Communicating Climate Change

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Climate change communication needs to encourage new ways of thinking and of understanding the world to bring about the necessary behaviour change. There are, however, significant challenges in crafting these messages because of the complexity of the message, the significant scientific uncertainty of climate change effects and the diversity of demographic groups in the world, each with particular world views and understanding.

This synthesis report is drawn from presentations made on climate change communication at the Adaptation Futures Conference 2018 held in June in Cape Town, South Africa. It presents key challenges, opportunities and findings regarding the communication of accurate climate change information that aims to shift behaviour. The report was compiled by Stefanie Swanepoel, Director of African Earth Rights and a facilitator of the Diploma in Sustainable Development programme.

Adaptation Futures is the world’s premier conference on climate change. Held every two years, the conference connects more than 1 000 scientists, practitioners, business leaders and policymakers from around the world to connect, learn and inspire. In June 2018, Adaptation Futures was hosted in Africa for the first time at the Cape Town International Convention Centre by the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the United Nations Environment’s Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation.

Its goals were to facilitate dialogue between research and government, civil society, international agencies and business; to continue the shift from problem diagnosis to solutions and innovation; and to link adaptation action to sustainable development, investment and planning with a strong focus on Africa and the global south.

This report reflects on the climate change communication challenge, language and culture, communicating uncertainty, the importance of a shared vision, using compelling narratives, the emerging importance of co-creating knowledge, trust, using graphic data and innovative communication tools. Please view the report here.