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These Days, It’s Not About the Polar Bears

Climate science has struggled mightily with a messaging problem.

The well-worn tactic of hitting people over the head with scary climate change facts has proved inadequate at changing behavior or policies in ways big enough to alter the course of global warming.

While Europe has made some headway, the largest obstacles to change remain in the United States, which has historically been responsible for more emissions than any other country. And perhaps most important, climate change denial has secured a perch in the Trump administration and across the Republican Party.

Enter the fast-growing academic field of climate change communication. Across a swath of mostly Western nations, social scientists in fields like psychology, political science, sociology and communications studies have produced an expansive volume of peer-reviewed papers — more than 1,000 annually since 2014 — in an effort to cultivate more effective methods for getting the global warming message across and inspiring action.

CLIMATE CHANGE FACT: Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting. Arctic sea ice coverage has shrunk every decade since 1979 by 3.5 to 4.1 per cent. Glaciers have also been in retreat, including in major mountain ranges like the Alps, Himalayas and Rockies. In 2017, Arctic sea ice reached a record low for the third straight running, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and Nasa.

While recent polls have shown an increase in the percentage of people who describe themselves as worried about climate change, experts say not enough people have been motivated to act.