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Abstract

Since anthropogenic climate change first emerged on the public agenda in the mid-to-late 1980s, public communication of climate change and—more recently—the question of how to communicate it most effectively have witnessed a steep rise. This paper synthesizes what is known, presumed, and still unknown about how to effectively communicate this problem. An introductory historical overview of climate change communication is followed by a discussion of the challenges that communicators face in trying to convey the issue (invisibility of causes, distant impacts, lack of immediacy and direct experience of the impacts, lack of gratification for taking mitigative actions, disbelief in human's global influence, complexity and uncertainty, inadequate signals indicating the need for change, perceptual limits and self-interest). The core of the paper focuses on key aspects of the communication process (purpose and scope of the communication, audience, framing, messages, messengers, modes and channels of communication, and assessing the outcomes and effectiveness of a communication). These elements are placed in relationship to several contextual factors that affect the communication process. The paper concludes with suggestions for future research on climate change communication. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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