TRI Field Notes: Exploring Climate Change Communication in Argentina

By Eric Fine, 2015 TRI Fellow in Argentina

What inspires people who have environmental beliefs to take action?  For me, it was coming to work in the Patagonian Andes starting in 2005.  While guiding mountaineering expeditions in the United States, I had gone to different glaciers each year. In South America, I came back to the same glaciers year after year.  Within my first three summers on the glaciers in Argentina, I started to notice them receding.  Local guides told me that the changes in conditions rendered several classic routes no longer safe enough to climb with clients.

After fifteen years in outdoor education, watching Patagonia’s glaciers recede inspired me to explore solutions to climate change.  Despite there being many possible solutions, I found a lack of implementation across the board.  As I searched for ways to promote implementation, I learned that there were people studying climate change communication, attempting to understand public opinion and the impacts of different types of messages and messengers on public and political will.  The field is relatively new and, as I would find out, almost non-existant in Latin America.

Receding glaciers prompted Eric Fine to research the state of climate change communication in Argentina. Here Eric stands inside a crevasse on Cerro Tronador near Bariloche, Argentina.

Receding glaciers prompted Eric Fine to research the state of climate change communication in Argentina. Here Eric stands inside a crevasse on Cerro Tronador near Bariloche, Argentina.

A little over a year ago, I started to ask who was researching climate change communication in Argentina.  Most Argentine scientists and advocates had never heard of the field.  When I explained the methods and results in other countries, one Argentine NGO in particular became interested in studying and developing climate change communication in Argentina.  As a first step, the scientists at Fundación Bariloche suggested I interview Argentine scientists, advocates, government representatives, scholars, and journalists in order to understand the dynamics behind the current state of affairs, and determine which approaches would be most useful in future research.

Thanks to the Tropical Resource Institute Fellowship, the Carpenter-Sperry Fund, and the Jubitz Family Endowment, I have been able to spend the last two months in Argentina conducting interviews and attending multiple events related to climate change.  Both the interviewees and myself are looking forward to the resulting analysis I will be working on in the coming months.

“TRI Field Notes” share the stories of TRI Fellows as they conduct independent summer research throughout the tropics.  The Tropical Resources Institute (TRI) is a center at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  For more information on research and fellowships visit http://environment.yale.edu/tri/