Framing Science

Declaring that framing should be a central strategy, Ellen Goodman in today’s syndicated Boston Globe column issues a call to arms on climate change: “Can we change from debating global warming to preparing? Can we define the issue in ways that turn denial into action? In America what matters now isn’t environmental science, but political science.” Her piece is one of the best summaries I’ve seen on just how central public communication is to this issue.

In mentioning some of my work in the area, Goodman hits on many of the themes I’ve featured here at Framing Science or that I have presented in recent talks :

1. The strategy of “Big Oil” GOP leaders to go on the right-wing news outlets to assuage viewers that they have nothing to worry about.

2. The “Two Americas of Global Warming” or the striking partisan differences in public views on the topic.

3. The ineffectiveness of fear appeals in engaging the public, what I call the “Pandora’s Box” or catastrophe frame and what Goodman labels “This is your Earth. This is your Earth on Carbon Emissions.”

4. And finally the need to recast the old story of climate change in new ways that make the issue personally relevant to diverse segments of the public.

UPDATE: Tom Yulsman of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the Univ. of Colorado has these very interesting reactions at the Center’s newly launched blog. Like Yulsman, Editor & Publisher views the climate denial comparisons as the most noteworthy angle in the column. I will be able to get some responses up over the weekend. So check back.


  1. #1 Benny
    February 9, 2007

    One of the people who has been trying to reframe the debate is Rick Piltz. He has been pointing out that the National Assessment was deep-sixed by the Bush Administration. The reason?

    The National Assessment looks at actual impacts to specific sectors of the economy and to different regions of the United States. It’s not a “Is climate change happening?” paper, nor is it some fanciful discussion on different types of forcing.

    With the National Assessment, you’re now discussing things like how will climate change affect forest fires, or how will global warming impact emergency rooms in northern Florida as we find an increase in tropical infectious diseases?

    The Bush Administration never wanted that type of discussion and that’s why people, to this day, are still not familiar the assessment and continue to cast about for ways to make the topic interesting to suburban families.

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