Environmental Health, Global, Health Communication, Health Promotion, Interpersonal Communication

Fear vs Hope: Appeals & Climate Change Communication

Communicating the health consequences of climate change can be challenging, especially when the audience is full of climate-deniers. In the field of climate change communication, there is often much debate over the usage of fear appeals vs. hope appeals. In the past, many campaigns have leaned towards using fear as a persuasive tactic. However, now, the tides seem to be shifting away from this. Yale University has researched climate communication on many fronts and finds that fear may actually lead to further pushback and disbelief of global warming.

At the same time, messages which lack realism on the severity of climate change are not found to resonate either. These messages often fail to generate interest or understanding in the importance of the issue, and often fail to inspire audiences to believe and/or take action on the issue.

Instead, the right communication tactic requires a perfect “cocktail” of emotion.  Behavioral scientists believe that these messages cannot be over-simplified into “fear” or “hope” appeals. Instead, each message should be thoughtfully tailored to the desired audience. And through this, Yale University offers a couple of important points to keep in mind through message development:

  • Connect with audience
  • Provide information at beginning
  • Address the concept of “urgency”
  • Be persuasive
  • Use credible messengers
  • Use opportunities well
  • Connect with viewer’s values and beliefs
  • Create a sense of “uniting and conquering.”

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/04/climate-fear-or-hope-change-debate

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2012/01/helping-the-cause-or-making-enemies/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-017-0021-9?WT.feed_name=subjects_scientific-community-and-society

 

 

 

  • Crystal

    Great post. I especially like the reminder that we need to focus on our audience’s values and beliefs. Far too often we try to persuade people based off of what’s important to us and ignore what matters to them.