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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate change communication: what can we learn from communication theory?

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The literature on climate change communication addresses a range of issues relevant to the communication of climate change and climate science to lay audiences or publics. In doing so, it approaches this particular challenge from a variety of different perspectives and theoretical frameworks. Analyzing the body of scholarly literature on climate change communication, this article critically reviews how communication is conceptualized in the literature and concludes that the field of climate change communication is characterized by diverging and incompatible understandings of communication as a theoretical construct. In some instances, communication theory appears reduced to an ‘ad hoc’ toolbox, from which theories are randomly picked to provide studies with a fitting framework. Inspired by the paradigm shift from transmission to interaction within communication theory, potential lessons from the field of communication theory are highlighted and discussed in the context of communicating climate change. Rooted in the interaction paradigm, the article proposes a meta‐theoretical framework that conceptualizes communication as a constitutive process of producing and reproducing shared meanings. Rather than operating in separate ontological and epistemological perspectives, a meta‐theoretical conceptualization of communication would ensure a common platform that advances multiperspective argumentation and discussion of the role of climate change communication in society. WIREs Clim Change 2016, 7:329–344. doi: 10.1002/wcc.392

Linear transmission view of communication. Inspired by Shannon and Weaver's model of information theory (1949).
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Chronological development within the field of climate change communication as compared to the field of communication.
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Communication as meaning. (Adapted from Ref .)
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Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Communication

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