As Moser and Dilling in "Creating a Climate for Change" (2007) point out, climate change specifically has many characteristics that make it difficult to understand and communicate. This seems also true for the concept of sustainability.
They explain that “…the inherent natural characteristics and deep societal roots of climate change stack the deck against the issue being recognized as an urgent and actionable problem.”(Moser & Dilling, 2007, p. 8).
Moser and Dilling discuss some of the most common barriers to effectively communicating about climate change:
1. Uncertain science as a political battlefield
2. Media practices and trends (e.g., the need for media balance and “objectivity”)
3. Inappropriate frames or mental models
4. Cultural barriers
5. Alarmism and other ineffective ways to create urgency
Ungar in Moser and Dilling, like other researchers in this field, point to the need for bridging metaphors to help the public understand the abstract and complex science of climate change and other environmental issues in a language and context that they can understand. Ungar says that the “…key to favorable bridging metaphors is to provide the resources for lay theorizing. If a popular culture template affords an appropriable theory, an ‘object to think with’ or that can be ‘played with’—as in Freudian analysis of dreams—it has the capacity to go beyond the scientific domain and to capture the imagination of the public at large….[t]his is underscored by evidence indicating that people learn more from other individuals than from any other source of information…it is conversational presence, encompassing things like talk radio and informal talk related to mundane practices, rather than media coverage per se, that can put an issue in the air and let it acquire a life of it (sic) own”(Moser & Dilling, 2007, p. 83).