Communicating the science of climate change to rural communities

05 Jun 2014

imagea common feature in kiribati, protecting homes from the rising waters. Credit: Sheryl Ho/UNDP

Climate dialogue has become increasingly significant at community level and communicating a scientific concept such as climate change is challenging.

Communities have their own valuable experiences and understanding of climate change, including traditional knowledge, yet may lack scientific education or access to outside information via internet, phone or radio.

Rebecca McNaught from Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in Vanuatu together with Andrew Cooper and Olivia Warrick kick started a research on ‘Communicating Climate Change for Adaptation in Rural Communities’ via Pacific Solution Exchange (PSE) in July of 2012 receiving an excellent response from 20 members across the Pacific.

The purpose of the online discussion on PSE was to get first-hand stories of how members communicate the science of climate change as this can be difficult and sensitive at the community level. The approaches shared ranged from localized stories to education kits.

This year the team is happy to announce the publishing of an academic paper titled ‘Communicating Climate Change for Adaptation in Rural Communities’.

“Despite community-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction increasing in the Pacific Islands region, there is very limited guidance on how to effectively communicate climate change in a way that enhances people’s resilience,” said McNaught.

“The paper documents the experiences of organisations, including local and international non-government and faith-based organisations, governments, regional technical organisations and donor agencies in communicating climate change for adaptation in the Pacific region.”

She added that while deciding how much science to communicate and how to communicate it was important other elements they researched were about linking this information to decision making in the community, such as through participatory action planning.

Accompanying the paper is a Practical Guidance Note titled ‘Communicating Climate Change for Risk Reduction in Pacific Communities’’

“While it has a somewhat Red Cross focus, we hope that the guidance may be useful for practitioners more widely in the Pacific and beyond,” she adds.

“We also hope it kick starts further discussion and work in this important area as at present there is very little guidance for practitioners.”

The academic paper and the Guidance Note are available online.

Pacific Solution Exchange – Climate Change and Development Community is an email-based knowledge sharing service enabling people across the Pacific to ask each other queries and share answers, insights, experiences and lessons learned to help each other in their climate change and disaster risk work. With over 1600 members PSE is administered by the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre with support from the Australian Government.

Contact Information

Setaita Tavanabola, Pacific Solution Exchange, Research Assistant, email: setaita.tavanabola@undp.org

Sheryl Ho, UNDP Knowledge Communications Analyst, email: sheryl.ho@undp.org