Identifying Messaging, Themes, and Rhetorical Strategies for Effectively Communicating Climate Change in Books for a General Audience
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Since global warming came to the international stage in the 1980s, mass media, scientists, politicians, and other public figures have avoided addressing the problem for a multitude of reasons—the first being the social and political complexity of the issue. Most Americans believe that climate change is happening, and for the most part they believe that it is caused at least in part by human actions. Yet the media discourse still focuses on the science and debates between scientists and skeptics. Instead, I look to another accessible form of media for more effective climate change communication—books about climate change for a general audience. Authors like Bill McKibben, Thomas Friedman, Elizabeth Kolbert, Al Gore, and Naomi Klein offer messages about consequences and solutions to climate change that address the issue as more than just a scientific problem. These and other authors seek to interpret climate change and engage lay readers by focusing on institutions, worldviews, and social norms that are harmful to the environment rather than on individual behavior and responsibility. The works in my study employ useful frameworks in their messaging that are more salient to the discourse. My goal is to create a rubric for more effective climate change communication. By using books for a general audience I access directed ideas for action and solutions that are accessible to readers. These ideas, while already widely read, should be employed and synthesized more widely in order to empower people to take and demand action on all scales.