© 2016

Communicating Climate Change

The Path Forward


  • Moves beyond the question of how to persuade people that climate change exists to the question of how best to facilitate collective action

  • Written in accessible language so that interested non-specialists can also make use of it

  • Charts a new course for communication research that focuses more directly on the collective impacts of communication


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Susanna Priest
    Pages 1-21
  3. Susanna Priest
    Pages 89-113
  4. Susanna Priest
    Pages 137-159
  5. Susanna Priest
    Pages 161-171
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 173-177

About this book


This book asks and answers the question of what communication research and other social sciences can offer that will help the global community to address climate change by identifying the conditions that can persuade audiences and encourage collective action on climate. 

While scientists often expect that teaching people the scientific facts will change their minds about climate change, closer analysis suggests this is not always the case. Communication scholars are pursuing other ideas based on what we know about influence and persuasion, but this approach does not provide complete answers either. Some misconceptions can be corrected by education, and some messages will be more powerful than others. The advent of the Internet also makes vast stores of information readily available. But audiences still process this information through different filters, based on their own values and beliefs – including their understanding of how science works. In between momentous events, media coverage of climate tends to recede and individuals turn their attention back to their daily lives. Yet there is a path forward: Climate change is a social justice issue that no individual – and no nation – can solve on their own. A different sort of communication effort can help. 

Effective reactions to climate change require collective, ultimately global, responses.  Susanna Priest makes this argument eloquently and, through an adept evidentiary look at journalistic and strategic communication processes, sets the stage for building a strong societal demand for climate solutions.

Sharon Dunwoody, Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Communication and other social processes are the essence of science, and Susanna Priest applies that principle to communication about climate science. She makes a strong argument that we will only achieve successful climate communication when we recognize the collective, communal nature of climate knowledge. Individual knowledge and actions aren't enough; we must adapt communication research and action to focus on climate change as a social problem.

Bruce V. Lewenstein, Professor of Science Communication and Chair, Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University


Susanna Priest provides a concise but comprehensive look at climate change communication. This book provides an invaluable overview of relevant research and theory, from cognitive processes to social dynamics, and makes a compelling argument that we need to cultivate critical science literacy among citizens of today’s politically charged, media-saturated societies. Her insights should prove useful to both science communicators and science communication researchers.

William Evans, Professor, Department of Journalism and Creative Media, University of Alabama


climate climate change Environmental communication mass communication persuasion collective action social movements

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Camano IslandUSA

About the authors

Susanna Priest has been a tenured faculty member at Texas A&M University, USA, where she created their science journalism program; at the University of South Carolina, USA, where she served as director of research for their mass communication college, and at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, USA, where she taught media studies, environmental studies, and public affairs. 

Bibliographic information


“This book discusses communication for committed climate change activists determined to promote activism. It assumes climate change is due to humans, is dangerous, is imminent, and is controllable. It also explores the idea that better communication will help solve the problem. … Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.” (T. N. Chase, Choice, Vol. 54 (11), July, 2017) 

“Priest has written an easy-to-read thought-provoking book, which can be used to introduce science communication to undergraduate and graduate students who will gain understanding of the debates and future direction of the field, as well as potential spaces for action. … For an engaged reader, however, research opportunities are easy to identify, and Priest even offers possible questions that, if explored and answered, will surely mark the path forward for science communication.” (José Castro-Sotomayor, Language & Ecology,, 2017)