Over the past year, I have had the great opportunity to work with faculty and students at the The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute and their NSF-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) – the first of its kind to focus explicitly on adaptation to abrupt climate change.  Here is a short description on the rationale for the program, a joint initiative between the Climate Change Institute and the School of Policy and International Affairs at the University of Maine.

The paradigm that climate change operates slowly and gradually shifted with the discovery of abrupt climate change (ACC), which refers to rapid state changes in the climate system that are either transient or persistent, and of variable magnitude. We now recognize that abrupt climate change is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of human society and ecosystem services, yet economic and social systems are rarely designed for abrupt nonlinear environmental change. The Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change (A2C2) IGERT is a doctoral training program for students in earth sciences, ecology, anthropology, archaeology, international affairs, and economics.  A2C2 is designed to train the next generation of natural and social scientists to meet the critical societal challenge of human adaptation to abrupt climate change (ACC).

In the Spring of 2013, I taught a week-long workshop for students involved in the IGERT program and other faculty and professionals at the University of Maine.  Participants were introduced to research and strategies for more effectively engaging the public and policymakers on sustainability-related issues. The workshop also covered different schools of thought, modes of practice, and areas of research relevant to navigating the intersections among science, policy, and communication.  The goal was for participants to gain an integrated understanding of the institutions, organizations, and actors involved in public communication and policymaker engagement; and the different roles they can play as experts, professionals and educators.

In Fall 2013, I participated in a retreat for faculty, organizational partners and students involved in the A2C2 program.  To generate discussion and small group idea generation, I presented a brief overview on communication challenges and strategies relevant to preparing for abrupt climate change. In my presentation, I focused particularly on sea level rise and other coastal impacts. Related to this presentation, I put together the following list of relevant studies, readings and other resources which I will continue to update as part of my involvement with the Climate Change Institute’s A2C2 Program.

Download the Presentation


Communication Barriers and Challenges

  • Dewulf, A. (2013). Contrasting Frames in Policy Debates on Climate Change Adaptation. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change, 4: 321-330. [PDF]
  • Moser, S. C. (in press). Navigating the political and emotional terrain of adaptation: Communication challenges when climate change comes home. In: Successful Adaptation to Climate Change: Linking Science and Practice in a Rapidly Changing World, ed. S.C. Moser and M.T. Boykoff, Routledge, London. [PDF]
  • Yale Center on Climate Change Communication (2013, May). Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind. New Haven: Yale University. [PDF]
  • Sarewitz, D. (2004). How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse. Environmental Science and Policy, 7, 385-401. [PDF]
  • Revkin, A. (2011). On Plankton, Warming and Whiplash. The Dot Earth blog, New York Times.com [HTML]
  • Kahan, D. (2012, Aug. 15). Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change. Nature. [HTML]
  • Hoffman, A. (2012). Climate Science as Culture War. Stanford Social Innovation Review. [HTML]
  • Safford, T.G. & Hamilton, L. (2010, Winter). Ocean Views: Coastal Environmental Problems As Seen by Downeast Maine Residents. Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire. [PDF]
  • Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E. & Leiserowitz, A. (2011). Framing Peak Petroleum as a Public Health Problem: Audience Research and Participatory Engagement.  American Journal of Public Health, 101: 1620-1626. [HTML]

Case Studies and Research on Public Engagement Strategies