Lisa Fernandez on "Talking about Climate Change: What do Americans think, feel, do and understand about climate change?”

Lisa Fernandez is the Assistant Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

She has a background in urban development both nationally and internationally. Fernandez spoke about the work of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and how their research focuses on climate change and the American mind. The Project researches how Americans view climate change and track how those opinions and feelings change over time. By collecting the data, the Project on Climate Change Communication hopes to have a better understanding of the disparity between the American public and climate science community. They believe that a clear message through trusted messengers that is often heard is the simple way to help the American public understand climate change.

Twice a year, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication surveys American adults about their feelings toward climate change. Fernandez presented the results of these surveys through the lens of six Americans. The six different Americans as resulted from their research are: Interested, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful, and Dismissive. Fernandez then organized these six different groups of Americans into three main questions: What can we do to reduce the harm of climate change? What will it cause?  Why should I care? The research showed a growing polarity of responses between those who strongly believe that anthropogenic climate change is real and those who vehemently deny it. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has also expanded to surveying teenagers to see if there were generational differences. The 2010 results showed that that most Americans really do not understand climate change or global warming. Fernandez also talked about the Project’s research of climate change message frames such as: risk management, clean energy, human health, and national defense. Fernandez said that the most effective form of communication and persuasive is through close, personal relationships, not social media.  They have found that people learn best and best receive information from those they are close to.

By Helen Song ’14

Sarah Gardner (left) and Lisa Fernandez (right)

Sarah Gardner (left) and Lisa Fernandez (right)