

Climate Outreach (2016). 7 key principles for visual climate change communication.

Climate Outreach (2015). Managing the psychological distance of climate change.

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2015).  How to talk climate change with the centre-right – An election guide.

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2015).  VIDEO Talking climate change with the centre-right.

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2014). How do 18-25 year olds engage on climate change?

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2014).  Science and Stories.

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2014).  Climate science and how to break it.

Climate Outreach and Information Network (2014).  After the Floods.  Communicating about Climate Change.

Crompton, T., Brewer, J. & Kasser, T. (2010). Values, framing and the challenge of climate change, in From hot air to happy endings: how to inspire public support for a low carbon society (pp.46-51), London, UK: Green Alliance.

Crompton, T. (2010). Common Cause: The case for working with our cultural values. Report written for World Wide Fund - UK.

Fischhoff, B. (2007). Non-persuasive communication about matters of greatest urgency: Climate change. Environmental Science & Technology, 41, 7204-7208.

Futerra Sustainability Communications (2009) Sizzle: The New Climate Message. Available at:

Hurlstone, M. J., Lewandowsky, S., Newell, B. R. & Sewell, B. (2014). The effect of framing and normative messages in building support for climate policies.  PLoS ONE. 9, 12.  

Maibach, E. W., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2008). Communication and marketing as climate change-intervention assets: A public health perspective. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35, 488–500.

Maibach E, Nisbet M, & Weathers M. (2011) Conveying the Human Implications of Climate Change: A Climate Change Communication Primer for Public Health Professionals. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2009). Global warming’s 6 Americas: An audience segmentation analysis. New Haven, CT: Yale University and George Mason University, Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Moser, S. (2014). Communicating adaptation to climate change: the art and science of public engagement when climate change comes home. WIREs Climate Change, 5, 337–358.

Moser, S. C. & Dilling, L. (2007). Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Psychology for a Safe Climate (2015). Facing the Heat.  Stories of climate change conversations. Published by Psychology for a Safe Climate.!publications/c1erc

Psychology for a Safe Climate (2013). Let’s speak about climate change. Published by Psychology for a Safe Climate.

Rayner, T & Minns, A. (2013). The challenge of communicating unwelcome climate messages. The Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia

Roser-Renouf, C., Stenhouse, N., Rolfe-Redding, J., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015) Engaging diverse audiences with climate change: Message strategies for Global Warming’s Six Americas. In Cox, R. & Anders, H. (eds.) Handbook of Environment and Communication.

Van der Linden. S, Maibach E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015) Improving Public Engagement With Climate Change: Five “Best Practice” Insights From Psychological Science Available at: 

Whitmarsh, L., O’Neill, S., & Lorenzoni, I. (2011). Engaging the Public with Climate Change. Earthscan, London. Abstract available at:

Yale project on climate change communication. See a collection of articles here