Communicating environmental issues

Organisation of exhibitions.

Organisation of exhibitions. Forest Service archive.

Broadcasting news about science, technology but more about environmental issues and especially for unsustainable practices that presented in recent decades, may have a positive impact on public beliefs. But a series of conditions must also be met.

For USA Seyranian et al. (2015) and for Australia Kolandai-Matchett (2009) showed that the impact of this news on public opinion depends on the type and popularity of the media and the type and details of the media content. Where specific objectives pursued awareness on environmental issues,  a first important step is to is to reach trust and understanding between stakeholders. To this end, it is crucial to select the appropriate communication tools, to develop a common ground and a plain language of communication. For example photographs of people facing sever direct effects of climate change, can create an emotional connection to what may otherwise be viewed as a natural problem (Findlay 2020).These are becoming more and more necessary as the environmental crisis presents increasing complexity and interconnections at every level and aspect. Thus, the media, whether “traditional” or “new”, can contribute positively to public perceptions and ultimately promote environmental policies.

Video presenting reforestation process

Video presenting reforestation process.

Beyond the selection of the the appropriate tools and strategies, it is essential to bear in mind that environmental issues demand scientific and technical knowledge in order to provide valid and timely information. Furthermore, the appropriate scientific and technical training of journalists facilitates the cooperation with experts in environmental issues, in order to achieve the widest possible information of the public. However, a research carried out in Australia in 2009 by Kolan dai-Matchett showed that only a small number of journalists covering environmental issues have the necessary knowledge and background and this is, perhaps, the main reason why there is a lack of environmental news reports. Focusing on communicating forest research. As regards Greece, Skamnakis and Kostarella (2018) report that the number of environmental issues raised by the media is limited.

If this is the case for journalists and the media, experts also need to make their way, by identifing the most important issues that must reach the general public. Focusing on forest science, the number of journalists and media outlets who invest the time and resources for in-depth research – which is needed to write about complex issues such as science – is decreasing  (IUFRO News, Volume 49, Issue 9, 2020). Communicators can support researchers to break down the complexity of their messages and get their information to their audiences. A recent example of such an effort is a report prepared by the Ministerial Conference for European Forests (Forest Europe), entitled «Adaptation to climate change in sustainable forest management in Europe.” The report clearly depicts the need for a constant flow of information to the public about the impact of climate change on forests, but also stress the need for a broad dissemination about how Europeans foresters react to climate change and how they prepare the forests to prevent future damages. Background social studies may also contribute substantially to an effective communication strategy. For example in Italy Carrus et al. (2020) after conducting a research funded by the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology,  found that the public overestimates the presence of forests, something that may enhance a trend of underestimation of the needs for forest conservation.


Carrus, G., A. Panno, J. Aragones, M. Marchetti, R. Motta, G. Tonon and G. Sanesi 2020. Public perceptions of forests across Italy: an exploratory national survey. iForest – Biogeosciences and Forestry 13: 323-328.

Findlay, Alyssa. 2020. Documenting climate change. Nature Climate Change. 10: 882-887.

FOREST EUROPE 2020. Adaptation to Climate Change in Sustainable Forest Management in Europe, Liaison Unit Bratislava, Zvolen, 2020.

IUFRO, 2020. IUFRO News, Volume 49, Issue 9, 2020 (https://www.iufro.org/publications/news/electronic-news/io-news-2009/).

Kolandai-Matchett K. 2009. Improving news media communication of sustainability and the environment: an exploration of approaches. Phd thesis. University of Canterbury.

Seyranian, V., G. M. Sinatra and M. S. Polikoff. 2015. Comparing communication strategies for reducing residential water consumption. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 41:81-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.11.009.

Skamnakis, A. and I. Kostarella. 2018. “Environmental journalism and local media” in Georgiakakis, P., et al. Environmental responsibility, prevention and restoration Heraklion, University of Crete Press.