There are lots of resources available on communicating about climate change—sometimes it seems like too many. Of course, that’s a good thing. There’s ample research and expertise to guide us and I see that it’s making for smarter, more compelling, and more effective messages about climate and energy. Still, sometimes, with all the tips and recommendations swirling around, a well-meaning climate communicator can feel a tad overwhelmed.
Happily, ecoAmerica and partners have boiled down the latest and greatest research to a manageable set of guidelines. They give us 13 messaging principles to live by, and, as I’m wont to do, I’ve distilled the list even more.
The top takeaways are nothing new, but good to keep in mind: Keep it personal and say why it matters and balance messages about the problem with hope and optimism about solutions that are ready to go, accessible, and meaningful.
As always, message discipline is critical. As ecoAmerica reminds us (tip #13), “simple messages, repeated often by trusted messengers are powerful…Be consistent, and don’t be afraid of repeating critical points.”
I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why lists like these are so important and worthwhile.
Here are my top 4 (I’ve taken the liberty to combine, paraphrase, and prioritize. The full list follows and you can also find it along with examples and references in ecoAmeria’s handy memo):
Users’ Guide: Climate Messaging
1. Start with people, stay with people. Say why it matters (to you and your audience). Connect with values—family, community, pride, working together for the common good.
2. Use facts wisely. Talk facts not science. You lose people with jargon and too many numbers. One or 2 memorable facts from a trusted source are far more powerful.
3. Make it concrete. Keep language vivid and familiar (wind and solar, not “alternative energy”). Start with personal (what we see at home) and scale up to the global.
4. Focus on solutions. The problem is paralyzing. Inspire and empower with hope and opportunity. Prepare, don’t adapt. Talk about meaningful solutions that are ready to go.
Here’s ecoAmerica’s full list of steps and guidelines:
A great guide to understand how to communicate with people who hold different value systems is “Igniting Inspiration, a persuasion manual for visionaries,” by John Marshall Roberts.
Thanks for the excellent guidelines. May I also suggest a book, ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini, that summarizes research into how we make important choices? It has some good suggestions for moving people toward practical choices that will reduce their carbon footprint.
Perhaps many climate change doubters need visual reports of the sea level rise that is already happening.
Some people don’t read well. Others can’t comprehend 200 page scientific reports or projections 85 years into the future.
Sea level rise to flood Rush Limbaugh’s neighborhood!
Rush Limbaugh, David Koch, Ann Coulter and Donald Trump’s neighborhood in Palm Beach Florida may be under water in a few decades due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. But, they deny climate change is happening. Ask them why their flood insurance is astronomically high.
Snips from Florida media:
Miami lives with impacts of climate change
From saltwater intrusion into the drinking supply to the seasonal tidal flooding on Miami Beach, the city is already living with the impacts of climate change. Feb 09 2014
Water standing for weeks in Miami Beach streets after high tides
Rising sea level is already destroying trees in the Keys
If you own or plan to buy property in Florida, check here to see what areas will be under water and when. Otherwise, you might not be leaving valuable property to your children. http://csc.noaa.gov/slr/viewer/
Property Insurance companies are raising rates and exiting Florida
They aren’t waiting to see whose sea level estimate proves most accurate. They are already jacking up their home and project insurance rates—sometimes by a factor of 10—or are simply exiting the Florida market. http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/01/22/to-see-climate-change-in-florida/
(As a result, property values are declining in vulnerable areas)
Rising Water: New signs of rising sea levels cause concern
Since about 1930, the global average of sea level has risen about 9 or 10 inches.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, and the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact all agree on sea level rise time frames: from 3 to 7 inches by 2030; 9 to 24 inches by 2060; and 3 to 5 feet by 2100. [There are studies that say it will be quicker and higher.]
“The major cause of sea level rise is caused by, thermal expansion — when seawater warms, its volume increases — and melting ice on land, primarily glaciers and ice sheets, which adds more water.” http://thecoastalstar.ning.com/profiles/blogs/rising-water-new-signs-of-rising-sea-levels-cause-concern
No denying climate change here
“It’s past time for us to face reality. South Florida governments have long recognized the dangers associated with climate change.” http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/keyword/climate-change
SE Florida counties are taking action to work out strategies and actions to reduce the impact of a changing climate thru the Regional Climate Change Compact.
They are particularly vulnerable:
Key West has a projected sea level rise of 9-to-24 inches by 2060. [Putting most of it under water.]
Throughout Monroe County – primarily a chain of low islands – 75 percent of hospitals, 65 percent of schools and 71 percent of emergency shelters sit below the 12-inch mark.
Power plants and transmission facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are vulnerable to a 12-inch rise in sea level.
Over the entire region, about $4 billion in taxable property is at risk with 12 inches of sea level rise.
The Florida compact “highlights the need for continued mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions as a means to reduce future sea level rise impacts.” P10 http://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/pdf/Regional%20Climate%20Action%20Plan%20FINAL%20ADA%20Compliant.pdf
(SE Florida is built on limestone that is porous like a sponge. This allows sea water to seep inland to flood low lying areas such as the Miami airport. Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here.)
Rush Limbaugh [The leading climate change denier for his own political and considerable financial gain] lives in Palm Beach, Florida at 1495 N Ocean Blvd. http://gossipextra.com/2012/03/13/rush-limbaugh-palm-beach-house-1272/
By 2040 to 2060, a portion of Rush Limbaugh’s neighborhood will be under water at high tide.
http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/national/future-florida-sea-level-rise-could-flood-parts-of/nTXjn/#cmComments (Palm Beach County is part of the Regional Compact addressing climate change.)
David Koch, Ann Coulter, Donald Trump and coal billionaire Christopher Cline also own houses in flood prone Palm Beach. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Beach,_Florida#Notable_people
What does that mean for South Florida in the next 20 years?
• Lower elevations will flood. Higher elevations will get higher ocean surges.
• It will be very difficult to keep sand on beaches.
• The water table will rise; western communities will be prone to flooding.
• It will be difficult to keep saltwater intrusion from freshwater supplies since Florida is built on limestone as porous as Swiss cheese.
• It will be difficult or impossible to get homeowner’s insurance in flood zones.