My research team and I conducted a systematic review of climate change communication research over the past 25 years. This post shares our findings and access to the full white paper and conference paper.
What and where we choose to research has huge ramifications; the topics and people who get attention receive benefits over other topics or people who may remain ignored or invisible. A systematic review can reveal who and what is getting attention, and if there are disparities.
Climate change is – and will increasingly become – the greatest challenge of our time. Around the world, communities are starting to feel its early impacts. What we choose to research now, and how we choose to research it, will have long-term impacts on our preparedness and ability to handle this crisis. Communication is an essential part of how we handle climate change; it controls whether we take it seriously, what actions we choose to take in its face, how we transfer scientific findings to decision makers and groups in need, whether governments or companies respond and why and much more.
We compared our trends against where the American Meteorological Society (AMS) recommends that we focus our attention in the future (find more details in our white paper or our article). Our needs have changed over time. Some 25 years ago, mitigation (decreasing carbon emissions that cause climate change) was a bigger focus. Today, as we’ve failed to act comprehensively, we now face both mitigation and adaptation (adjusting to new climates). Amidst others, we focused on what topics are researched and what regions of the world we’ve been focusing on. Here are our key findings:
As we make choices of what research to conduct, we can focus on filling the gaps as well as responding to new challenges. Our primary findings show that we need immediate, practical research into adaptation and mitigation within local communities. Additionally, we need to make sure we are researching equitably; that all areas of the world are receiving attention. Right now, the majority is focused on North America, Europe and Australia. We can expand this. Here are more tailored breakdowns of the findings that led to these conclusions:
These key findings led to our final conclusions, which are that:
Climate change poses a huge challenge; but we can respond with innovation and foresight. Research is a bedrock of our ability to do this. We learn what the problems are and how we might address them. We strongly encourage researchers – in communication and elsewhere – to focus attention on climate change, particularly focusing on solutions regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon capture and adaptation to current and future climate change impacts in all areas of the world.