Framing climate change for effective communication: a systematic map

Nic Badullovich, Will Grant, Rebecca Colvin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Climate change emerged as an issue of science, but its broad ranging impacts and potential mitigation strategies mean it is of significance to all people across sectors, interests, and nations. As a result, the traditional fact-centred way of communicating information about climate change is not necessarily the best strategy for engaging the full breadth of publics. In communication practice and scholarship, framing is an approach that emphasises certain attributes of an issue over others and as a consequence shapes how that issue is understood. This has led to the scholarly exploration of framing as a technique for tailoring climate change communication to engage diverse publics. Over the past two decades, research has examined a range of different frames for the communication of climate change, such as Public health, National security and Economic prosperity/development. With this literature now rapidly expanding, it is crucial to synthesise existing evidence so that future research efforts and climate communication interventions are best informed about the current knowledge-base and research gaps. This article presents this synthesis in the form of a systematic map. We systematically searched scholarly (Scopus and Web of Science) and grey literature databases for English-language climate change framing literature. All articles were screened at the title/abstract and full-text level, with included articles incorporated into a Microsoft (MS) Excel database. The information extracted from the literature included bibliometric, geographical and other data pertaining to study design and the climate change frames examined. Our systematic map includes 274 articles (281 studies). The most common frames appearing in this literature base (making up about 50% of the total) were Scientific, Economic and Environmental. Other frames such as Public health, Disaster and Morality/ethics appear to be gaining more scholarly attention in recent years. Almost half of the collected studies are from the United States but there is a growing trend of studies comparing climate change frames from other countries. Climate change frames are numerous and can have different efficacies depending upon country and social-political context. Research needs to be reflexive in its approach to understand the broader impact of framing in climate change communication and should continue to employ multi-national studies and explore climate change framing effects in under-researched nations to combat bias.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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