A new report released by the Deep South Challenge this month recommends increasing the availability of plain-language resources about climate change in both English and te reo Māori, framing scientific information for application to practical decision making, and increasing access to climate change conversations for a wider array of end-users.
A nationwide survey
In late 2015, the Deep South Challenge (DSC) conducted a nationwide survey to get a sense of engagement activities happening in the climate change space in New Zealand. The research, commissioned by the Deep South Challenge and delivered by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, involved surveying organisations involved in a wide array of climate change communication activities. Substantive responses were received from over 100 practitioners, in some cases in their personal rather than organisational capacity.
The DSC has used the survey results to help identify opportunities to enhance and increase climate change conversations and engagement, rather than “reinventing the wheel”. These directly informed the Deep South Challenge Engagement Strategy, approved in January 2016.
An overview of the publicly available survey results has now been published to support other organisations interested in making a contribution to the climate change engagement landscape in New Zealand . This overview provides a national “snapshot” of climate change engagement at the time of the survey. We hope these findings are useful in informing the design of future climate change engagement activity in New Zealand.
The survey found a broad and diverse array of organisations and individuals serving different constituencies in New Zealand and overseas, by carrying out:
research and data collection,
education and experiential learning,
training and certification,
advocacy and community organising,
public dialogue and consensus, and
action on mitigation or adaptation.
more regional-scale and sectoral analysis of climate change impacts and implications;
greater detail around climate change impacts on sea level rise, coastal zones, weather systems, the water cycle and the agriculture sector; and
better integration of the science of climate change with the science of behaviour change.
The Deep South National Science Challenge Impacts and Implications programme has given these research areas a high priority.
Respondents also recommended that climate change engagement should:
Make climate change information more accessible to the public
Increase public receptiveness to climate change information
Improve public understanding of climate change information
Facilitate practical action on mitigation and adaptation.
These areas will be prioritised by the Deep South National Science Challenge Engagement programme (where appropriate within the scope of the Challenge). The engagement team has established work streams focused on public engagement, sector-specific engagement, capacity-building in climate change engagement, and evaluation of our engagement efforts. In addition, funding is available for external parties interested in developing initiatives that deliver on our engagement objectives.
Climate change will impact New Zealand and New Zealanders in many ways. Good decision-making, from an individual to a national scale, requires knowledge of these expected impacts. Research supported by the Deep South Challenge will improve our understanding of climate change science and its impacts on, and implications for, New Zealand over the next 100 years. It will also enhance our ability as a country to make decisions informed by climate change research.
An essential component to responding to climate is that we understand what is happening, how to communicate it, and how we make decisions that enable our communities to adapt. There is an enormous amount of scientific evidence to say what could happen but no crystal ball to tell us when or how climate change will affect infrastructure, economies, natural resources and communities. The Challenge is therefore committed to exploring and building new channels to ensure research findings inform robust decision-making.
 Some respondents provided information on a confidential basis, and this has been withheld from the public report. Neither the partial nor the full data set constitutes a representative sampling of nationwide climate change engagement activity, and all of the findings are indicative rather than conclusive. In particular, for confidentiality reasons, the report does not include much of the detailed, event or organisations-specific feedback that was critical in developing the Engagement Strategy.