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AAAS Hosts Meeting on Public Attitudes About Climate Change

Can communication and engagement research, put into practice, help depolarize civic discourse on climate change? What influences public opinion, individual behavior, and support for climate policy? The AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, with support from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, George Mason University, NASA, NOAA, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, hosted a meeting at AAAS this week on public attitudes toward climate change. Experts from different parts of the social science research community focused on finding key points of agreement and key questions to inform guidance for climate change public engagement programs and a framework for measuring public perceptions. A report will be published based on the meeting.

Giving people information about climate science does not increase concern and engagement with the issue, much as this approach (assuming that a lack of information is the problem) frequently falls short in other areas of science communication. There is now a significant body of literature on climate communication. Which results are most robust and how can this information be applied in practice, and have an effect on policy?

This convening followed up on a 2008 meeting to assess the state of knowledge about public attitudes and behaviors toward climate change, and prioritize future research and public engagement activities. The meeting led to recommendations for research on communication design and effective public engagement.  The first cohort of the Center’s new Leshner Leadership Institute is also focused on climate change and builds on the climate communication research prepared for the What We Know project. 

Tom Bowman, a climate change communication professional, co-moderated this week’s meeting with Michael Shank, Director of Media Strategy at Climate Nexus. 

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Meeting participants discuss public attitudes toward climate change. Credit: Rachael L. Shwom