The challenge of communicating unwelcome climate messages

Photo by Dunk via Flickr

With the probability that global temperature rise can be kept below the 2°C target continuing to diminish, citizens as well as economic and political decision makers need to engage with knowledge about the likelihood and implications of severe future impacts, and the scale of mitigation required to avoid them, the likes of which few want to hear. This working paper reflects on the challenges and offers guidance for the way ahead.

Communicators of climate change thus need to prepare for the likelihood that bad news in the present day – for example that the 1°C mark is to be breached in 2015 – will be superseded by worse, and that even when better news emerges – about emission curves beginning to peak, for example – the persistent action needed to lower global emissions sufficiently will require
that there is no ‘let-up’ in communication effort.

The EU-funded HELIX project (High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes) brought together individuals from a range of disciplinary and organisational backgrounds for a one-and-a-half day workshop in Cambridge, UK, to discuss how the challenges associated with ‘high-end’ scenarios can most effectively be communicated. This briefing note is inspired by the presentations, comments of respondents and facilitated workshop activities that occurred.

Download the paper: