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Communicating Climate Change

Annotated resources for teaching climate change from interdisciplinary perspectives. Contributions are welcomed by the sponsor, NSF EPSCoR, and initial contributors Dr. Y. Houy, UNLV Honors College, and Dr. P. Starkweather, UNLV School of Life Science.

Communicating Climate Science

Communication is often seen as the solution to the dangers of climate change. The logic goes: if everyone understood the scientific understanding of global warming, the necessary changes to prevent the worst effects would be made.  While clarity and accuracy in communicating and visualizing climate change science and risks by scientists and in the media certainly have important communicative functions, truly persuasive communication, the kind necessary to convince even skeptical population segments, is more complex.

As Michael Svoboda (2012), commenting on contributions from the humanities for communicating climate change, writes: “… speaking to inform requires that speakers and audiences share an established social and cognitive framework: an audience must believe in the expertise the speaker claims to possess or represent.” This shared framework, unfortunately, does not currently exist in the polarized US American audience, yet published strategies for communicating climate change science often assume that every audience would believe the expertise of scientists.

Since the US American audience, an influential group in global policy debates, is highly polarized on the issue of climate change, and a large segment of that audience does not believe in scientific expertise on this issue—see the section on climate change denial in this libguide—the strategies outlined in many of the sources that focus only on explaining climate change science are unlikely to communicate climate change science persuasively to all audiences. Differentiated communication strategies dependent on audience biases are necessary for communicating the problems of global warming persuasively to different audiences.
While many of the sections in this libguide include resources to help communicate climate change science and risks (see the sections “Climate Science”, “Scientific Visualization” and “Media Coverage of Science” in this libguide in particular), the resources below focus specifically on communication. (Y. Houy)
Reference: Svoboda, M. (2012, July 19). Science communication needs the humanities. The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

Climate Communication Science & Outreach (website)

This organization specializes in climate change communication. It has a website with informative graphics communicating climate change risks in multiple arenas, and outlines ways to mitigate these risks:

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (website)

This website conducts research on public understanding of climate change, and aims to design new strategies for public engagement in climate change science. Its stated mission is to “empower educators and communicators… to more effectively engage their audiences.”

Climate change in the American Mind (research project)

This ongoing research project affiliated with the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has identified “six Americas” in the US that have different psychological, cultural and political drivers, and respond differently to climate change information. Each needs a tailored approach to communicate climate change science and risks:

United States Environmental Protection Agency (website)

This US government-sponsored website educates about climate change science and risks, and includes a downloadable pdf file, “Communicating Climate Change,” outlining simple strategies for translating climate change science concepts to different types of audiences, including K-12 students and community and business leaders:

The Cultural Cognition Project (research project)

The cultural cognition project studies how cultural values shapes public perceptions of risk, and public policy. In particularly, researchers study how “identity-protective cognition” prevents some observers from accepting scientific explanations:

Sustainability and Climate Models for the Intermountain West: An Annotated Bibliography

This resource on climate models and sustainability in the Intermountain West, a region that includes the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, is a collaborative effort between the UNLV Libraries ( and Brookings Mountain West (

The selected citations include academic, government, and non-profit information that highlight ongoing research on climate models and sustainability efforts in the region. The websites, government studies, independent reports, scholarly articles, and media reports reflect the diversity and complexity of climate change and sustainability issues in a region that contains widely varying ecosystems. The Intermountain West, with its deserts, basins, mountains, metropolitan centers, and rural areas is a microcosm of our nation’s terrain, with the obvious and notable exception of a coastal region. Although, as studies show, the Intermountain West is not immune to climate shifts originating in nearby coastal areas.

The citations provided herein include annotated descriptions designed to assist the reader in evaluating the utility of each resource. It is our intention to update this information on a regular basis, as new information and resources are identified.

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