Parallel 2 – Communicating climate science and adaptation: building support for action

Chair: Leanne Webb


Changing the narrative of adaptation, preparing for a 4°C future (900)

Mark Stafford Smith 1

  1. CSIRO, O’Connor, AUSTR, Australia

As we experience the actual effects of climate change, and commit ourselves to many more, preparing the world for the effects of that change is just as important as mitigating how much more change is imposed upon us in the future.  A world at >4°C is still hard to deeply visualise, but we have growing confidence that it would require transformative change in human systems.  To move from thinking about impacts as a means to promote mitigation to delivering real adaptation action requires a significant change in narrative, one which is slowly percolating through our community.  It means moving from problems to solutions, from a focus on distant 2070 impacts to decisions being made today, from lamenting uncertainty to emphasising well-known risk management, and from characterising climate change as an environmental issue to emphasising the social and economic dimensions of adaptation.  It also means upping the scale at which we think about adaptation, from many local actions to emergent, regional and economy-wide implications.  And, increasingly, it means looking beyond climate to a whole suite of other global environmental changes that share the slow onset, global scale, hard-to-forecast characteristics of climate change, for which the same adaptation approaches are likely to be needed.


The Impact of place identity on responding to climate change (901)

Rodolfo Sapiains 1 , Robert Beeton 1 , Iain Walker 2

  1. The University of Queenesland/ CSIRO, Yeronga, QUEEN, Australia
  2. CSIRO, Perth, WA, Australia
Multiple approaches have been developed to address the limitations of traditional climate change communication in particular considering the high proportion of the population who reject anthropogenic climate change in western countries. In Australia that number has reached around 40%.  In this study we test the influence of four frames, place identity, biodiversity conservation, economy prosperity and traditional climate change on subjects’ responses to the problem. The sample (N=156) included people who thought climate change was natural and people who thought it was human-induced. Four questionnaires were designed representing each frame and the same 18 climate change-related actions. Items were grouped into three scales: consumption-investment, consumption-reduction and political participation.  Results show a significant impact of place identity frame over climate change for consumption-investment, consumption-reduction in the total sample and among those who rejected the anthropogenic causes of the problem. This shows the importance of non-materialistic values in addressing climate change communications. Place identity and associated psychological factors can contribute to overcoming the limitations associated with strong, antagonist and controversial views on climate change.

Media frames and memory: social constructions of climate change following the 2011 Brisbane flood (902)

Erin Bohensky 1 , Anne Leitch 2

  1. CSIRO, Townsville, QLD, Australia
  2. James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia
Social memory-the long-term communal understanding of environmental change and the transmission of experience-enables societies to interpret, anticipate and recover from extreme events. The news media was an important vehicle for understanding and internalising the 2011 Brisbane flood, and thereby for recalling and creating social memory of past and present flood events. In this paper we present a systematic analysis of Australian newspapers in 2011-2012 to explore media framings of the flood, and focus in particular on how narratives evolved about the relationship between the flood and climate change. While the media narratives that we identified revealed awareness of climate change, the prominence of two opposing stances belies deep divisions in public understanding and the politicised nature of the issue. We show that some media coverage of the flood articulated the risk of extreme events in a changing climate, but much of the discourse cast the flood in terms of blame and political opportunity and paid little attention to longer-term aspects of regional resilience. Throughout this discourse, we found evidence that human experience of extreme weather and natural disasters is encoded and archived in memory, individual and collective memory of past events is recalled to make sense of present experience, and these processes tend to shape future responses. As policy related to the 2011 flood, and extreme events more generally, is influenced by the public discourse, it is important to understand the nuances of communication around these events and the media’s role in reinforcing or changing perceptions.

Using iconic status and social science to manage climate change impacts on the GBR (1126)

Nadine Marshall 1 2 , Alastair Birtles 2 , Peter Case 2 , Erin Bohensky 1 , Matt Curnock 1 , Margaret Gooch 3 , Howard Parry-Husbands 4 , Samantha Stone-Jovicich 1 , Renae Tobin 2 , Christopher Villani 4 , Jeremy Goldberg 1 2

  1. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Townsville
  2. James Cook University, Townsville
  3. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville
  4. Pollinate Market Research, Sydney

Understanding the social and cultural consequences of climate change is a vital consideration for resource managers as they plan for climate adaptation. However,many resource management agencies do not explicitly prioritise the integration of social science into decision-making processes. Incorporating the human dimension into the management of iconic ecosystems threatened by climate change may result in decisions that better reflect their place within the community. Using the Great Barrier Reef as a case study, a World Heritage Area especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, we present baseline data from the first nationally representative survey (n = 2,002) to explore Australian attitudes about the Great Barrier Reef. Results indicate that the Great Barrier Reef inspires Australians, promotes pride, and instills a sense of individual identity and collective responsibility. These results provide powerful and symbolic levers to enhance public support for policies and behaviours that conserve Reef values. Here we discuss how such high levels of concern and personal connection to an international environmental icon may provide confidence to political leaders, reduce the uncertainty about the importance of iconic ecosystems and provide clarity and guidance to better manage climate-sensitive systems both within Australia and around the world.


Square pegs for round holes? Researchers, consultants and staff practitioners as adaptation knowledge brokers (903)

Scott Losee 1 , Tony Matthews 2

  1. Scott Losee Consulting, Holland Park West, QLD, Australia
  2. QUT, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Decision-makers in government and business who (a) recognise climate change as a factor; (b) are not themselves knowledgeable about adaptation; and (c) wish to be responsible about the way they account for climate change, access knowledge from professionals. These professionals may be in-house practitioners, consultants or academic researchers. Adaptation is a new, multi-disciplinary field of professional endeavour, meaning that the activities of professional groups can overlap. Each may be in a position to advise decision-makers, but which group fits which circumstance? How do the intrinsic attributes of each affect the quality, timeliness, suitability or slant of the guidance provided? Moreover, friction, misunderstandings and professional jealousy can exist among these groups, as evidenced by pejoratives like ‘bureaucrats’, ‘ivory tower academics’ or ‘money grubbing consultants’. This presentation aims to help redress misunderstandings and seed a dialogue that will lead to decision makers receiving a better mix of professional services on adaptation to help them make better decisions. In doing so, it establishes a clear distinction between the professional groups. The presentation reports emerging findings from an ongoing research program designed to examine how professional overlaps, misunderstandings and frictions might inhibit sound adaptation practice. Findings are drawn from the results of a structural analysis and surveys undertaken by members of each professional group.

Communication underpins shared risk management (1089)

Lauren Burton 1

  1. Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Adelaide, SA, Australia

The South Australian climate change adaptation program focuses on grass-roots engagement and building partnerships with local decision-makers from Natural Resources Management Boards, Regional Development Australia committees, local government and key regional industry leaders. The emphasis is on a collective risk management approach to decision making that enables climate change politics to be removed from regional adaptation planning processes.

The success of the adaptation program is underpinned by the identification and engagement of key stakeholders in each planning region, combined with the use of innovative communication techniques that build interest and generate ideas.  The annual South Australian Climate Change Adaptation Showcase demonstrates the collaborative nature of the adaptation program. The Showcase is well-attended by adaptation practitioners, researchers, natural resources management professionals, regional development leaders, government officials, and industry representatives from across Australia.  It provides a genuine platform for discussing the challenges and opportunities encountered in adaptation planning, and for sharing information among peers.