Okay, so it’s not all about how to ‘frame’ climate change to make it more acceptable; the substance of policy matters. For instance, the unfolding debacle in the UK concerning how it meets its carbon targets and whether a renewable energy target is helpful in this regard or a hindrance is not a matter of framing but of raw policy. The debate is however playing out in a political context that could quite easily lead to support for existing policy ebbing away. So as well as addressing the policy challenges, we need to pay close attention to how people are engaged in the debate; if there was a broad concensus on the issue then backsliding would not be an option and progress would be easier (to state the obvious).
Framing and its relationship to policy (i.e. does the way an issue is framed have implications for the way policy is designed – we think so) is thus of a high order of importance.
Partly out of naked self interest, as I’m chairing the event, I thought I’d flag a public debate taking place next Monday afternoon, 16 May, at UCL which focuses precisely on how to frame and communicate climate change. Some big hitters, such as Professors Chris Rapley and Mark Maslin of UCL and Prof. Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff are taking part.
I know from conversations with the science community that it has been badly bruised in recent debates. But it would be a shame if this event focuses only on the problems scientists face in taking a complex and not fully resolved (although not inconclusive) scientific enquiry into the public arena. Perhaps the more interesting questions (that it will be up to the audience to raise along with me in the chair) are those concerning how we frame and execute climate change policy now that people are beginning to understand its costs and how they will fall.
Here’s the cast list for the afternoon:
The role of science in the climate change debate
Professor Mark Maslin,UCL Geography and Co-Director, UCL Environment Institute
Response from Professor Nick Pidgeon, Director, Understanding Risk Research Group, University of Cardiff
Public attitudes to climate change
Professor Chris Rapley, UCL Earth Sciences
Response from Dr Jane Gregory, UCL Science and Technology Studies
Climate change and the policy context
Professor Maria Lee, UCL Laws
Response from Dr Slava Mikhaylov , UCL Political Science
Summing up from Professor Yvonne Rydin (Director, UCL Environment Institute)