Enhancing Communication of Climate Impacts Assessments: Examples of Local Stories, Animations and Video.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Melanie F Fitzpatrick, Union of Concerned Scientists, Berkeley, CA, United States and Bjorn O Grigholm, University of Maine, Climate Change Institute, School of Earth and Climate Sciences, Orono, ME, United States
Comprehensive climate impacts assessments are important vehicles for conveying salient information to the public and policy makers. However, over the last few decades communication of this important information has been hampered for a number of reasons. Firstly, we have a rapidly changing social media landscape, where there are fewer opportunities for in-depth treatment of issues. To compete in this arena, climate information needs to be packaged in sound bites, and much of the nuance and complexity may be lost. Secondly, scientific literacy among the general U.S. population is not particularly high, which creates a barrier to understanding and limits the audiences that can be reached. Thirdly, climate science has been undermined by misinformation over many years often funded by fossil fuel interests. While this latter obstacle is clearly diminishing - largely in the face of evidence from the undeniable climate impacts that are already being seen by communities - there has been much confusion generated to date.

Despite the fact that 97% of active climate scientists agree that the planet is warming as a result of human greenhouse gas emission, only 42% of the U.S. population agrees (Pew Research, 2013).

In the face of these challenges, much of the work that the Union of Concerned Scientists does to translate climate impacts assessments has shifted to visuals, animations, and videos that people can relate to and connect with more readily. In this session we will share some of the general design features, discuss target audiences, and outline production limitations of several local stories involving videos and animations, as well as present some recent infographics. One example of this work are case studies that focus on sea level rise and involve a local personality who can speak to climate impacts at the community level. We understand the power of visual images and stories in creating messages that stick, and we use this in designing animations that explain the technical findings of climate impacts assessments. We aim to provide the public and policy makers with accessible information to encourage responsible choices regarding both mitigation and adaptation choices to deal with climate change.

All of our material is freely available for use from our website - www.ucsusa.org.