Sightline’s Flashcards distill recent thinking and research into quick, memorable messaging recommendations that can be applied to everyday public communications. For those who want to go a step deeper, we’ve compiled some of the research reports that informed our climate communications checklist. If you have come across a relevant study or an article to share, please send it to Anna Fahey, [email protected], and we’ll add it to the compendium.

FrameWorks Institute, Climate Message Project

  • Place global warming in the context of higher-level values, such as responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision, and ingenuity;
  • Action to prevent climate change should be characterized as being about new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence, and caring;
  • Opponents of action should be charged with the reverse of these values — irresponsibility, old thinking, and inefficiency;
  • Simplifying models — analogies or metaphors — help make sense of complex information about the issue (instead of greenhouse-gas effect, FrameWorks recommends talking about the “C02 blanket” or “heat trap”);
  • Gloom-and-doom messages were found to be paralyzing. Solutions should come first;
  • The “scary weather” frame was found to set up the perception that the problem is “out of our control”;
  • There is a disconnect for people between the scale of the problem and small actions like changing a light bulb. It is important to bridge this gap and affirm systemic solutions.

More about this research and about FrameWorks Institute.

Harstad Strategic Research telephone survey of 504 Montana voters (March 2007)

“This poll indicates a conclusive shift in the global warming debate. Montanans have moved from asking ‘is there a problem?’ to ‘what’s the solution?’” — Diego Rivas, Northwest Energy Coalition

“What’s impressive is that majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents each support legislation to address global warming by reducing the overall levels of greenhouse gas pollution. This survey confirms that Montanans clearly recognize the global warming threat and are ready to support meaningful action to address the problem and protect future generations.” — researcher Paul Harstad

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, America Must Take the Lead in New Energy Future (May 9, 2007)

  • Americans want clean energy solutions. In addition to their urgency about energy and global warming, Americans strongly favor mandates for clean energy technologies to address these problems. They see clean cars and fuels, wind and solar power, and cuts in emissions as essential to solving these problems, as well as enhancing the economy.
  • America as leader: The message must be inspirational and build on the strong belief that America can do anything once we make the commitment. Key words: leadership, know-how, can-do spirit, ingenuity, optimism.
  • Freedom and independence: These values are our country’s foundation.Freedom, independence, and self-sufficiency are the essence of what the public believes is our ultimate energy goal. When asked in focus groups, people cited independence and self-sufficiency as the most important objectives in an energy plan.
  • Seize the economic debate: The public believes America is losing ground in the rapidly changing world economy and they strongly conclude that moving to clean, alternative energy technologies will make our economy stronger, create jobs, and save people money. We should take the offensive, not defensive, in the economic debate and advance a message that production of clean, alternative energy will help to restore America as a leader in the world economy, create future jobs, higher incomes, and put us back in the forefront of world economic advancement.
  • The public favors concrete steps that leaders can implement right away, including renewable electricity standards, mileage standards for all cars, carbon caps, and tax credits — incentives to use clean energy.

Research memo.

Center for American Progress, Americans Urgently Want Action on Energy Independence and Global Warming (April 18, 2007):

  • Americans want freedom and self-sufficiency from our energy policies;
  • Americans, in the tradition of our “can-do” spirit, believe we should be leading the world in clean, alternative energy. If the political will exists, they believe we can do anything;
  • Americans want accountability. They want their leaders to show they will do the right thing, put money to good use and act accordingly themselves;
  • They see clean energy as a path to economic growth and new jobs;
  • Democrats, Independents, and Republicans believe the evidence of global warming is now clear and only strengthens the case for immediate action on energy independence;
  • Americans overwhelmingly support vigorous standards for clean, alternative energy technologies and better mileage. They also support a cap and reduction on global warming pollution.

Research memo.

National Wildlife Federation, Survey of US Sportsmen (April 2006)

“America’s sportsmen are saying we have a moral responsibility to confront global warming to protect our children’s future.” — Larry Schweiger, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation

  • Eighty percent of sportsmen believe the United States should be a world leader in addressing global warming;
  • Eighty-six percent of hunters and anglers agree that the federal government should provide incentives for industries to replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar;
  • Eighty-four percent support federal incentives for companies that develop new energy efficient technologies that reduce global warming emissions;
  • Eighty-seven percent support incentives that make conservation more affordable for citizens;
  • Only 15 percent think drilling for more oil and gas in the US — including on public lands — is the best way to address America’s energy needs;
  • Approximately two-thirds (64 percent) said they would favor a candidate who supports strong laws and immediate action to address global warming;
  • Three-quarters (75 percent) agree that Congress should “pass legislation that sets a clear national goal for reducing global warming pollution with mandatory timelines because industry has already had enough time to clean up voluntarily.”

Read the latest report on the National Wildlife Federation web site.

American Environics, Energy Attitudes, “Rising Public Demand for Government Action on Energy Independence Even as Global Warming Remains Low Priority for Voters” (summer 2007)

  • The dramatic increase in media coverage of global warming in 2006 and 2007 has not made global warming a high priority for US voters;
  • Coupling global warming with energy independence, higher gas prices, and national security increases the issue’s saliency.
  • Concerns over higher energy costs could undercut action on energy or global warming;
  • Large public investment in clean energy is more popular than new regulations;
  • Softening concern over taxes, the size of government, and the deficit may provide opening for investment-based strategy.

Read the Environics analysis (PDF) of opinion research on energy and global warming.

Evangelical Environmental Network, Nationwide study shows concerns of evangelical Christians over global warming (February 8, 2006)

  • Overall, three out of four evangelicals tend to support environmental issues such as reducing global warming and protecting wilderness areas from development, including one out of four who tend to support these issues strongly;
  • The main reasons given by those who support these issues strongly was believe that part of God’s command for Christians is to take care of the earth, desire to leave the earth as a place their own children and grandchildren can enjoy, the concern that not enough people take these issues seriously, and the perception that government and business tend to focus too much on money and need to be reminded of their environmental responsibility;
  • A majority of evangelicals believe that a person’s Christian faith should generally encourage them to support environmental issues;
  • While only 19 percent of evangelicals feel they know a lot about climate change, almost two-thirds are either completely or mostly convinced global warming is taking place;
  • Seven out of ten believe global climate change will pose a serious threat to future generations;
  • Sixty-three percent believe the problem is being caused today and we must start addressing it immediately;
  • Even among evangelicals who are political conservatives, over four out of ten believe global warming must be reduced even if there’s a high economic cost.

Christians and climate web site.

Go back: Flashcard No. 2: Climate Communications Checklist

August 29, 2007