Transdisciplinary, practice-based exploration of climate engagement with diverse audiences.

Faculty: Forestry
Subject: Forestry
Year / Level: 5
Theme(s): Climate Justice and Social Science



Addressing climate change is as much a social and psychological challenge as it is a technical and scientific one. The ability to take action on climate change rests upon the ability to engage whole populations and a diverse suite of actors on a shared challenge. Yet, inspiring and sustaining climate action can be difficult for many reasons; such as, due to the psychological complexity of this issue, the emotions and trauma that it can evoke, an insufficient social mandate for climate policies, an array of justice and equity concerns, and due to the systemic barriers for low-carbon futures. 

In this graduate-level seminar, students will learn about, and practice addressing, the challenges of climate change communications and engagement. Readings, lectures, and assignments will enable students to learn about psychological, social, and systemic dimensions of climate engagement, as well as the various ways that climate change practitioners, scientists, or communicators carry out engagement. Students will interrogate the information-deficit model and the techno-managerial approach predominantly used in climate engagement strategies, they will reflect critically on the trends towards polarization and the possibilities for ‘deep relationalism’ in Canada, and they will learn about and put into practice alternative engagement approaches. The emphasis in this course is placed on students gaining practical skills and competencies around community engagement on climate action. The course is designed to support students in experiential- and peer-learning, with an emphasis on how to bridge climate concern with climate action, how to effectively communicate about climate change with diverse audiences, and how to intervene in real-world solutions. Using a student-led approach, students will have the opportunity to design and trial different forms of communications (e.g. podcast, social media campaigns, white papers) and public engagement approaches (e.g.facilitation skills, group sessions, workshop discussions) on climate change, and connect these activities with real-world climate initiatives for improved public understanding and uptake of climate action. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, the students will be able to achieve the following learning objectives:

  1. Identify, analyse and evaluate the reasons why climate engagement can be challenging.
  2. Analyse and interpret science-policy debates in diverse contexts, and identify barriers and points of leverage where you perceive the climate conversation and approach to engagement is stuck in realizing climate action objectives.
  3. Develop and apply/practice a range of approaches for engaging with diverse audiences, including building skills for active listening and for facilitating conversations on climate action with audiences that have varying perspectives.
  4. Generate engagement processes regarding climate policies that seek to understand and account for local perceptions and which better position climate messaging to align with key concerns, so to support improved uptake of climate action.
  5. Contribute to active debates and enhance capacity to engage in climate change.


Check SSC to see if the course is currently offered and if you meet pre-requisites etc.

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Read a copy of the course syllabus to see reading lists, assignments, grading, and more.



Gail Hochachka

"Recognizing that climate action rests upon the ability to engage whole populations on a shared challenge, this course invites a deep, applied inquiry on the complexities and challenges of climate engagement."