This paper focuses on barriers and drivers of personal and public engagement. The success of climate change policies in democracies depends on social consent and ownership of the actions taken. Campaigners and decision-makers therefore need to communicate their ideas in a way that speaks to and galvanises people. To do this successfully, the first step is to recognise what motivates people to act and what hinders them. This paper contributes to answering these questions by giving an overview of theories from psychological and communication science on the cognitive biases that obstruct logical decision-making. It then moves on to suggest an alternative to the widely used “fear appeal” in communication about climate change: an opportunity-oriented framing of climate mitigation that connects to people’s values with the prospect of fostering long-lasting engagement with sustainable action. Lastly, the paper explores how the co-benefits framing can be used for policymaking.
Year of publication: 2021
Author: Laura Nagel
Suggested citation: IASS (2021). Tales of doom, tales of opportunity. How climate communication can help to overcome psychological barriers to sustainable action. IASS Discussion Paper. November 2021.