At Seed, a Roundtable on Framing and Climate Change

Hooked around the accidental release of a climate change "rebranding" memo by the firm EcoAmerica a few weeks back, Seed magazine runs today an interesting roundtable discussion on the good, the bad, and the ugly of applying framing research to communicating about climate change.

I provide comments as one of six experts "who discuss the merits of framing climate change, the language that troubles them, and the inherent bias of any chosen word." Others include climate scientists Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, ecologist Ann Kinzig, political scientist Clark Miller and science writer Robert Henson.

I have more to say about the EcoAmerica case in a forthcoming article. I haven't read the strategy memo or their research results and so I can't really say whether they apply principles from past academic work in the area or not. But for now, as I note in the roundtable discussion, the goal of applying framing research--or any kind of audience research---should not be to "sell" the public on climate change, but rather to use this research to create communication contexts that move beyond polarization, promote discussion, generate partnerships and connections, and that accurately convey the objective urgency of the problem.

Importantly, if the public feels like they are being marketed to, it will only continue to fuel additional polarization and perceptual gridlock. In shifting the frame on climate change, the goals should not be to persuade, but rather to start conversations with the public that recognize, respect, and incorporate differences in knowledge, values, perspectives, and goals.

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