Climate Change Leadership – MOOC

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Framing climate change discourse

How can it be that despite the growing certainty and more clear science about climate change, there seem to be less concern among the general public? This question has guided Per Espen Stoknes, psychologist and economist, in all his work during recent years. In this video he suggests an alternative way of communicating climate change – looking at the barriers of the existing narratives, and proposing new ways to frame the topic.

For Per Espen Stoknes, solving the problem of climate change is easy.

Many people think it’s a wicked, hopeless, difficult problem. But from a policy point of view, it’s very easy. What you do is mainly one thing– you slap a proper price on carbon.

The problem, according to Stoknes, is not that we do not know what we need to do, but rather that the bottom up support for those kind of solutions is not strong enough yet. That’s why climate change communication is so important. In this video, Stoknes identifies both existing barriers in current narratives:

And then I simplified it into five barriers that keep us from engaging with climate change […] the distance barrier, the doom barrier, the dissonance barrier, the denial barrier, and the identity barrier.

… and suggests new narratives including social networks, re-fraiming climate change, simple actions or nudging, storytelling and new signals that people can see and understand.

The point is, if you cannot see or envision a society that is better with lower emissions, we’re not going to work to make it happen. And also, if I feel it’s only me, then I will feel helpless. But if I can feel that this is a story, a narrative about where we are heading, that many people are joining, then I feel community, and I feel empowered. So that’s how stories can give directions and also make us sense that others are with me on this. Stories create community.

You can find more articles by Per Espen Stoknes at his blog and his book What we think about when we try not to think about global warming: toward a new psychology of climate action (2015).


© Per Espen Stoknes, CEMUS and Uppsala University