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date: 22 April 2021

Psychological Challenges in Communicating about Climate Change and Its Uncertainiteslocked

  • Emily H. Ho, Emily H. HoFordham University
  • David V. BudescuDavid V. BudescuFordham University
  •  and Han Hui PorHan Hui PorEducational Testing Service


The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that climate change (CC) is occurring and is caused by anthropogenic, or human-caused, forcing. The global populace is aware of this phenomenon but appears to be unconcerned about CC and is slow to adopt potential mitigative actions. CC is a unique and complex phenomenon affected by various kinds of uncertainty, rendering communicative efforts particularly challenging. The compound and, potentially, conflicting uncertainties inherent in CC engender public ambivalence about the issue. The treatment of uncertainty in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) reports have been shown to be confusing to policymakers and the general public, further confounding public outreach efforts. Given diverse communication styles and the multifaceted nature of CC, an assortment of strategies has been recommended to maximize understanding and increase salience. In particular, using evidence-based approaches to communicate about probabilistic outcomes in CC increases communicative efficiency.

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