Opportunities and Challenges in Using Research to Facilitate Climate Communication Collaborations

Friday, 19 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Karen Akerlof1, Branden B. Johnson2, Colin Nackerman1 and Edward Maibach1, (1)George Mason University Fairfax, Fairfax, VA, United States, (2)Decision Research, Inc., Eugene, OR, United States
Climate change represents the worst of wicked environmental problems, requiring collaborations among individuals and groups that cross public, private and voluntary sectors on a global scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for impacts. The Climate Communication Consortium of Maryland represents such a collaboration on a state level for the purpose of supporting governments, non-profits, businesses and universities in communicating with the public about climate and energy within the context of multiple frames, such as public health, extreme weather, and coastal resilience. The collaboration was developed using communication research as an organizational framework – providing data from yearly public opinion surveys on Marylanders’ attitudes, behaviors and policy support, and a variety of other qualitative and quantitative studies. In this presentation, we will highlight four dimensions of the use of research within collaborative organizational climate communication that can lead to success, or impediments: 1) individual organizational ability and resources for using audience data; 2) the linking of research questions to programmatic development goals and processes; 3) the weighing of audience- versus communicator-oriented values and priorities; and 4) identification of overarching communication objectives that span individual organizational interests. We will illustrate these dimensions using findings from surveys of our member organizations describing the types of barriers organizations face in communicating about climate change effectively, including their use of formative and evaluative research, and will discuss some of the findings from our public opinion and experimental research, illustrating the ways in which these findings influenced programmatic development and were used by Consortium member organizations.