Global climate change is one of society’s greatest challenges. The intrinsic complexity of the science of climate change also makes it difficult to communicate effectively (Nerlich, Koteyko et al. 2010). As Moser (2010) identifies, the challenges in climate change communication arise from myriad unique factors such as ‘invisible causes’ and temporally and spatially ‘distant impacts’ that often make audience engagement problematic (p.33). Not surprisingly, confusion and misconceptions about climate change persist in the Australian public sphere (Ipsos 2010). In response, the literature calls for a more strategic approach to communication of the phenomenon. This paper explores what that means within the context of the literature and presents preliminary findings of research that examined factors influencing a practitioner’s ability to develop and deliver strategic climate change communication initiatives in Australia.

The concept of ‘strategic communication’ is a salient theme across a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, health communication, science communication and risk communication (Palenchar and Heath 2007; Cox 2010; Kreps 2012). Several authors provide definitions to describe how ‘strategic’ applies to communication. Hallahan et al. (2007) define ‘strategic communication’ as the ‘purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission’ (p. 3). Others distinguish communication from ‘strategic’ communication by using terms such as ‘carefully designed’ (Kreps 2012, pg. 379), or ‘carefully planned’ (Duffy and Omwenga 2002, p. 146). Such descriptions highlight the essence of strategic communication as purposeful, well researched, thoroughly planned and, as is the case with most climate change communication, able to effectively stimulate behaviour change.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The challenges of strategic climate change communication in the government workplace context

Catherine Naum   School of Education, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Global climate change is one of society’s greatest challenges. The intrinsic complexity of the science of climate change also makes it difficult to communicate effectively (Nerlich, Koteyko et al. 2010). As Moser (2010) identifies, the challenges in climate change communication arise from myriad unique factors such as ‘invisible causes’ and temporally and spatially ‘distant impacts’ that often make audience engagement problematic (p.33). Not surprisingly, confusion and misconceptions about climate change persist in the Australian public sphere (Ipsos 2010). In response, the literature calls for a more strategic approach to communication of the phenomenon. This paper explores what that means within the context of the literature and presents preliminary findings of research that examined factors influencing a practitioner’s ability to develop and deliver strategic climate change communication initiatives in Australia.

The concept of ‘strategic communication’ is a salient theme across a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, health communication, science communication and risk communication (Palenchar and Heath 2007; Cox 2010; Kreps 2012). Several authors provide definitions to describe how ‘strategic’ applies to communication. Hallahan et al. (2007) define ‘strategic communication’ as the ‘purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission’ (p. 3). Others distinguish communication from ‘strategic’ communication by using terms such as ‘carefully designed’ (Kreps 2012, pg. 379), or ‘carefully planned’ (Duffy and Omwenga 2002, p. 146). Such descriptions highlight the essence of strategic communication as purposeful, well researched, thoroughly planned and, as is the case with most climate change communication, able to effectively stimulate behaviour change.

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