Five messaging guidelines to help local governments communicate about climate change science, impacts and solutions.
Effective climate communication is essential for the successful execution of municipal climate action plans. In a report written by Climate Access member Don Knapp for local governments, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability USA asserts that understanding an audience's core values and building relationships are key to improving climate communications.
The following is a summary of the five guidelines that ICLEI identifies as critical for engaging the public on climate change:
1. Know your audience
- Identify the right stakeholder groups.
- Understand their motivations for supporting climate action and speak their language.
- Find credible messengers.
- Be clear about what you're asking people to do.
2. Be aware of how values shape beliefs
- Understand how Americans view climate change (i.e. Global Warming's Six Americas)
- Know which messages may conflict or align with your audience's values.
- Highlight climate action initiatives that appeal to a broad audience.
3. Make it personal and immediate
- To increase salience, make climate change local, personal, urgent, visual and tangible.
- Frame climate action as about protecting health, safety, local assets and natural resources.
4. Emphasize local solutions
- Talk more about "no-brainer" climate solutions than climate problems.
- Highlight low-cost, low-risk actions and benefits.
- Build support for reducing emissions by first talking about the need to prepare and adapt.
- Choose the most effective frame for your audience.
5. Talk about climate science in clear, simple terms
- Avoid doom-and-gloom messages.
- Begin with the bottom line: What is climate change? Why we should care?
- Stress what scientists know
- Show climate change visually.
- Remember that in healthy discussion there is room for disagreement.