Managing the Psychological Distance of Climate Change


Image (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Dalio Photo / Flickr

Climate change is a notoriously ‘distant’ risk for most people. We hear about it in the news, but it rarely seems relevant to our everyday life – “it feels ‘not here’ and it feels ‘not now’”. This sense of non-urgency couldn’t be further away from the actual impact that the rise in global temperature is having already. Wider public awareness will be vital for the democratic processes that are so urgent to bring about transitional policies and practices.

Climate Outreach’s new guide outlines current thinking about how to respond to the significant numbers of people who still perceive climate change as something unlikely to have an impact on them. In arguing that bringing the issue ‘closer to home’ is the best way to engage the wider public, the guide provides useful advice on how to overcome specific aspects of individual psychological distance.

The strategies suggested may not always be appropriate or effective, the authors explain, as successfully managing the psychological distance of climate change requires an audience-specific approach. There is a lot of research to support the idea that reducing the psychological distance of climate change is important, but this guide explains why it may not be as straightforward as simply focusing on the ‘local’ rather than ‘global’ aspects of the issue.

Climate Outreach has also created the Climate Visuals website, aiming to be “a practical bridge between research and practice, and to be a tool for people to use in their work.” For more information on their activities, visit the Climate Outreach website. The guide can be downloaded here.

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