Years Active: 2009-2014


The core aim of this research project was to analyse the role of the media to have played a central role in spreading awareness of climate change.

Further Information


The 2008 Climate Change Act set legally binding ‘carbon budgets’ for the UK, aiming to cut emissions by 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. The heating in homes accounts for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions, but by 2050 emissions from homes need to be almost zero if the emissions reductions targets are to be met. Individuals also significantly contribute to the 22% of the UK’s emissions that come from the transport sector, of which the Government expect a 14% reduction in emissions by 2020. Therefore, without public engagement the UK’s targets will not be met.

Aware of this the Government has set up a number of public information campaigns and focus group initiatives. There are also many other initiatives from non-Government organisations. This project interacted with a number of these initiatives, during material preparation and focus group design, and in analysing and disseminating the results.

The core aim of this research project was to analyse the role of the media, which has been said by the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to have played a central role in spreading awareness of climate change. The project’s focus on public trust in different bodies in light of the increasingly diverse range of views on climate change within the media offers a unique insight into the impact of different actors and the message that they are portraying. Understanding this is crucial in developing strategies for changing behaviour to address climate change and energy security.

The main objectives of the research were:

  • To analyse the formation of public beliefs and behaviour in relation to debates over climate change in Britain
  • To develop methodologies that will make possible the detailed study of changes in these beliefs in relation to new information that viewers and readers receive
  • To examine the sources that are typically used by audience members, and what is seen as trustworthy and credible
  • To examine potential of different types of information to produce changes in behaviour over an extended period of time

This study will be of central interest to members of the academic community who focus on issues of motivation and behavioural change. It is at the cutting edge of methodologies in this area, and is unique in that it offers the prospect of showing with some precision the effects of media and other key factors in the formation of belief, understanding and behaviour. The findings will also be of interest to scientific researchers in the areas of climate change and energy resources who are seeking to communicate their research effectively in order to maximise public impact.

This project was undertaken jointly by the Glasgow University Media Group and Chatham House, who collectively offer expertise in a range of issues on climate change and on media and public belief.

Key Outputs