Highlights from the Hub

Highlights from the Hub

As Director of Research and Content at Climate Access, I have the pleasure of tracking the latest and greatest research related to climate communications and public engagement. As we enter a new year, I have selected not-to-miss resources from 2015 to help shape your outreach efforts over the next 12 months. Three trends emerged from this key research that echo the advice we regularly deliver at Climate Access: Focus on solutions, make it personal and show the concrete benefits of climate action.

1. The Preparation Frame
Climate Access’ most recent communications and engagement guide provides recommendations on how to break the manufactured uncertainty debate with a focus on climate impacts and solutions.

Insight to Apply:
Rather than arguing about scientific certainty, use a preparation frame to focus on local and current climate impacts and what can be done to reduce the risk to communities. The preparation frame moves beyond the question of “should we act” by emphasizing the benefits of preparing for impacts now instead of waiting until it’s too costly, or too late, to act.

2. Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans
ecoAmerica’s messaging report shares tested language that connects climate change to mainstream American values and concerns, including narratives tailored to people of faith, higher education, health, communities, and business.

Insight to Apply:
Instead of doom and gloom messages, focus on hope and inspiration to paint a visual of what climate solutions look like, such as a traffic-free commute.  Positive framing about “locally-made energy from the wind and the sun” promotes the personal benefits of clean energy and makes them feel tangible and accessible.

3. Making the Case: Winning Messaging for Energy Efficiency
One of Resource Media’s latest guides offers recommendations for crafting messages that leverage Americans’ positive opinions of energy efficiency and build increased support for effective policies and programs.

Insight to Apply:
Share stories of real people who have invested in energy efficiency and provide examples of the concrete benefits, such as the costs they’ve saved. Illustrate these narratives with authentic photos, rather than stock images, that show community members improving the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses.

4. What does it take to foster public engagement on climate change?
The Pacific Centre for Climate Solutions offers candid advice on what’s worked and what hasn’t for climate social mobilization campaigns, from digital media to city-wide conversations and grassroots organizing.

Insight to Apply:
Identify shared values to establish common ground and relate information on a local and personal level to make it more meaningful. Depending on your audience, leading with climate change isn’t always necessary, but it shouldn’t be hidden either. Since many people can get behind positive action, consider a ratio of 75% solutions to 25% problems when guiding climate discussions.

5. Seven key frames for a paradigm shift
Climate Outreach’s report proposes an update to climate change framing around seven key dimensions of the issue in order to include more people, highlight holistic solutions, spark conversations, and differentiate climate change from environmentalism.

Insight to Apply:
Climate change is not merely another environmental issue, but something that affects every aspect of our lives. In order to combat fatalism and climate “fatigue” that hinders action, a new framing that embraces the different elements of human experience (science, law, economy, technology, democracy, culture, and behavior) can trigger a sense of urgency and interest in integrated solutions.

6. Communicating climate politics
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) conducted focus groups looking at media coverage of climate change politics and found that almost none of the coverage resonated with people.

Insight to Apply:
Success stories about climate politics make people feel optimistic and creates a sense of efficacy, especially if the stories are local and offer concrete examples of the connection between individual and collective action. Telling stories of how people are participating in climate politics is more motivating than simply telling people to act.

The Climate Action Network Canada survey of Ontarians explores carbon pricing and cap and trade narratives and frames based on audiences’ level of concern about climate change.
Insight to Apply:
Use a “we’re all in this together” frame to send the message that carbon pricing is a fair effort to solve climate change when everyone pitches in to take action. A personal responsibility narrative to convey the benefits of cap and trade connects individual behavior change to reduce pollution with ways to ensure companies take the same level of responsibility.

A focus on solutions doesn’t mean we need to avoid talking about climate impacts. Rather, it’s an opportunity to illustrate how carbon pricing, renewables, and energy efficiency can deliver economic benefits and healthy communities. By making impacts as well as solutions personally relevant, communicators can help audiences understand how climate change will affect them directly and discover the available options to make a difference at a local level. Communicating about the benefits of these action, specifically concrete examples such as cost savings and health, underscores why individuals should bother to act.

See the not-to-miss 2015 messaging and public engagement collection and check out the Resource Hub for more research and guidance on climate change communications, behavior change and public opinion. 


Photo via (cc) pixabay user condesign