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How Communications Science Informs Our Global Discourse on Climate Change

Why do some Americans believe that global warming is happening and others do not? What factors influence a person’s belief in climate change? While most attention in the Climate “debate” is focused on environmental impacts, the communication scientists at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) have been hard at work for years uncovering answers to these and other important questions.

Part of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the YPCCC conducts scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, and the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them.

With the extremely divisive political climate of our country, now is a time of great threat but also great opportunity for action. So why is Yale’s work important? Well, by advancing the science of climate change communication, YPCCC helps governments, advocates, and the media communicate more effectively about complex science—and thereby increases the public’s understanding of real-world climate risks to make more informed decisions, both in local communities and in policy.

At Constructive, we are deeply committed to supporting organizations that address climate change’s many issues and were thrilled when Yale turned to us to rebrand its prestigious Program on Climate Change Communication and partner on digital strategy and website design and development.

With the site’s recent launch (you can read Director Anthony Leiserowitz’s announcement on the site’s launch here), audiences  can nowaccess the YPCCC’s sophisticated science in more digestible pieces. One of Yale’s primary goals in redesigning its website was to highlight the Program’s in-depth reports by giving users key takeaways and data points up front, while offering deeper dives into the research for those audience members who are interested in delving into the science. We also created a hub for Visualizations and Data so that users can quickly access maps, charts, and presentations that previously remained buried in long reports.

With its huge repository of research reports, one of Yale’s biggest challenges with the site redesign was to move away from keeping all of its scientific findings locked in PDFs that visitors may never download or take the time to read. Our goal was to develop a digital-first publishing system that would allow Yale to present its content in an interesting, dynamic manner that also offered a workflow that Yale’s team could easily implement. By creating an html report format, we helped Yale reach their following goals:

  • Scannability: Some of Yale’s users will download a full report and read it cover to cover, but many of their users just want top level takeaways. With the html report style we designed for Yale, users are offered the report summary, key findings, statistics, and a table of contents with each chapter accessible with one click. They may then decide to read the full article online or download the PDF.
  • Searchability: With their content locked up in PDFs, Yale’s old site wasn’t allowing for users to search keywords in order to find the data they were looking for. Yale’s new html reports allow for full searchability throughout the data so users can find exactly what they’re looking for. And, to add searchability to the backlog of PDF reports Yale has, we installed SearchWP – a WordPress plugin that scans PDF content in a website search.
  • Analytics: Previous to Yale’s new digital first publishing platform, the only analytics they had on their users was how many downloads each PDF report was receiving. With their new HTML reports, they now have access to a multitude of various analytical data on their users with what they are reading and what sorts of content they are interested in.
  • Workflow: It was important for Yale that the CMS we developed wouldn’t be cumbersome for their content development process. Our developers made sure to make the templates easy for admins to enter and format content so that their process wouldn’t overload Yale’s small but mighty team.

(If you’d like to learn more about best practices for online reports, check out our insights on HTML-first publishing and PDF-first publishing.)

Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication is developing high-level materials for the scientific, political and lay audience. They are helping Americans understand what factors place folks on either side of this bipartisan issue, and making policy makers and advocates better equipped to communicate about climate change more effectively. At Constructive, it’s our mission to help our clients like Yale achieve greater impact, and we are excited to have helped the YPCCC advance their mission to help the world communicate climate science issues more effectively, and build the public and political will for effective climate action.

Interested to learn more? Get a closer look at our work with Yale with our project case study, or get in touch!

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