New Horizons in Science

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Science + Science Writing: Communicating about climate across political divides

Topic: Science communication
Communication wires. Image: Martin Sercombe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Friday, October 23, 2020 -
1:00pm to 2:15pm

For decades, Americans have been divided along party lines over how to deal with climate change. Mass media coverage, framed in many cases along an “information deficit” model that has been repeatedly shown incorrect, has often unintentionally exacerbated the divide.

Yet there is more common ground than we realize. Recent polls have found that most Republicans understand that climate change is happening, for example, and a majority of conservatives under age 40 voice interest in taking action.

In this session, two expert climate communicators will describe communication techniques that research has shown effectively breach the partisan divide. They will show how to avoid framing, language, and other factors that unintentionally signal bias and undermine trust in climate science. And they’ll suggest ways to pitch climate stories to outlets that typically don’t cover the topic or that reach a skeptical audience.

In this live session, Max Boykoff, who heads up the Media and Climate Change Observatory at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will present the latest results from his group's study of 46,000 print articles on climate change from 17 sources in five nations and how these and other research results illuminate how different kinds of reporting about climate do—and do not—resonate broadly with the public.

Geologist and Yale Climate Connections contributor Karin Kirk will present a case study describing how she convinced editors at a sporting magazine that usually avoids climate change to tackle the topic, how she managed negative pushback generated by the piece, and what she has since learned about people’s motivations on climate change, why various messages tend to be ‘sticky’ and effective, and what factors actually help people change their minds.


  • Maxwell Boykoff (Speaker) Director and associate professor, Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Karin Kirk (Speaker) Freelance science writer, Yale Climate Connections
  • Teresa Carr (Moderator) Independent health and science journalist


Communication wires. Image: Martin Sercombe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About CASW

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. Directed and advised by distinguished journalists and scientists, CASW develops and funds programs that encourage accurate and informative writing about developments in science, technology, medicine and the environment.

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