CO2Causes a Hole in the Atmosphere”: Using Laypeople’s Conceptions as a Starting Point to Communicate Climate Change

  • Kai Niebert
  • Harald Gropengießer
Conference paper
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Translating public concern for global warming into effective action requires knowledge about the causes and risks of climate change. The aim of this study is a theory-guided analysis of everyday and scientific conceptions of global warming. These conceptions will be the basis for the design of communicating strategies in a separate study.

Framed by the model of educational reconstruction, scientific concepts of global warming were compared with everyday conceptions that were identified in interviews and a re-analysis of empirical studies. The analysis of conceptions of climate change based on the theory of experientialism (Lakoff and Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge To Western Thought, 1999) shows that laypeople and scientists refer to the same schemata: the use of the container-flow schema is omnipresent in conceptions on the global carbon cycle as well as in conceptions of the radiative equilibrium between earth and space. To explain the causes of global warming three principles were found: global warming by (a) an imbalance in the global carbon cycle, (b) man-made carbon dioxide, and (c) natural vs. man-made carbon dioxide. Laypeople explain the processes leading to global warming either through warming by more input or warming by less output.


Carbon dioxide Climate change Communication Education Everyday conceptions Greenhouse effect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Niebert
    • 1
  • Harald Gropengießer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Science EducationLeibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany

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