Researching climate change communication at George Mason University

Next January, I’ll be relocating to the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. For a Brisbane boy who has never lived outside of Australia, moving to walking distance from Washington, DC is a big call. Two factors influenced this life-changing decision.

First, since I initially learnt about psychological research into debunking, my approach to climate communication has been guided by social science. When I started my research fellowship at GCI at The University of Queensland, my two-pronged approach was to research how to better communicate science, while putting that research into practice. 

As we communicated the scientific consensus on climate change, I also ran psychological experiments into the efficacy of consensus messaging. While we’ve debunked over 190 climate myths, we’ve also published the Debunking Handbook, a summary of psychological research into misinformation. Our MOOC on climate science denial is informed by a synthesis of cognitive psychology, inoculation theory and educational research.

What attracted me to MASON'S Center for Climate Change Communication (or 4C) was their approach to climate communication: a mix of theoretical research combined with practical outreach. They’re not ivory tower boffins - they directly engage with the public, putting into practice their research into the psychology of climate change.

Second, I was also enticed by the collaborative research environment at 4C - a center of scientists and students conducting academic research into the psychology of climate communication. The potential for future lines of enquiry springing from that community is quite exciting.

So after long, thoughtful conversations with my family plus focused research into how to source Vegemite in the U.S., I made the life-changing decision to relocate to the USA. Over the last five years that I’ve been at The University of Queensland, the Skeptical Science team has achieved impact far beyond our expectations, being highlighted by Senators, Presidents and Prime Ministers. My hope is that working at 4C will take our societal impact to another level.

Posted by John Cook on Wednesday, 7 September, 2016

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