Climate Change and Communication Overview Articles in WIREs

olbannerleftIt always feel a little more gratifying directing folks to articles that appear outside the more obvious communication journals from which many CommPilings readers may be already receiving alerts. Case in point: two overview articles in  Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change (Volume 7, Issue 3 May/June 2016) on climate change and communication.  The articles are:

Climate Change Communication: What Can We Learn From Communication Theory? by Anne Gammelgaard Ballantyne (pages 329–344).


The literature on climate change communication addresses a range of issues relevant to the communication of climate change and climate science to lay audiences or publics. In doing so, it approaches this particular challenge from a variety of different perspectives and theoretical frameworks. Analyzing the body of scholarly literature on climate change communication, this article critically reviews how communication is conceptualized in the literature and concludes that the field of climate change communication is characterized by diverging and incompatible understandings of communication as a theoretical construct. In some instances, communication theory appears reduced to an ‘ad hoc’ toolbox, from which theories are randomly picked to provide studies with a fitting framework. Inspired by the paradigm shift from transmission to interaction within communication theory, potential lessons from the field of communication theory are highlighted and discussed in the context of communicating climate change. Rooted in the interaction paradigm, the article proposes a meta-theoretical framework that conceptualizes communication as a constitutive process of producing and reproducing shared meanings. Rather than operating in separate ontological and epistemological perspectives, a meta-theoretical conceptualization of communication would ensure a common platform that advances multi-perspective argumentation and discussion of the role of climate change communication in society.

Reflections on Climate Change Communication Research and Practice in the Second Decade of the 21st Century: What More Is There to Say? by Susanne C. Moser (pp. 345-369).


Appreciable advances have been made in recent years in raising climate change awareness and enhancing support for climate and energy policies. There also has been considerable progress in understanding of how to effectively communicate climate change. This progress raises questions about the future directions of communication research and practice. What more is there to say? Through a selective literature review, focused on contributions since a similar stock-taking exercise in 2010, the article delineates significant advances, emerging trends and topics, and tries to chart critical needs and opportunities going forward. It describes the climate communication landscape midway through the second decade of the 21st century to contextualize the challenges faced by climate change communication as a scientific field. Despite the important progress made on key scientific challenges laid out in 2010, persistent challenges remain (superficial public understanding of climate change, transitioning from awareness and concern to action, communicating in deeply politicized and polarized environments,and dealing with the growing sense of overwhelm and hopelessness). In addition, new challenges and topics have emerged that communication researchers and practitioners now face. The study reflects on the crucial need to improve the interaction between climate communication research and practice, and calls for dedicated science-practice boundary work focused on climate change communication. A set of new charges to climate communicators and researchers are offered in hopes to move climate change communication to a new place—at once more humble yet also more ambitious than ever before, befitting to the crucial role it could play in the cultural work humanity faces with climate change.


American Attitudes About Science from AAAS

apples2The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a 66-page report, AMERICANS’ ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: THE SOCIAL CONTEXT FOR PUBLIC COMMUNICATION, prepared by Matthew C. Nisbet and Ezra Markowitz. Topics covered include the public’s use of media, the audience for science news, partisan publics and their news habits, science literacy, knowledge gaps, and public trust of government and scientific research.  After laying this foundation the authors look more specifically at public attitudes about some of the big science issues of the day–climate change, food biotechnology, infectious diseases and epidemics, and antibiotic resistance.

Systematic Reviews in Communication Yearbook 39

cy39Communication Yearbook 39  (Elisia L. Cohen, 2015 editor) in perhaps in a trend going forward, features a section this year called Focused Systematic Reviews (Part IV.)

Systematic reviews have been around for a long time in the sciences, medicine in particular, growing out of the “evidence movement.” Evidence-based medicine, a term coined back in 1972 in an influential article by A. L. Cochrane, refers to the practice of physicians judiciously consulting current research in order to make the best clinical decisions. To do this, urged Cochrane, required  strategies for accumulating and assessing current research on a medical topic or question. Not only physicians, but public policy makers could be more effective with a more thorough, i.e. systematic approach to crafting informed policy. To this day, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) is the gold standard resource for systematic reviews in health care. Fast forward to the 1990s when systematic reviews started to matter to the social sciences. The EPPI-Centre was set up in 1992 at the Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London to develop a database of interventions evaluations in the fields of education and social welfare. Before long the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services was commissioning reviews in the area of health promotion along the same lines as the Cochrane reviews but for non-clinical health issues. Today systematic reviews are in all disciplines, humanities included. They are sometimes referred to as meta-analyses–the terms are sometimes used interchangeably when in fact they are different. A systematic review focuses on protocols around how to ask the question and the search strategies involved in gathering and organizing information that addresses the question. Meta-analysis is more focused on the review part—thoroughly synthesizing (statistically where appropriate) all that’s been gathered. A meta-analysis cannot occur without a systematic review, but not all systematic reviews lead to meta-analyses. For a quick overview on the topic see Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: a Practical Guide by Mark Petticrew and Helen Roberts.

Back to Communication Yearbook 39. The systematic review I want to point you to is the lead piece on nuclear power:

Communicating Nuclear Power: A Programmatic Review by William J. Kinsella, Dorothy Collins Andreas, and Danielle Endres.


Civil and commercial nuclear power production is a material and discursive phenomenon posing theoretical and practical questions warranting further attention by communication scholars. We provide a brief discursive history of nuclear power, followed by a review of scholarship in communication and related disciplines. We then examine five areas for further research: 1) the fragmentation of technocratic and public discourses, 2) regulation and governance, 3) the politics of nuclear waste, 4) critical social movements, and 5) intersections of communication, rhetoric and nuclear risk. We provide a rationale and foundation for further work in these and other areas related to nuclear power.


Like all good systematic reviews it includes a substantial bibliography (in this case twelve pages, over a third of the piece). The other two reviews in the section are The Persuasiveness of Child-Targeted Endorsement Strategies (Tim Smits, Heidi Vandebosch, Evy Neyens, and Emma Boyland) and Expectancy, Value, Promotion, and Prevention: An Integrative Account of Regulatory Fit vs. Non-fit with Student Satisfaction in Communicating with Teachers (Faviu A. Hodis and Georgeta M. Hodis). 

It remains to be seen if Yearbook 40 will continue the “new tradition” or if next year I’m saying “what tradition?”