Working towards improved climate change communication in the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve
Shymko, Randall C.
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This thesis is a synthesis of a research project that explored the issue of climate change communication in the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (RMBR). Climate change has become an increasingly important environmental issue that has gained wide public awareness over the past fifteen years. Yet, despite the overwhelming multi-disciplinary research, policy efforts, and public education and communications on the issue, there has not been appreciable improvement in public understanding of the potential impacts of climate change and actions that can be taken. There is also a shortage of evaluative research conducted to determine the attributes of effective communications with adult learners. This study identified perspectives on the climate change issue among selected adult learners; developed and evaluated a climate change information program; established the effectiveness of the program in communicating climate change information with adults; identified potential barriers to communication; and, suggested tools and methods for improved communication of climate change information with adult learners. This research was carried out in a case study setting using a community climate change workshop. An extensive literature review conducted prior to the study helped set the context for the investigation. An adaptive multi-criteria process of evaluating the workshop program was implemented, primarily based on a comparative analysis of participants' perspectives on the climate change issue and workshop activities. A presurvey, a post-survey, researcher observation, and semi-structured follow-up interviews were the instruments used to collect the qualitative and quantitative data. The perspectives of participants show a high concern for local environmental and socioeconomic issues. Regarding the climate change issue, there was a high level of awareness, moderate level of knowledge, and low level of understanding prior to the workshop. As a result of the workshop activities, there were varying levels of improved understanding on climate change. In general, this occurred most often as a result of workshop information that was locally and personally relevant in terms of the potential biophysical, and socio-economic impacts of climate change and what could be done about them. The communication qualities that were associated with improved understanding, and therefore deemed to be more effective, were personal and interactive in nature, integrative of participant's views, engaging, and interesting. Specifically, expert verbal and interactive presentations, and the climate change short story were found to be the most effective workshop tools. Conversely, The Winds of Change poster and govemmental materials were least effective for workshop participants. In conducting future climate change communications, stakeholders' perspectives should be considered, and existing organizations identified to coordinate and deliver the climate change message through several tools and methods. As well, the barriers to future communications need to be further identified and addressed. More resources need to be allocated towards environmental education in the RMBR and in Canada as a whole that includes a strong climate change component and leads towards more environmentally responsible behavior amongst the general adult population