I will be teaching a new undergraduate course in climate change communication at DePaul University in the winter quarter. The course is part of the university minors in Environmental Communication and Climate Change Science and Policy.

If you are an instructor at another university, or a student interested in enrolling, please feel free to contact me with any questions. The syllabus is below.

JOUR 311 / CMNS 363: Climate Change Communication

DePaul University, College of Communication

Section 201 / 501, Class 2504 / 25225, Winter Quarter 2018

Room 314 Arts and Letters Hall, Lincoln Park Campus, Monday / Wednesday 2:40 to 4:10 p.m.

Instructor: Dr. Jill Hopke, Assistant Professor of Journalism

Contact: jhopke@depaul.edu (I strive to respond to emails within one business day, excluding weekends); 312-362-7641 (office)

Office location: 1123 Daley, 14 E. Jackson, Loop Campus

Office hours: Mondays 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Wednesdays 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. in my Loop office; directly following class in the LPC (and by email appointment)

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillhopke

Course Description

Individuals make up their minds on climate change, energy development, and other science of pressing public policy importance through a complex set of factors: values, demographics, political ideology, and so on. Journalists, strategic communicators, scientists, and policy analysts need to be able to communicate effectively with diverse public audiences on climate and energy topics. This course is oriented from a science communication perspective and draws on social scientific research on communicating on climate change and energy issues. We will take a human perspective on climate issues and focuses on the social, political and cultural aspects of climate change. The course covers best practices for promoting and facilitating public dialogue on climate change policy and global energy systems. Topics covered include: climate change public opinion and knowledge, media portrayals of climate change and its societal effects, climate skepticism and denial, psychological factors that contribute to values and beliefs on climate science, journalism and covering climate issues, framing and developing narratives on climate impacts, and climate change in popular culture. Students will conduct original research to analyze and evaluate climate change communication. For the final project, students have the option of completing a major journalistic reporting project, designing an advocacy or marketing campaign, or conducting a research project.

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Explain the function of communication in shaping attitudes, values, practices and policy on climate change and energy issues in the United States and internationally;
  • Understand the role of worldviews, perceptions, and beliefs in shaping public opinion on climate change and energy development;
  • Understand the roots of climate denialism in a U.S. political context and internationally;
  • Identify and evaluate mechanisms for communicating on climate science and energy issues; and
  • Identify and evaluate rhetoric and visual communication generated, and used by, those communicating about climate change and energy topics.


This course will be based primarily on a curated list of readings available for each weekly module through the course D2L site.

Recommended text (if you don’t come to the class with a solid foundation in the science of climate change, please read this brief book):

  • Maslin, M. (2014). Climate change: A very short introduction (third edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grading and Assignments

The conventional 10-point letter-grade scale will be used. The specific grading scale follows the recommendation of the College of Communication: A (93-100), A- (90-92), B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C- (70-72), D (60-69), F (≤ 59).

Late work is not accepted. All assignments will be turned-in via the class D2L site.

10% of your grade comes from participation. This includes in-class participation, attendance and active engagement in our shared learning community. This includes in-class activities and discussions, as well as keeping-up with course material and updates on the d2l site.

10% of your grade comes from discussion leadership. Once in the quarter you will be responsible to be a discussion leader (in groups of two students). When you are assigned to be discussion leader, you will be expected to provide a 1 to 2-page individual double-spaced summary of the class period’s readings in ADVANCE of class via d2l. The reading summaries will be shared with the class under the week’s “content” module on d2l.

Reading summaries should be turned-in via the d2l “submissions” folder for that week by 11:59 p.m. the day BEFORE your assigned discussion leadership slot. So, if you are discussion leader for a Wednesday class, your reading summary is due at the end of the day Tuesday.

Working with your partner you will prepare 3 to 5 discussion questions on the readings and lead the class in a discussion, with my guidance, on the readings. You are encouraged to consult with me on your discussion topics and the reading’s themes in advance of your assigned discussion leadership class period.

25% of your grade comes from the in-class midterm exam. The exam will include multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. Midterm is in week 6 of the quarter.

15% of your grade comes from an annotated bibliography and final project proposal. Your annotated bibliography will include at least 10 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources related to your final research paper, or project (e.g. a journalistic piece of major reporting, the design of an advocacy campaign), topic. You will include a list of the citations in APA format. For each entry, you will provide an approximately 150-word summary of the citation in your own words. In addition, you will turn in a short two-page double-spaced research paper, or project, proposal outlining your topic, thesis statement and major arguments. You may also include an outline.

40% of your grade comes from the final research paper, or major project. You will write a research paper, or conduct and report on a major project, on some aspect of climate change communication or energy issue (e.g. in-depth piece of original journalistic reporting, design an advocacy or marketing campaign). If you choose the major project final option it is your responsibility to meet with me to agree upon project guidelines that meets an equivalent workload as the research paper or journalistic reporting option.

The research paper option should be a double-spaced, 7 to 10 pages paper (plus references, not included in the page count), well-written and proof-read for grammatical and spelling errors and including at least 10 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources (building on your annotated bibliography), plus any additional reputable sources (e.g. non-partisan think tanks, nonprofit organizations, the Pew Research Center, George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication).

The journalistic reporting project option should be an in-depth piece of original reporting (1,000 words), based on in-person interviews (minimum four, including at least one expert), integrating a basic data visualization appropriate to your topic, and the integration of relevant peer-reviewed research. You should pitch your story idea to one of the campus media outlets to seek publication (not required to be published by the end of the quarter, just evidence you are seeking out publication).

Weekly Topics and Readings

Week 1: Introduction to Science Communication and Climate Change Communication
  • Hulme, M. (2009). The Social Meaning of Climate. Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (pp. 1-34). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Painter, J. (2013). When Uncertainty is Certain. Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty (pp. 11-24). Oxford, UK: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
  • Corner, A. & Clarke, J. (2017). Is Climate Change Different? Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement (pp. 15-34). London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Week 2: Worldviews, Politics, and Perceptions of Climate Science
Week 3: The Public Sphere and Communication Contests over Energy Development

No class meeting on Monday, January 15 to observe MLK Day.

Week 4: Science Journalism on Climate Change
Week 5: Climate Science News Audiences and Theories of Media Effects
Week 6: In-class Midterm Exam

No new readings. Study for the midterm exam to be held in class Wednesday, February 7.

Week 7: Politicization and Climate Denial
Week 8: Climate Change in Popular Culture and Developing New Climate Narratives
  • Corner, A. & Clarke, J. (2017). Five Principles and a Model for Public Engagement. Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement (pp. 107-126). London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Poppleton, K. et al. (2017). Climate Convenings Toolkit. Climate Generation. PDF on d2l.
  • Kiehl, J. T. (2016). Facing Our Fears Associated with Climate Change. Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future (pp. 28-42). New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Svoboda, M. (2017, August 29). The ever-inconvenient Gore. Yale Climate Connections. Available at: https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2017/08/the-ever-inconvenient-gore/

Annotated bibliography and final project proposal due by 11:59 p.m. Monday, February 19 via d2l “submissions” folder.

Week 9: Visual Communication on Climate Impacts and Solutions
  • Kiehl, J. T. (2016). How Images Facilitate Transformation. Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future (pp. 45-56). New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Sheppard, S. R. J. (2012). Limited Vision: Understanding Perceptual Problems with Climate Change. Visualizing Climate Change: A Guide to Visual Communication of Climate Change and Developing Local Solutions (pp. 21-40). New York: Earthscan, Routledge.
  • Resource Media. (2016). What They See Matters: Visual Communication Takeaways from Audience Research and Tips for Testing Images. Available at: http://www.climateadvocacylab.org/system/files/What-They-See-Matters-Image-Testing-Guide.pdf
  • Corner, A. et al. (2016). Climate Visuals: Seven Principles for Visual Climate Change Communication (based on international social research). Climate Outreach. Available at: http://climateoutreach.org/resources/visual-climate-change-communication/
Week 10: Advocacy and Communicating Global Climate Action
Week 11: Role of Media, Scientific Experts, Policymakers, and Academic Institutions and Course Wrap-up

FINAL PROJECTS DUE by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 13: Turn in final projects via D2L submissions folder by 11:59 p.m. No late work will be accepted.