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      Communicating climate change and biodiversity loss with local populations: Exploring communicative utopias in eight transdisciplinary case studies

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      UCL Open: Environment Preprint
      UCL Press
      transdisciplinary communication, climate change, biodiversity loss, knowledge co-production, postcolonial moments, local communities, local knowledge, People and their environment, Environmental policy and practice, Environmental justice and inequality/inequity, Climate change, Sustainable development, Biodiversity


            Climate change and biodiversity loss trigger policies targeting and impacting local communities worldwide. However, research and policy implementation often fail to sufficiently consider community responses and involve them. We present the results of a collective self-assessment exercise for eight case studies of communications regarding climate change or biodiversity loss between project teams and local communities. We develop eight indicators of good stakeholder communication, reflecting the scope of Verran (2002)'s concept of postcolonial moments as a communicative utopia. We demonstrate that applying our indicators can enhance communication and enable community responses. However, we discover a divergence between timing, complexity, and (introspective) effort. Three cases qualify for postcolonial moments, but scrutinizing power relations and genuine knowledge co-production remain rare. While we verify the potency of various instruments for deconstructing science, their sophistication cannot substitute trust building and epistemic/transdisciplinary awareness. Lastly, we consider that reforming inadequate funding policies helps improving the work in and with local communities.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            18 July 2022
            [1 ] Energy Access and Development Program (EADP), German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)
            [2 ] Free University Berlin
            [3 ] WWF Colombia
            [4 ] Luc Hoffmann Institute
            [5 ] Energy Access and Development Program (EADP)
            [6 ] University of Greifswald
            [7 ] Equilibrium Research
            [8 ] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
            [9 ] Technische Universität Dresden
            [10 ] Bangladesh Agricultural University
            [11 ] Open University of the Netherlands, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hasselt University
            [12 ] CEBioS
            [13 ] Fenner School of Environment and Society
            [14 ] Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
            [15 ] Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre
            [16 ] Hasselt University
            Author notes
            Author information

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            : 18 July 2022
            This research was partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF (FoReSee, grant no. 01LA1811B, Economics of the Climate Change II programme; COMTESS, grant no. 01LL0911A-G, Sustainable Land Management programme; Carbiocial, grant no. 01LL0902F, Sustainable Land Management programme, ECAS-BALTIC, grant no. 03F0860G, Küno Küstenforschung Nordsee / Ostsee), the European Commission (DESIRE, project number 561638-EPP-1-2015-1-JO-EPP KA2-CBHE-JP, grant agreement number: 2012-3324/001-001), the Flemish Interuniversity Council – University Development Cooperation VLIR-UOS (North South South Cooperation Programme ZIUS2015VOA3106), the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (CEBioS programme), the Special Research Fund of Hasselt University (BOF20TT06), the Belgian Science Policy BELSPO (EVAMAB of CEBioS programme), the Luc Hoffmann Institute, and the German Research Foundation DFG (Germany's Excellence Strategy – EXC 2037 'CLICCS - Climate, Climatic Change, and Society', project no 390683824). see above

            Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
            Philosophy of science,Environmental economics & Politics,Environmental studies,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,General social science,Development studies
            transdisciplinary communication,climate change,biodiversity loss,knowledge co-production,postcolonial moments,local communities,local knowledge,People and their environment,Environmental policy and practice,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity,Climate change,Sustainable development,Biodiversity


            Date: 23 March 2023

            Handling Editor: Prof Sarah Bell and Prof Dan Osborn

            Editorial decision: Request revision. The Handling Editor requested revisions; the article has been returned to the authors to make this revision with the following points to consider:

            This is an interesting attempt to extract meaning from a set of completed case studies. The a posteriori nature of the study present some challenges and I hope these comments help deal with those. 

            1. The author's attention has already been drawn to the need to increase the level of reflexivity in their considerations. I would point to comments in relation to elders in the Amazon area "only" being interested in the carbon price and not the research findings. It is a commonplace in policy and decision-making that those who make decisions often focus mostly on economic benefits and are much less interested in the research. However, examples are rarely documented. This rather throwaway line is actually a finding worth reporting more distinctly. It may be apparent in the other case-studies as well and could be a theme of the paper.
            2. Each case study needs to make clear what aspect of climate change science was being presented to the different communities, what aspect of climate change was the focus of the case study (e.g. mitigation or adaptation; floods or droughts), how the climate science was seen by the communities. This would help draw the disparate case studies into a simple framework that could be built on by others.
            3. The way the Table assessing each case study was drawn up is unclear - this needs to be improved. The use of crosses and colours appears inconsistent. Are the colours actually needed - if so they need explanation. The crosses need explanation also. Thes explanations could be in the main text or in the Table legend.
            4. A new Table is required or even two new Tables. One should draw out the limitations of the case studies and list these. As written there really are some quite glaring issues with the way some of the case studies have been done - such as a lack of interpreters for local dialects and that to me is just the kind of thing that needs documentation. The Table might help justify the rankings given to projects in the current Table which rather appears out of the blue as an opinion without evidential material to support it. A second new Table - essential in my view - should document the general lessons learnt from the case-studies that other communities, researchers or funding agencies could use to make progress in dealing with climate change. This would make the paper much more important and citable as it would then overcome a real problem with case study reports which is a fundamental tendency to fail to synthesise lessons learnt and analyse these so that future actions are better. A Table of further suggested actions would also be useful but maybe that is asking too much of one paper.
            2023-03-23 17:05 UTC

            Date: 21 July 2022

            Handling Editor: Prof Sarah Bell

            This article is a preprint article and has not been peer-reviewed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2022-07-21 14:54 UTC

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