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New Research Shows Importance of Military Personnel Communicating the Risks of Climate Change

Marines gather to listen to Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, speak aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Sept. 19, 2012.

By Dr. Marc Kodack

While senior military leaders, due to their apolitical reputation, can influence skeptical audiences about climate change risks to national security, enlisted personnel can be even more persuasive when they deliver personal messages, according to new research in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Communication. The experimental study examined how to construct a climate change communication strategy using a pro-climate framework, and focused around national security concerns delivered by enlisted military personnel to groups who are more prone to skepticism regarding the scientific consensus on climate change.The bottom line up front from the study is simple: active duty U.S. military personnel are increasingly concerned about climate change, and that evidence-based perspective is influential with conservatives.

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New Study Highlights Military Leadership Impact on Climate Change Perceptions

PACOM commander visits MCAS Miramar

By Marc Kodack

The divisions that exist over perceptions of climate change are affected by how the information is framed – the words and statements that are used as well as the imagery that accompanies those statements. In particular, a persuasive and trusted source of information is critical for ensuring that the information is deemed credible by audiences. Recent research published in Science Communication examined how different sources, including military leaders, can affect an audience’s perceptions about climate change while keeping the message content constant. A critical finding in the research relevant to our work is that military leaders had, on average, the strongest affect on respondent beliefs about climate change, especially when communicating about its implications for U.S. national security.

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