Environmental communication


This paper focusses on the sense making and use of science by environmental activists. It is based on the assumption that activists — without being scientists or professional science communicators — take up a central role in the environmental discourse concerning the translation of scientific findings and their public dissemination. It is thus asked how environmental activists evaluate the relevance of science for their work, which structures and processes they apply to make sense of science, and how they use science related information to make their voices heard. This paper presents data from a study on Canadian activists regarding their use of scientific information in the field of forest protection. The data, interpreted in the context of a situational analysis, helps to enhance understanding of environmental activists' information systems but also show the strategic use of scientific information by these alternative science communicators.


Communicating about environmental risks requires understanding and
addressing stakeholder needs, perspectives, and anticipated uses for
communication products and decision-support tools. This paper
demonstrates how long-term dialogue between scientists and stakeholders
can be facilitated by repeated stakeholder focus groups. We describe a
dialogic process for developing science-based decision-support tools as
part of a larger sea level rise research project in the Gulf of Mexico. We
demonstrate how focus groups can be used effectively in tool development,
discuss how stakeholders plan to use tools for decision-making and
broader public outreach, and describe features that stakeholders perceive
would make products more usable.


The measurement and analysis of people's knowledge on scientific topics, such as climate change, is challenging for researchers. One reason is that objectives are multi-dimensional and that probability is inherent. Moreover, uncertainties can exist on the individual's level among the public, but are rarely grasped by existing scales. Therefore, researchers must thoroughly consider what to measure and how. This paper theorizes five different dimensions of climate change knowledge. Three response scales including different degrees of confidence are applied on data from a German online survey (n=935); empirical results of multivariate regression analyses on attitudes are compared. Results highlight the importance of distinctively measuring dimensions and types of knowledge.


We investigate the impact of a science documentary on individuals' intention to engage in information-related behaviors by experimentally testing the effects of source type (scientist, politician, or anonymous source) and communication setting (interview or lecture) using a manipulated clip from the documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Our results indicate that, compared to anonymous sources, use of authoritative ones result in greater intention to engage in some information-related behaviors. Additionally, our results suggest that increased intentions to engage in exchanging information can be attributed to negative affect induced by the clip featuring a politician. Implications for documentary films and science communication are discussed.


This book examines the media discourses about environmental pollution in Australia, China and Japan. The book's authors focus on the actors involved in discussions of risk versus those involved in responsibility for environmental pollution. The authors use novel and traditional means of analysis that combine techniques from a variety of disciplines to examine case studies of media discourse. The book provides an interesting, if at times simplistic, overview of the pollution issues facing each country. The conclusions made from the media analysis are relevant to those researching and practicing science communication in the context of such important environmental issues.


Climate change is a global risk as its causes and effects are not limited to national borders, but the risks and the responsibility are not evenly spread [Beck, 2009]. Pakistan is facing especially severe impacts in the form of disasters, floods, droughts, rising temperatures, cyclones and rising sea levels due to global emissions, despite its national emissions being nominal and accounting for only 0.46% of worldwide emissions [World Bank, 2018]. Ironically, the level of public awareness of climate change is low in Pakistan compared to not only advanced countries, but also to other countries in the South Asian region [Zaheer and Colom, 2013]. A contributing factor behind this is the communication gap between the media and the broader public. This study aims to explore the factors responsible for the limited coverage of climate change in the news media, leading to confusion, uncertainty, denial and low levels of climate change awareness in Pakistan. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with media professionals and the findings show that political, economic, social, cultural, technological and scientific factors influence the news coverage of climate change issues.


This issue of JCOM explores the question ‘what works in science communication?’ from a variety of angles, as well as focusing on the politically sensitive topic of climate change. In addition, the issue contains a set of commentaries that explore the sometimes conflicting roles of universities in science communication.


This paper analyzes data collected but not reported in the study featured in van der Linden, Leiserowitz, Feinberg, and Maibach [van der Linden et al., 2015]. VLFM report finding that a “scientific consensus” message “increased” experiment subjects' “key beliefs about climate change” and “in turn” their “support for public action” to mitigate it. However, VLFM fail to report that message-exposed subjects' “beliefs about climate change” and “support for public action” did not vary significantly, in statistical or practical terms, from those of a message-unexposed control group. The paper also shows how this absence of an experimental effect was obscured by a misspecified structural equation model.


In this paper, we respond to the critiques presented by [Kahan, 2017]. Contrary to claims that the scientific consensus message did not significantly influence the key mediator and outcome variables in our model, we show that the experiment in [van der Linden et al., 2015] did in fact directly influence key beliefs about climate change. We also clarify that the Gateway Belief Model (GBM) is theoretically well-specified, empirically sound, and as hypothesized, the consensus message exerts a significant indirect influence on support for public action through the mediating variables. We support our conclusions with a large-scale replication.


Research suggests non-experts associate different content with the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” We test this claim with Twitter content using supervised learning software to categorize tweets by topic and explore differences between content using “global warming” and “climate change” between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014. Twitter data were combined with temperature records to observe the extent to which temperature was associated with Twitter discussions. We then used two case studies to examine the relationship between extreme temperature events and Twitter content. Our findings underscore the importance of considering climate change communication on social media.


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