Ran Duan: Communicating climate change in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic

Ran Duan


Communicating climate change in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic


Ran Duan




I am an assistant professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. My research interests span the areas of environmental, science and visual communication. My current work particularly focuses on the use of animation in environmental news, visual communication of wildfire and climate change, risk perception and the implications of these areas for public policy and journalism practice. I have published in leading peer-reviewed journals such as Climatic Change, Public Understanding of Science, Journalism, Environmental Communication, Environment and Behavior. My work has been supported by national and local funding agencies such as the National Geographic Society, Michigan State University's Environmental Science and Policy Program and the Reynolds School's Center for Advanced Media Studies. Please check out my website for more information.

I have worked with undergraduate and graduate students at Michigan State University as a project leader. The project focused on the uses of images in climate change reporting, which later led to a conference paper. In 2019, I worked with a University of Nevada, Reno journalism honors student as a mentor. The student's thesis won the University’s Honors Undergraduate Research Award and later was presented at the American Psychological Association Division 36 Annual Mid-Year Conference.

Project overview

The current global COVIDÔÇÉ19 pandemic brings our attention to the topics of risk perception, uncertainty communication, scientific knowledge and cultural values in times of crisis. These issues have been frequently studied in the social science of climate change communication. Today, the news media have started to discuss the analogy between COVID-19 and climate change, such as the politicization of the two issues, the scope of the damage of the two issues. These discussions powerfully emphasize the importance of learning from the COVID-19 communication lessons in effective climate change communication.

In this project, we will investigate how people understand the analogy between COVID-19 and climate change, and the effect of such risk perceptions on people's behavioral intention toward climate change mitigation and adaptation. The goal is to explore public understanding and engagement of climate change from a health and crisis communication perspective. Results from this study will have broad significance for climate change communication and mitigation efforts. We will review the literature on communicating scientific uncertainty (e.g., exponential growth), the concept of "optimistic bias" and the health belief model in the literature of social psychology and health communication. We will also design, draft, pretest survey questionnaire, conduct online survey data collection and data analysis. At the end, we will work on the manuscript writing and submit the work to a journal for publication.