The Ethics of Communicating Climate Change: Insights from Aristotle

Wednesday 19 August 2015, 6.00pm - 7.30pm

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Law School Foyer Level 2, Sydney Law School University of Sydney


Discovering how Aristotle can help climate scientists communicate ethically & effectively.

The field of climate change communication (CCC) has recently emerged to address the gap between scientific knowledge of climate change and public motivation to respond. Psychologists in this field have offered helpful strategies for improving the effectiveness of CCC, but their empirical research tends to neglect the ethics of CCC.

Philosophers have been more attentive to ethical communication, but they tend to focus on its cognitive dimensions and minimize the affective and social dimensions that contribute to effectiveness. As a result, studies that address ethics and effectiveness in tandem are lacking.

This paper (based on work that I am co-authoring with Michael Lamb) fills this gap by recovering insights from Aristotle’s Rhetoric.  By situating communication within an ethical relationship between speaker and auditor, emphasizing the agency and judgment of auditors, and highlighting ways to build trust, Aristotle offers an art of rhetoric that can help climate scientists communicate both ethically and effectively, and that more generally provides insights as to the relationship between expertise and democracy.

Melissa Lane joined the Department of Politics at Princeton University in 2009, where she is now Class of 1943 Professor of Politics and Associate Chair of the Department of Politics, as well as an Associated Faculty member in the Departments of Classics and of Philosophy. Before coming to Princeton, Professor Lane taught at the University of Cambridge, where she received an M.Phil. and PhD in Philosophy and studied as a Marshall  and Truman Scholar and as the Mary Isabel Sibley Fellow of Phi Beta Kappa. She also holds an A.Bsumma cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard University.


Professor Duncan Ivison, Professor of Political Philosophy, Currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney