2021 Climate Communication Award winners

Anne LeitchThe International Assocation for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) are pleased to announce that the 2021 New Directions for Climate Communication Research Fellowship will be awarded to Anne Leitch and Bridget Backhaus of Griffith University, Queensland, Australia for their project: Warming Up: Exploring creative audio production for climate change communication on community radio.

An Honourable mention has also been granted to Solomon Oyeleye and Ifedolapo Ademosu’s proposal to investigate responses to climate communication among urban dwellers in Lagos, Nigeria.

The award will be formally presented at this year’s IAMCR’s Nairobi Virtual Conference to be held July 11-15.

Announcing its decision, the Climate Change Communication Award Selection Committee said:

"The project is designed to contribute to a wider national collaboration between Griffith University and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) working with selected community radio stations, staffed by volunteer non-professionals, to produce a series of podcasts detailing local experiences of climate change across Australia and available for rebroadcasting through the Community Radio Network. After initial training in climate change communication and community journalism participants will be invited to produce a 30-minute podcast on their local situation and responses to it. 

Australia, which has one of the highest rates of C02 emissions in the world and has recently experienced a series of major climate events, from devastating wildfires to unprecedented droughts and floods and the bleaching of the Barrier Reef, offers a particularly relevant location for exploring the multiple impacts of the climate emergency on local communities. Radio remains the most accessible medium in many places, reaching locations with no reliable internet connection. 

The judges were impressed by the project’s commitment to enable and empower local people to place their experience on the record and facilitate their wider circulation in an accessible and engaging form. They took particular note of the ambition to mobilise participation from indigenous communities who have often been on the front line of the adverse impacts of the climate emergency but have enjoyed only limited access to public platforms to record their experiences. 

The researchers’ practice led, creative, and bottom-up approach to communication on the climate emergency aims to bring neglected and marginalised voices into the mainstream of conversation and debate and to develop collaborative ways of working that can be widely employed elsewhere.

On behalf of the judging panel I would like to thank those who submitted proposals for their commitment to developing research that throws new light on the barriers to communicating the nature and scale of the current climate emergency and explores the practical possibilities for intervention and change."

Graham Murdock
Chair of the Selection Committee.

Anne Leitch Bio statement

Anne Leitch is an adjunct in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University and a commissioning editor with Springer Nature (Partnerships and Custom Media). She has a Bachelor of Science (Hons), a Masters in Communication and is finalising a PhD in social science and climate change adaptation. She has more than two decades experience in working in strategic science communication in CSIRO and more recently, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) based at Griffith University. She has a strong background in the science of climate change and adaptation science of developing and implementing communication programs and products about climate change impacts and response strategies. She also has a strong research background in this area having designed and delivered qualitative research project on climate adaptation responses at the community scale. 

Bridget Backhaus Bio statement

Bridget Backhaus is a lecturer in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University. Her research explores the role of community media in social change with a particular focus on issues of voice, listening, and participation. A former community radio practitioner, Bridget has over six years of experience facilitating and conducting research into community media. In 2019, Bridget completed a PhD in Media and Communications, with her research exploring the intersections of participation, voice, listening, and social change in community radio through ethnographic fieldwork conducted across two sites in South India. 

Project Description

Title: Warming Up: Exploring creative audio production for climate change communication on community radio

For the first time in five years, water is now flowing into the Menindi Lakes in inland Australia. The people from nearby Wilcannia—having run out of water the previous year—were there to witness the first trickles that will help restore their community to a new normal. This is just one community and one story of climate change impacts. The Australian landscape and lifestyle are already affected by a changing climate, highlighting the need for urgent action.  

Warming Up is a research project supporting community radio stations by amplifying local stories of climate change and building capacity to engage in meaningful community conversations. Our project offers creative alternatives to the traditional channels and approaches to mediated climate change communication. Australia’s vibrant community radio sector can play a leading role in building community resilience around climate change impacts.  

The IAMCR New Directions for Climate Communication Research Fellowship will support the production of the first episode of a series, focussed on the experiences of Wilcannia River Radio, a First Nations’ community radio station located in the remote town of Wilcannia. Wilcannia is experiencing the effects of climate change with extreme periods of drought disrupting the flow of the local river and summer bringing unbearable heatwaves. Not only is climate change affecting day-to-day life in Wilcannia, it is also having a significant impact on the Barkindji people, for whom the river is an important cultural and spiritual figure. There are stories to be told about the devastating local impacts of climate change, but also of communities’ resilience and adaptation, this phase of Warming Up provides the opportunity to do just that.

Honourable Mention

Solomon OyeleyeThe Selection Committee also granted an honourable mention to Solomon Oyeleye and Ifedolapo Ademosu’s proposal to investigate responses to climate communication among urban dwellers in Lagos, Nigeria. Communities in the Global South are often most exposed to the severest impacts of the climate emergency and least well-resourced to respond but are currently underrepresented in the available research. The proposed project addresses this gap.

About the Award

IAMCR launched its Climate Communication Research Awards in 2014. The New Directions for Climate Communication Research Fellowship is awarded annually as part of IAMCR's policy to green its activities. It received seed funding from a 2014 IAMCR Project Grant. IECA joined the project in 2015. Since 2017 the award has been financed by the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia.

Climate Change Communication Award 2021 Selection Committee

  • Graham Murdock, Chair (Loughborough University, UK)
  • Julie Doyle (University of Brighton, UK)
  • Kerrie Foxwell-Norton (Griffith University Gold Coast Campus, Australia)
  • Tawana Kupe (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Hanna E. Morris (doctoral candidate, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, US)
  • Carrie Packwood Freeman (Georgia State University, US)