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Beyond polar bears? Experts look for a new vision of climate change to combat skepticism
Date:5/27/2010

Climate change is about more than just polar bears. That is the message from Dr Kate Manzo whose research into climate change communication has been published in Meteorological Applications. The research, which reviews the efforts of journalists, campaigners and politicians to engage the British public with climate change, explores how new 'visual strategies' can communicate climate change messages against a backdrop of increased climate scepticism.

"There have been various efforts to put a face on the climate change issue," said Dr Manzo, from Newcastle University. "Communicators need to move away from the traditional images of polar bears or fear-laden imagery to find new, inspirational motifs to engage people with climate change. My research has uncovered a variety of possibilities such as windmills as icons of renewable energy as well as alternatives to documentary photography as the dominant form of climate change communication. Artists and cartoonists are among the producers of inspirational alternatives."

"A recent study of American public perception showed that fewer people are convinced of the reality of climate change, and of those that are only 36% attribute it to human activity. This shows the variance of levels of climate change knowledge and understanding, which effects how people behave in response. It also highlights the need for strategies to boost the cognitive and behavioural elements of climate change engagement without resorting to methods such as fear appeals that are, at best, a double edged sword."

In her study Manzo analysed the traditional standard bearing symbols of climate change, especially polar bears, which (like the images of the global poor that sometimes appear in relation to climate change) are traditionally cast as being 'helpless' and 'stranded' victims as their habitat changes around them.

The most famous example of a polar bear gaining iconic status is Knut, the cub from
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Contact: Ben Norman
Lifesciencenews@wiley.com
44-124-377-0375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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