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Re-Starting the Conversation on Climate Change:
The Media, Dialogue, and Public Engagement Workshop

Sunday, 13 December (1:00 PM –5:00 PM)
Inter Continental Hotel Grand Ballroom C

Panel organized by
Matthew C. Nisbet, American University, and Inés Cifuentes, American Geophysical Union

Presenters: Maxwell Boykoff, Matthew C. Nisbet, and Gwendolyn Blue

Increasing public understanding and action on climate change requires the application of research and expertise from the social sciences. This workshop features presentations from three leading researchers who are examining the factors that shape media coverage, public participation, and public dialogue. Discussion will emphasize lessons learned from the first two decades of climate change communication initiatives and the promise of several new directions.

Mass Media and the Cultural Politics of Climate Change

Max Boykoff, Ph.D.
University of Colorado-Boulder

Mass media serve vital roles in the communication processes between science, policy-makers and the public. This presentation reviews contextual factors as well as journalistic pressures and norms that contribute to how issues, events and information become climate 'news'. A particular focus will be on how these factors have contributed to misperceptions, misleading debates, and divergent understandings that undermine efforts at policy action.

How Framing Matters to Wider Public Participation on Climate Change

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D.
American University, Washington, DC

This presentation discusses research analyzing the extent to which new frames of reference and narratives can generate wider public interest and participation on climate change. The results of qualitative interviews and surveys are reviewed, focusing on public reactions to various policy proposals and messages. The research is designed to provide scientists, policy experts, government agencies, journalists, and other stakeholders with practical guidance on how best to increase public understanding of the implications of climate change.

Worldwide Views on Climate change: An International Citizen Deliberation on Climate Policy

Gwendolyn Blue, Ph.D.
University of Calgary, Canada

The UN Framework Program on Climate Change is holding its next round of discussions to update the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December, 2009. These climate change policy discusions have always involved government representatives and organized groups such as industry alliances and non-government organizations. For the first time, an international effort to hear what citizens around the world have to say on the policy questions was organized by the Danish Board of Technology, involving the participation of 38 countries, each with 100 citizen participants. This presentation describes both the process of mounting such an effort and the outcomes from the participating countries, with particular attention to differences between developed and developing countries. The challenges for global governance will also be discussed.

Biographies of Presenters

Maxwell T. Boykoff, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Center for Science and Technology Policy, which is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Max's research interests involve: 1) analyses of the transformations of carbon-based economies and societies, and 2) examinations in cultural politics and the environment. Recent publications include peer-reviewed articles in Geoforum, Global Environmental Change, Transactions of the Institute of British Geography, Political Geography, Environmental Research Letters, and Climatic Change. He has also written commentaries for Nature Reports Climate Change and Nieman Reports as well as co-authored a background paper for the 2007 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports. Max recently published 'The Politics of Climate Change' for Routledge/Europa (November 2009) and is working on 'Who Speaks for Climate? Making Sense of Mass Media Reporting on Climate Change' for Cambridge University Press (2010).

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at American University, Washington, DC. As a social scientist, he studies strategic communication in policy-making and public affairs, focusing on controversies surrounding science, the environment, and public health. He is the author of more than two dozen journal articles and book chapters and serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Press/Politics and Science Communication. Nisbet's current research with Edward Maibach on climate change communication is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where he is a Health Policy Investigator. He has also worked as a consultant to the National Academies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation and other leading organizations. Nisbet is a frequently invited speaker at universities and meetings across North America and Europe.

Gwendolyn Blue, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her research interests focus on public engagement with and governance of environment and public health issues, particularly as these unfold in unconventional political realms such as lifestyle politics and emergent dialogue-based democratic initiatives. She is currently the lead researcher on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project on Environmental Citizenship, Global Public Participation and Climate Change. She was part of the project team for World Wide Views on Global Warming, the first global citizen deliberation on climate change.

This workshop registration is now closed.