Our project aims to fill a gap in our knowledge about how publics understand and engage with discussions about the climate crisis. While the vast majority of people care about climate change, their understandings thereof may differ more than is currently explored. By characterizing the ways in which different parts of the population make sense of the issue, we can relate different profiles of climate crisis engagement to different political parties’ narratives. Rather than assuming that there is a duality between pro- or anti-climate action, our goal is to find ways for parties across the political spectrum to engage people by addressing different ways of how people may be making sense of the issue in the first place.
In our project, we will therefore dig deeper into the diversity of climate change attitude profiles and examine their interplay with political preferences. Rather than devising one strategy for engaging “the” public, we will aim to explore approaches for engagement that can be used by different actors across the political spectrum. We will explore to what extent understandings of climate change are coherent and fixed already or whether they are still somewhat diffuse and can be shaped. Furthermore, we will examine to what extent even people with a strong appetite for major change are informed and aware of what sort of action is likely to have the biggest impact. In doing so, we will examine whether people distinguish between climate change actions individuals can take and systemic changes. Our approach allows for the expression of complex views: we may find that two people both feel strongly about climate change, but one advocates for radical systemic change to prevent it, while the other thinks that we need to adapt our lives to the changes likely to happen. Neither opposes action, but their perceptions differ significantly. Understanding the varieties of profiles that exist and how they link to political preferences is at the core of this project.
The project is a cooperation between OSEPI and d|part. It will have a particular focus on engaging with political discussions in Germany, but the results from there will also be compared to eight other countries: the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Spain, UK and the USA. The results of the project will be presented publicly and made available on the website.