UCL Public Policy


Framing the Climate Change Debate

How can the debate on climate change be framed in a way that will encourage rational dialogue and effective response?

UCL Public Policy and UCL Environment Institute, in cooperation with the IPPR.

This event was held on Monday 16 May 2011. Read a report of the event here.

Addressing climate change remains one of the most pressing challenges that we currently face. Yet with many people in the UK unconvinced either that climate change is occurring at all, or that it will have negative consequences, there remains a substantial challenge in simply agreeing the need for action. Uncertainties – and recent controversies – over the reliability of science and failure to achieve a rational debate and dialogue mean that government is hampered in its ability to act and there is no strong public imperative to do so. This has knock-on consequences for global initiatives to address climate change, so that securing agreements through processes such as the Copenhagen and Cancun meetings is highly problematic.

However, the need to agree action on climate change is increasingly urgent, as the direct and indirect consequences become ever-more severe and we reach the limit of the amount of carbon we can ‘safely’ use. Whilst Government has set some ambitious targets, it is far from clear how and if they will be achieved. Public debate remains polarised and many people are simply unconcerned with climate change. Dialogue has stagnated. We urgently need to consider new ways of framing the debate to engage the public in considering what problems we face and what action that will be needed to address them.

This event will discuss the public perspectives of climate change and how these inform the public dialogue as well as how they relate to the policy discourse and political response to problems of climate change. It will examine how the public debate is currently framed and the role of universities, policy-makers and others in re-framing and shaping that debate in both public and political spheres, with a view to enabling more coordinated actions and policies to address climate change.

Chaired by Andrew Pendleton, Associate Director for Climate Change, Transport and Energy, IPPR
The role of science in the climate change debate
  • Professor Mark Maslin,UCL Geography and Co-Director, UCL Environment Institute
  • Response from Professor Nick Pidgeon, Director, Understanding Risk Research Group, University of Cardiff
Public attitudes to climate change
  • Professor Chris Rapley, UCL Earth Sciences
  • Response from Matthew Lockwood, Head of Climate Change, Institute of Development Studies
Climate change and the policy context
  • Professor Maria Lee, UCL Laws
  • Response from Dr Slava Mikhaylov , UCL Political Science
Summing up from Professor Yvonne Rydin (Director, UCL Environment Institute)

Sir David Davies Lecture Theatre G08 Roberts Building
Torrington Place
London WC1E 7JE

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