Climate science, the public and the news media. Summary findings of a survey and focus groups conducted in the UK in March 2011

This report examines public attitudes to climate science and its representation in the news media. It details the results of a survey of the UK population conducted in March 2011, which was complemented by a series of focus groups conducted in London, Sutton Coldfield and Newcastle-upon-Tyne at the same time, and presents the findings in the context of a review of the relevant existing literature. Recent reports (Muir Russell 2010; Inter Academy Council 2010) have emphasised the need to communicate the scientific evidence concerning climate change in a way the general public can more readily understand and engage with. However, the best way to achieve this is not self-evident. The purpose of this report is to investigate how effectively the main conclusions of climate science are being communicated to the general public in the UK and how communication of climate science through the news media might better engage the public. It represents a first step towards adopting a more rigorous approach to climate science communication that incorporates testing and evaluation of what works and what does not work in terms of public engagement. A reasonable and realistic goal of climate science communication might be to provide information that is necessary, if not sufficient in itself, for the public to make informed choices about policies or actions. The findings of this report suggest that current approaches to communicating climate science have not produced a clear understanding of the current state of knowledge and they provide backing for an alternative approach that is less didactic and more engaged with the public. The report makes suggestions for improvements to this end.


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Authors: Shuckburgh, Emily ORCIDORCID record for Emily Shuckburgh, Robison, Rosie, Pidgeon, Nick

On this site: Emily Shuckburgh
1 January, 2012