On the first of July I got a newsletter in my inbox from the Centre for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. The newsletter informed me about an Open Access article that was published by Myers, et al. (The et. al includes M.C. Nisbet who runs the outstanding Age of Engagement blog) the previous week in the journal Climatic Change. The article is entitled, ‘A Public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change.’
A look in history demonstrates that climate change has been primarily framed as environmental problem. Within social sciences, alternative frames emphasizing public health, natiaonl security, extreme weather events and/or the economy, have been previously suggested. They can potentially be more effective at engaging the audience.
The authors tested the assumption that the public health frame and/or national security frame may make climate change more personally relevant.
Specifically, the frames tested were
1) Environmental – emphasis is placed on the consequences of climate change to ecosystems;
2) National security – emphasis is placed on highlighting national security and benefits to national security;
3) Health frame – emphasis is placed on health risks that are associated with climate change and the corresponding potential beneftis of adaptation and mitigation actions.
– Health Frame was the most likely to produce feelings of hope (It was followed by the Environmental Frame and the National Security Frame
– The Health Message produced the least amount of anger (Just above it were the Environmental Message and the National Security Message)
This research demonstrates the potential of the public health frame to inspire hope in the context of climate change discussion, while simultaneously demonstrating the possibility that certain frames may be poorly perceived within some interpretive communities.
Myers, T.A., Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E.W., Leiserowitz, A.L. (2012). ‘A Public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change,’ Climatic Change (online first). doi: 10.1007/s10584-012-0513-6