Framing climate change and climate-proofing: From awareness to action

Joop de Boer


This paper examines two contrasting mental models that can be used to frame climate change and climate-proofing (i.e. adaptation and mitigation). The models refer to common causes and common effects, respectively. Climate change may be relatively easy to grasp if it is conceived as a common cause of different changes in nature. That is important to raise public awareness of the issue. However, climate-proofing will involve a different mental model. This model should consider all the measures necessary to produce the common effect of a climate-proof country. In theory, such a mental model is far more difficult to communicate. These notions are illustrated with data from recent European surveys (Eurobarometer) on environmental and energy issues. The results suggest that the long-lasting rainfall and severe floods in Central Europe have had a significant impact on citizens’ concerns. Climate change was often framed in a way that articulates its associations with rain- and river-based problems. This supports the notion of climate change as a common cause of different changes in nature. In contrast, it appeared that many citizens had only vague ideas about the energy situation in their country and that a clear frame for climate-proofing decisions is lacking.

Keywords: climate, frames, mental models, public opinion, European surveys

Full Text:



Communicating Climate Change: Discourses, Mediations and Perceptions
ISBN: 978-989-95500-3-2

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Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Sociedade (CECS)
Universidade do Minho