Tool Guideline

Communications Handbook for IPCC scientists

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Uploaded by RRI Tools on 01 February 2018

Corner, A., Shaw, C. and Clarke, J. (2018). Principles for effective communication and public engagement on climate change: A Handbook for IPCC authors. Oxford: Climate Outreach.

This communications Handbook was commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I Technical Support Unit. This is the first time such guidance has been produced for the world’s leading scientific body on climate change.

The Handbook sets out six principles for effective communication, ahead of the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees special report later this year.

Just like the IPCC reports themselves, Climate Outreach believes the way IPCC authors engage with the public should be based on the best available evidence.

With a wealth of research on the science of climate change communication and a focus on practical tips and case studies, this Handbook serves as a valuable resource for IPCC authors - as well as the wider scientific community - to engage audiences with climate change.

6 principles for IPCC authors to use in public engagement

This Handbook provides a resource for IPCC scientists in their public engagement and communication activities. It captures key research findings from the social science literature and relates them to practical examples and situations a communicator might face.

Here’s what you need to know about each of the six principles:

  1. Be a confident communicator - Scientists are generally highly trusted. By using an authentic voice, you can communicate effectively with any audience.
  2. Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas - Although they define the science and policy discourse, the ‘big numbers’ of climate change (global average temperature targets and concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide) don’t relate to people’s day-to-day experiences. Start your climate conversation on common ground, using clear language and examples your audience is more likely to be familiar with.
  3. Connect with what matters to your audience - Research consistently shows that people’s values and political views have a bigger influence on their attitudes about climate change than their level of scientific knowledge. Connecting with widely-shared public values, or points of ‘local interest’ in your communication and engagement makes it more likely that your science will be heard.
  4. Tell a human story - Most people understand the world through anecdotes and stories, rather than statistics and graphs, so aiming for a narrative structure and showing the human face behind the science when presenting information will help you tell a compelling story.
  5. Lead with what you know - Uncertainty is a feature of climate science that shouldn’t be ignored or sidelined, but can become a major stumbling block in conversations with non-scientists. Focus on the ‘knowns’ before the ‘unknowns’ and emphasise where there are areas of strong scientific agreement around a topic.
  6. Use the most effective visual communication - Choosing images and graphs is just as important to do in an evidence-based way as verbal and written communication. The Climate Visuals project, plus new guidance from the Tyndall Centre, offer a useful set of tools for how to communicate effectively in the visual medium.
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