Fueling change? Exploring guilt in climate change communications
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Subjectclimate change; environmental communication; environmental education; focus groups; guilt; mixed methods
This study used a primarily qualitative, mixed methods approach to explore the use of guilt appeals in climate change communications. To ground the research, the study used a recent example of guilt in climate change communications that was first introduced in Ontario, Canada: Robert Shirkey’s climate change warning labels. Through a survey and focus groups, the following questions guided this study: how do people feel about guilt-based communications?; how do people feel about and respond to Robert Shirkey’s proposed climate change warning labels for fuel pumps?; and what, if any, recommendations would participants make to improve the labels and/or climate change communications? Findings reveal that participants are receptive to guilt appeals in climate change communications but highlight the need for communicators to take into account the following: responsibility, education, alternatives, and credibility. This study provides a list of recommendations to improve Shirkey’s labels and climate change communications as a whole.
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