Climate Change Leadership – MOOC

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Climate change rhetoric

In what ways can a theoretical understanding of rhetorics be of use for a climate change leader? Well, maybe rhetorics can help change peoples behaviours where logic has failed. This is suggested by Mika Hietanen, associate professor in rherorics at Uppsala University. In his video, Hietanen gives an analysis of Per Espen Stoknes suggestions (see unit 4.6) and connects it to what is known about other ways to communicate that have succeeded in creating change.

In his video, Hietanen concurs with Per Espen Stoknes’ message and summarises three things we have noted about climate change communication

First, providing more and better information does not have an effect. Second, inculcating fear of the effects of climate change does not lead people to support stronger mitigation and adaptation policies. And third, asserting the authority of science and scientists does not lead to public acceptance of the scientific consensus on the severity of climate change.

But Mika Hietanen also notes that a new narrative might not be enough.

Now, looking at the larger picture, the climate change narrative is competing with a multitude of other narratives, many of which all claim to be important. So this raises a question of priority. Which message should I, as a citizen or as a consumer, prioritise?

Hietanen concludes by noting that however great a speaker or a message is, real change is created in the deliberation of small groups:

Here lies the big challenge for politics in general – how to engage citizens on the grassroots levels in their own neighborhoods, in their daily lives. Where this is achieved, change happens.

You can watch the video with James Hansen that Mika Hietanen is referring to here.


© Mika Hietanen, CEMUS and Uppsala University