PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Act Now
Is the time for science communication about climate change over, or just beginning?

Laura Fogg-RogersUniversity of the West of England. United Kingdom


  • Sophie LagginUniversity of West England   United Kingdom
  • Rhian SalmonCentre for Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington   New Zealand
  • Margarida SardoUniversity of the West of England, Bristol   Portugal
The effects of climate change are now being felt around the world, and yet cohesive and collaborative policymaking to mitigate impacts are moving too slowly. Indeed the latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have until 2030 to reduce emissions and limit warming to 1.5C above pre-Industrial levels.

International protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion are now stepping up non-violent direct action, with a core demand to Act Now. The movement involves several professional groups such as scientists, doctors and psychologists, who have advocated for their peers to move beyond communication[1].

Meanwhile, science communication efforts focus on individuals "“ imploring us to change our personal behaviours to benefit the environment. However, psychological and social research indicates that asking individuals to change their behaviour against the norms of society is at best ineffective, and at worst harmful to the individual through the resulting guilt, shame and eco-anxiety.

In this series of linked papers, we will discuss whether science communication on climate change has failed. Outreach and education are important, but 30 years of advocacy have seen emissions continue to rise. We argue that science communication therefore needs to focus on creating societal change in order to enable and encourage individual behaviour change. We will discuss where this leaves the neutrality of science, and the role of science communicators in direct action.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02734-x

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Category: Linked papers
Theme: Time