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Do people learn about climate change?

by Fenja De Silva-Schmidt

How to mobilize citizens, politicians and companies for climate action? Often, knowledge about climate change – or more precisely, a lack of knowledge – is seen as a crucial factor. Basic facts on climate change and climate politics are indeed unknown to a large share of the population. However, ‘educating the public’ is not as easy as one might think – and may even be not that crucial for climate protection. Here’s what I’ve learnt from studying the topic for almost a decade.

When I started my master’s thesis in 2014, I had a traditional model of science communication in my mind: information about scientific and political topics is spread, e.g. by the media, so that the people can learn from it and fill in their “knowledge deficit” (see e.g. Tayeebwa et al 2022). Then, the new knowledge leads them to rethink their attitudes and change their behaviour. Since then, I’ve learnt not only that this model is outdated, but also that human learning and behaviour is much more complex.

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