Climate stories: why do climate scientists and sceptical voices participate in the climate debate?

Produced as part of the Managing climate risks and uncertainties and strengthening climate services CCCEP research programme theme

Public perceptions of a polarised climate debate predominantly frame the key actors as climate scientists (CSs) versus sceptical voices (SVs); however it is unclear why CSs and SVs choose to participate in this hostile and antagonistic public battle. This research uses a narrative interview approach to better understand the underlying rationales behind 22 CSs and SVs engagement in the climate debate. It focuses in particular on potential overlaps between previously polarised individuals as well as each actor’s ability to be critically self-reflexive about their own opinions about climate change, as well as of the opinions of those who hold different views. Several overlapping rationales are identified such as a sense of duty to publicly engage, agreement that complete certainty about the complex assemblage of climate change is an unattainable prospect, and that political factors are a key topic of interest in the climate debate. The paper concludes that a focus on potential overlaps in perceptions and rationales as well as the ability to be critically self-reflexive may encourage constructive discussion even amongst actors who had previously engaged in purposefully antagonistic exchange.