About this Research Topic
The temperature goals set in the Paris climate accord are likely to become unattainable if global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise after 2020, according to a June 2017 column published in Nature by some of the world's leading authorities. To avoid the most serious impacts of climate change, the global community must dramatically reduce its use of fossil fuels within the very near future.
While individual behavior changes can reduce emissions, their contributions are insufficient in the absence of large-scale, systemic change. For emissions to rapidly fall, the policies, regulations and technologies that shape our energy use must change in ways that promote sustainable lifestyles and remove existing barriers to sustainable actions. These changes are more likely to be made if citizens and consumers demand them. Thus, collective action by citizens and consumers is sorely needed to prod legislators and corporations into enacting the policies and practices that can stabilize the climate.
A majority of Americans tell pollsters they are concerned about climate change and support mitigation policies, but this support has yet to develop into a social movement with sufficient momentum to move mitigation to the top of the political agenda. Over half of Americans believed global warming should be a high priority for the Congress and president in May 2017, but only 12 percent had actually contacted a legislator in support of mitigation policies over the prior year.
There are signs that activism may be growing, however. In the two weeks following the Nov. 2016 election, 11,000 new monthly donors signed up with the Sierra Club—nine times their previous monthly record—and this surge was shared by other environmental groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund and National Resources Defense Council. Meeting attendance and volunteerism have reached new highs, and the April 2017 climate march drew 200,000 protesters in Washington, D.C., as well as tens of thousands in hundreds of sister marches across the country.
This growth may reflect political changes in Washington, D.C., but it may also reflect innovation within the climate movement itself. The movement is advancing the field of strategic communication, with online communities like the Climate Advocacy Lab that foster collaboration between researchers and advocacy groups; tools like the Yale Opinion Maps that permit national polling data to be downscaled to local and regional levels; and sophisticated targeting that permits advocacy groups to effectively identify potential new members.
In this Research Topic we welcome submissions that explore collective action on climate and the development of public will. Following Raile and colleagues' definition of public will as "a social system’s shared recognition of a particular problem and resolve to address the situation in a particular way through sustained collective action," we are seeking papers that elucidate the individual, institutional and social factors that lead people to become active politically on climate change, as well as the barriers that inhibit them from doing so.
• What individual factors—anger, hope, efficacy and risk perceptions, social norms—motivate people to engage in collective climate action, and what inhibits them from doing so?
• How are the new online tools for movement-building being used, and how effective are they?
• What strategies are environmental groups using and who are they targeting?
• What roles do social media, interpersonal communication and mass media play in fostering or inhibiting activism?
Quantitative papers informed by the literature on social movements, science communication, strategic communication, environmental psychology, cognitive psychology and any other relevant area of focus are welcome, but we are requesting that authors help us place their contribution within its appropriate context. One of the challenges of climate change communication research arises from the broad range of fields in both the social and environmental sciences that publish relevant research. Thus, readers are often confronted with papers from disciplines outside their own area of expertise with theories that are unfamiliar to them. One method of addressing this challenge is clarity on the theoretical roots of a study, and specificity on the ways in which this particular study expands our understanding within a theoretical perspective. Hence, to assist in the development of a coherent body of research on climate activism, we ask that authors draw on Slater and Gleason's 2012 excellent framework for categorizing types of research. The framework includes nine types of research, most of which have sub-categories: studies that address fundamental conceptual issues; extend a theory's range; elucidate causal mechanisms and contingencies; create a new theory; describe phenomena and generate hypotheses; or compare, synthesize or review theories. We ask that authors include at least one sentence in their article where they specifically note which category and sub-category of research they are conducting, referencing the full Slater and Gleason framework.
Keywords: climate change communication, environmental activism, consumer activism, public will, strategic communication.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.