Tired of Doom : Transient Apocalypse Fatigue And Successful Climate Change Communication

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Uppsala centrum för hållbar utveckling, CSD Uppsala

Abstract: One route to fight climate change that is both a strategy in itself and a mediator to other interventions is climatechange communication. Currently, most climate change communication follows the assumption that conveyingthreat and urgency leads to attitude and behaviour change. A number of studies has shown that this type ofcommunication fails to evoke individual change, and instead leads to a phenomenon called ApocalypseFatigue: a numbness resulting from being confronted too many times with too much frightening information.As a result, the message is not implemented in one’s action, but instead rejected, denied and avoided. Thisstudy has investigated the effectiveness of message phrasing, specifically of messages that are phrasing climatechange as inevitable doom and the consequences as happening at a distance. Distance furthermore has fourspheres: geographical, temporal, social and hypothetical. Based on the literature of this study, it is suggestedthat the effect of threatening messages on the message receiver is mediated by the communication of distance:threatening messages are only perceived as threatening, when they are not phrased distant. The effect on thereceiver of the message was measured by assessing two types of responses. First, it was investigated whetherthey changed their climate change attitude after exposure to the message. Second, it was assessed how manymessage details they remembered. The results indicate different mechanisms of message phrasing on attitudechange and recall ability. In this study, doom and distance phrasing did not have an effect on attitude change,but the means and standard deviations indicate that there could be an effect in the proposed direction, namelythat it is beneficial for attitude change to phrase climate change as not threatening and not distant. Whether thiseffect is statistically significant has to be investigated in future studies. In contrast, there were statisticallysignificant effects on recall ability, but in the opposite direction: it is beneficial for recall ability to phraseclimate change as threatening and distant. Therefore, this thesis concludes that AF does not affect recall ability,and that further research is needed to investigate the effect of message phrasing on attitude change. Itconcludes on limitations and recommendations for climate practice and future research.

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