Climate Framing: Public Health Rather than Environment, National Security

Research findings by environmental communications scholars suggest that “potential threats to human health” are more effective in convincing the “as yet unpersuaded” than messages focusing on environmental harms or increased national security risks.The researchers also found the national security frame elicited unintended feelings of anger for audience groups “already doubtful or dismissive” of climate change.

Climate change messaging can become ‘deactivating’ for people if it leaves people without a sense of hope. While those in the “alarmed,” “concerned,” and “cautious” audience segments respond with hope to climate messages based on either environmental, public health, or national security frames, those in the “disengaged” category see in the public health frames “something within their realm of control.” The public health frame localizes the impact and puts a human face on the problem, conveying “a sense of moral responsibility in terms of protecting the innocent and the vulnerable, which is a more widely held value than environmental protection per se.