Balancing Paradigms in Climate Change Communication Research to Support Climate Services

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Initiatives such as the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and Future Earth aim for co-design and co-production to create specific climate services, which in turn, require dialogue with stakeholders. Climate change communication research can help enable this dialogue. This paper proposes a more explicit articulation of the paradigms grounding climate change communication research to provide more balanced research for climate services. Paradigms or worldviews contain assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge, and therefore drive the construction of research questions and methodologies. An assessment of peer-reviewed articles between January 2010 and August 2014 using the key phrase “climate change communication” reflects research paradigms that are dominantly post-positivist, seeking large-scale patterns to make generalizations. While these are useful, climate change communication research must also consider what approaches would value and use stakeholders’ differing perspectives towards encouraging dialogue and implementing long-term solutions with purveyors of climate services. Future research should balance the approach by exploring the use of constructivist or critical paradigms to support dialogue-based climate services. Such research is valuable in addressing the need for climate change communication professionals and scholars to (1) localize messages and (2) frame them in terms of values and issues pertinent to specific populations and groups.