American Perceptions of Climate Change (IAP Workshop)

Over 50% of Americans are worried about climate change – but why is the rest of the country not? Do they just not get it? Are they duped by misinformation and corporate propaganda? What role does the media play? And how do we get more Americans to support taking action on climate change?

Participants can join for one or both sessions of this two-part workshop on public perceptions, engagement, and communications in America today.


Session One
Reviewing American Perceptions on Climate Change
Thurs. Jan 27, 1:00 - 2:30 PM, Virtual

Led by Laur Hesse Fisher, Program Director, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative

The first session will review academic literature and real-world projects on understanding and engaging with Americans across the political spectrum on the topic of climate change. Weaving presentation and discussion, it will draw upon learnings from the fields of political science, psychology, sociology, and communications to unpack how – and why – Americans think the way they do about climate change, what more we need to know, and what more we need to do. The session will also review:

  • How Americans’ understanding of climate change it is (and is not) evolving
  • Deniers, skeptics, alarmists – is there room for nuance?
  • Republicans and climate change: policy, politics & activism
  • Climate journalism in today’s media environment
  • High school climate change education in the U.S.
  • Lab- and field-tested strategies for climate change engagement and communications


Session Two
Ecomedia's Challenges: Problems of Communicating about Global Warming
Fri. Jan 28, 1:00 - 2:30 PM, virtual

Led by Prof. Jim Paradis, Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing and Comparative Media Studies

This session takes a closer look at how climate change is depicted in the media landscape and how it affects the public’s attitudes and beliefs about climate change. Participants will briefly review and critique key pieces of contemporary media – including print, video, comic, social media, podcast, photographic treatment of climate change – and how they reflect on the contemporary human challenges of dealing with a changing natural environment of humanity’s own making. The session will look at how perceptions about climate change are shaped by these media forms and they influence public (and voter) attitudes on which a vast body of regulation and funding for environmental management is based.