The impact of frames highlighting coastal flooding
in the USA on climate change beliefs
Received: 3 November 2017 /Accepted: 12 January 2018 / Published online: 8 February 2018
Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract There is a pressing need to find ways to communicate information about climate
change effectively and in terms that resonate with diverse audiences. We conducted a survey-
experiment to evaluate how textual and visual frames that highlight coastal flooding in two
major US cities as a result of future sea level rise shape individuals’ perceptions about the
effects on coastal communities, concern for these places, and belief in climate change’s
existence. We build on extant literature by focusing on the impact of an understudied frame
using animated maps that illustrate future flooding that will occur as global temperatures rise.
We find that exposure to such messages increases perceptions that sea level rise will have
negative impacts on coastal communities, concern for these communities, and belief in climate
Average temperatures are currently rising at a pace not seen before in the past 1300 years, and
most of this climate change is likely human-induced (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report 2014).
The US public, however, remains sharply divided along partisan and ideological lines over
both the existence of climate change and its anthropogenic causes, and therefore the efficacy of
policies that would address this issue (Bolsen et al. 2015; McCright and Dunlap 2011;Palm
et al. 2017). The lack of public consensus obstructs the development and implementation of
policies that would address climate change (Druckman 2015). If the USA is to respond
promptly and effectively to this environmental risk within its democratic mode of decision-
making, it will be important to identify effective communications that resonate with diverse
audiences so that a consensus can be developed.
Climatic Change (2018) 147:359–368
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-
2143-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Toby Bolsen
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA