There is a growing global conversation about the need to “frame” climate change in a way that allows us to assess and discuss this issue more meaningfully than has been the case thus far. While climate change is increasingly relevant for all of us, it is not yet an accepted “social fact”, that is, it is not an integral factor that determined our social practices and behaviour.
In large part, this is due a failure in the way climate change has been communicated – melting ice-caps and lonely polar bears evoke a sense of pathos but they also reinforce distance. We feel far removed from the problem – and the solution. A recent Royal Society of Arts (RSA) report points out very problem: “The knowledge of…climate change creates a moral imperative to act, but this imperative is diluted at every level by collective action problems that appear to be beyond our existing ability to resolve. This challenge is compounded by collectively mischaracterising the climate problem as an exclusively environmental issue, rather than a broader systemic threat to the global financial system, public health and national security.”
What can be done to change this perception? A communicative effort that balances complexity (highlighting the collective nature of the problem and the impact climate change has across sectors) with accessibility (a frame of reference that can be shared across the world) is the need of the hours.
A series of conversations on framing climate change as a social fact form the core agenda of a new joint project by the RSA and the Climate Outreach & Information Network (COIN), funded by the Climate Change Collaboration. The project will involve representatives from diverse fields – science, technology, law, economy, democracy, culture and behaviour – in order to explore the interactions between these dimensions and climate change. The final report is expected to be released in 2015.
Watch this space for updates on this collaborative effort.
Read the full RSA report, “A New Agenda on Climate Change” here.