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Reports & guides | 24 February 2014

Extreme weather and climate after the floods: communicating climate change around extreme weather

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Extreme weather events, such as the recent floods and storms, do not necessarily lead people to become more concerned about climate change according to research compiled in our latest report.

We suggest that this is a crucial consideration for those advocating for climate change, highlighting the need to carefully consider their campaign messaging.

Drawing on the latest research in Britain and the US and ahead of a series of training sessions in flooded communities organised by the charity, Climate Outreach suggests that the relationship between extreme weather and public attitudes is complex and still little understood. It shows that people tend to interpret extreme weather in the light of their existing assumptions, and that their attitudes are more likely to be governed by their politics than their personal experience.

What is more, Climate Outreach argues, people in affected areas may consider it inappropriate to talk about- climate change at all- creating to an deliberate silence around the topic- or be unable to reconcile the complex long term issue of climate change with the more compelling narratives of loss, recovery and blame. We found this pattern reflected in the media coverage of the British storms and floods of the winter of 2013-14.

For most of this period climate change was ignored in media coverage and when scientific argument about the connection to climate change began to emerge they were unable to compete with the stronger story lines of anger and personal suffering, As a leading specialist in climate change communication, Climate Outreach argues that the perception of extreme weather events is of critical importance for building public commitment to action on climate change.

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