Enhancing Climate Action in Central and South America: The Role of Social Diversity in IPCC Outreach
article written by Estefanía Quenta
21.12.23 | 03:12

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports play a pivotal role in shaping global climate policies. However, the effectiveness of its outreach efforts in Central and South America remains a critical question. In this context, I believe that including the rich social diversity in IPCC outreach for Central and South America is essential for meaningful climate change communication and action.

Background and History

Established 35 years ago by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the IPCC has delivered six Assessment Reports. The core objective is to provide policymakers worldwide with comprehensive updates on the physical science basis of climate change, impacts, and potential responses1. The latest report (AR6) underscores how human activities are responsible for the changes in the Earth’s climate system and calls for urgent actions to reduce greenhouse emissions.

IPCC reports, crafted by thousands of global contributors, are one of the most valuable documents on climate change for policymakers and society. This underscores the critical need for effective climate change communication, particularly in vulnerable regions, as an essential component for prompt action in adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions.

Climate Change Perceptions in Latin America

Central and South America have shown increasing warming trends, leading to extreme climatic events and negatively impacting the region by worsening the problems of poverty, health, water access, and food. Inadequate governance, particularly in low-income countries, heightens vulnerability to climate change risk in the region3. Moreover, climate change perceptions, ranging from 42% to 87% across 18 Latin American countries4, impact climate change actions. Despite 35 years since the IPCC’s inception, a substantial portion of the population does not believe that climate change exists in Latin America. Effective climate change communication is crucial in the region to raise awareness about climate change and its impacts, fostering urgent actions for climate change adaptation.

How can climate change communication be improved in Central and South America, given the diversity in environmental landscapes, society, and cultures5? I believe that the inclusion of high social diversity is essential for effective climate change communication and driving meaningful action.

To date, the IPCC calendar has carried out 57 events to spread the latest report (AR6), with only six events dedicated to Central and South America. While there have been positive steps to include civilians and society members, there is a pressing need for increased efforts to engage the diverse society more fully. In this context, involving society means active participation, encouraging individuals to raise their voices in the events, and facilitating their participation in information dissemination.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) also highlights the importance of empowering all members of society to engage in climate action, through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues6.

Social Diversity Inclusion: Activists and Organizations

In Central and South America, the inclusion of the society and its diversity is complex but essential. Initiatives should target those members already taking powerful actions for social change, such as environmental and human rights activists, environmental organizations, and local and indigenous communities. Additionally, the inclusion of social diversity demands changes in language and visual communication for effective climate change communication.

Just as Greta Thunberg has had a strong impact on society worldwide7, activist groups and youth movements can enhance climate change communication in Central and South America. Unfortunately, many activists face risks9, creating an image that activism is dangerous. This may be why such groups are not included in IPCC outreach events in Latin America. However, I believe that the inclusion of these movements is key to improving climate change communication. Based on previous training on the IPCC process, activists could properly spread climate change information as they already might be aware of the importance of the IPCC as a core base for governments to take climate change action8. Their inclusion can not only facilitate dialogue among activists, governments, and the private sector but also represent the voices of many cultures and minority groups, e.g., local communities, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, youth, LGBTIQ, and women. This inclusion is an opportunity to enrich social diversity in Central and South America.

Organizations with members from various scientific, cultural, and disciplinary backgrounds can also play a crucial role in disseminating IPCC information. For instance, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)10 of UNESCO is currently composed of 9,695 members worldwide and about 1,829 members from Central and South America that might support IPCC outreach and public awareness on climate change in the region. As a volunteer and OWSD member, I’ve shared IPCC information on mountains, water, and climate change to inspire care for freshwater ecosystems. These activities highlight the broader societal and environmental impact of scientific contributions. My outreach activities were very rewarding experiences as they made me feel useful for the benefit of society and the environment, reminding me that the science I produce serves not only to fill a scientific knowledge gap but also to contribute to minimizing our current environmental crisis.

Visual Communication and Language Adaptation

Climate change communication is challenging 11, especially when incorporating social diversity. Adapting climate science information to different audiences is important12. For instance, local and indigenous communities may perceive climate changes differently13,14, emphasizing the importance of bridging local perceptions with scientific information for effective communication.

Language adaptation, such as switching from English to Spanish in IPCC outreach for Central and Latin America, is positive, but efforts are needed for other native languages due to the region’s numerous indigenous languages. Collaborative efforts are needed by civil society, local organizations, activism movements, and governments. Additionally, IPPC information must be tailored to non-scientific audiences, showcasing relevant cases on climate change impacts in South and Central America and involving directly affected individuals (Figure 1).

Figure1: Lake Poopó in Bolivia disappeared in 2015, a) Uru with his boat on Lake Poopó. Urus are one of the most ancient cultures in the Americas. Credits: Sebastián Ochoa, Sputnik, available on this website: https://sputniknews.lat/20210907/la-sequia-del-lago-poopo-en-bolivia-amenaza-a-un-milenario-pueblo-indigena–fotos-1115796229.html. b-c) Lake Poopó in 2013 and 2016. Credits: NASA Earth Observatory, Landsat from the U.S. Geological Survey, Jesse Allen and Kathryn Hansen. 

While IPCC report authors must maintain scientific accuracy, presenting figures with complexity requires specialists for interpretation15. Communicating figures regarding predictions and uncertainties is very important for public trust,17. Therefore, efforts should extend beyond authors, with policymakers and/or those working closely with them needing basic training in figure interpretation and science dissemination. Given that IPCC authors volunteer their time15, expecting them to handle all the communication efforts alone is unrealistic.

Forging a Path Ahead: A Call for Comprehensive IPCC Outreach

To conclude, I strongly believe that IPCC outreach in Central and South America must consider the region’s social diversity and inherent complexity. Engaging additional social groups and enhancing visual and language elements are vital for disseminating climate change information and bolstering climate action. This also calls for active societal participation to share and spread climate change information, fostering heightened social awareness. IPCC reports are the result of tireless efforts of thousands of authors and expert reviewers. Similarly, achieving impactful IPCC outreach requires an equivalent level of dedication, supported by active social participation.


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Quenta-Herrera, E. (2023). Enhancing Climate Action in Central and South America: The Role of Social Diversity in IPCC Outreach. Mountain Research Initiative – MRI Mountains Blog. https://www.mountainresearchinitiative.org/news-content/enhancing-climate-action-in-central-and-south-america-the-role-of-social-diversity-in-ipcc-outreach

Cover image by Estefanía Quenta