Charting the path for climate communicators in 2018

While 2017 brought with it a new administration staffed by anti-science climate deniers along with devastating climate-fueled hurricanes, floods and wildfires, it was also the year we took to the streets to raise a collective voice against climate injustice as part of the People’s Climate March and cities across the country showed that local action is possible by making commitments to 100% renewable energy. Given the tumultuous events of the past year, how can climate leaders remain optimistic in 2018 and strengthen support for equitable low-carbon solutions?


1. Build a more inclusive movement through collaboration
As frontline communities continue to face disproportionate impacts from fossil fuel industry pollution and extreme weather, justice and equity must be at the heart of the climate movement’s engagement efforts for real progress to be made. By forging relationships across issue areas and sectors, organizations are beginning to break down the silos that have long divided the environmental movement, yet there’s more work to be done. Through strategic dialogue and partnerships, climate leaders have the opportunity to identify common concerns, shared values, and opportunities for equitable solutions. The continued expansion of the field means recognizing the urgency of the issue for those on the frontlines, forming multi-stakeholder alliances at the outset of a campaign before key decisions have been formulated, and making room for new strategies grounded in community concerns.


2. Shine a light on solutions
The silver lining of our current federal policy vacuum is the increased momentum toward solutions at the municipal level, as local governments across the country step up to the plate to reduce emissions and prepare communities for climate impacts. Despite deep political divisions, clean energy is a winner across party lines, with 83% of Americans in support of increased renewable energy sources. This overwhelming support may be driven by the fact that more people than ever are concerned about climate change and consider it a serious threat. Even with these promising public opinion trends, climate change remains a low priority and many people aren’t clear on how we transition away from fossil fuels and how urgent the need is to build resilient communities. By showcasing examples of how the energy transition is already underway and making a difference for local communities, especially those on the frontlines, climate leaders can demonstrate that solutions are available here and now.


3. Make climate change personal through stories and visuals
Fostering hope in the face of such a complex, global issue like climate change requires the use of narratives and visuals that allow audiences to see the benefits of taking action and their role in moving things forward. Storytelling is a critical tool for conveying the values and emotions that shape how people process information. By sharing success stories that focus on how ordinary people are helping to advance climate solutions, communicators can provide memorable examples that help individuals see the broader context and consider their own role in collective action. Given that humans are largely visual learners, imagery is also a key component for connecting with audiences. Visuals depicting technical information, in particular, can be difficult for non-scientists to understand. The MADE principle (Message, Audience, Design, Evaluation) offers communicators guidelines that ensure climate visuals impart a clear message, are appropriate for the intended audience, use evidence-based design principles, and are tested. Together, carefully crafted stories and visuals have the power to inspire action.


Facing the year ahead, the climate movement is well-positioned to grow stronger through collaborative efforts to increase equity and inclusivity, amplify local progress, and highlight the benefits of climate solutions through compelling stories and visuals.


Check out these related resources:
Climate Justice Narrative
Stakeholder Engagement Best Practices
5 Tips for Messaging Clean Energy
Storytelling for effective policy advocacy
Visualizing Climate Impacts and Solutions
Seven principles for visual climate change communication


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