Along with the steady stream of sobering news showing us the costs and heartbreak of climate damage, there’s also good news on the climate front. Clean energy solutions are booming. Some of the fossil fuel industry’s tactics to stall solutions are being exposed and public scrutiny of fossil fuel projects is increasingly intense. And, public opinion research shows American voters are increasingly aware of the problem and ready for solutions.
It’s an important time for climate communicators to inspire more active, consistent support for strong policy solutions.
How do we keep our climate and energy messages on winning turf?
Extensive national research by Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, with Harstad Strategic Research (and Sightline), identified three top-performing messages that form a persuasive climate narrative—a set of messages that proves compelling to voters of all political stripes.
It strikes an important balance between a can-do attitude about solutions and the urgency of the threat. Straight talk about accountability for fossil fuel companies as roadblocks to progress—the third part of the message “triangle”—helps us begin to tear down those roadblocks and move forward.
National polling of over 1,200 likely US voters found that:
- Our responsibility to protect our kids drives support for climate action.
- A significant share of respondents had personally had or had a friend or relative who had recently experienced strange or severe weather—and that such experience is linked with support for both climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- Sharing information about fossil fuel industry tactics to block progress helped galvanize support for action.
- It is most effective to reinforce voters’ sense of efficacy with concrete facts about American progress in clean energy solutions.
Our Flashcard video shows you how to use this powerful messaging tool. You can also find the complete messaging guide, with talking points and tips, pivots from common attacks, and facts and examples at climatenarrative.org.
Thanks! And please share this video with climate communicators in your networks!
A simple way to move us quickly to act on climate is to, every day, stop, close our eyes, breathe, and envision the world we want. On Friday, communities and individuals around the world will be doing just that at 10am on Earth Day, to envision our planet healthy and whole, and to connect our hopes and aspirations to the Paris Agreement signing ceremony. I hope you’ll just us for this 1Minute4Earth event. http://Www.oneminuteforearth.org
Thanks for this post and the earth in a blanket one earlier. I have shared them both on FB. The video on the Earth has a fever with the blanket was great. So beautifully illustrated, simple and uncluttered.
Helps create hope and possibility in my mind.
I’m working on building a Field Guide to Climate Crisis (Crisis gets crossed out and HOPE written by hand over it) that will help master gardeners, master naturalists learn about climate impacts by bioregion.
Imagine a website where you can type in your zip code and get information on flora and fauna at risk from climate change, other science and then resources such as Sightline, Climate Solutions, university research etc…
It will be fun to build.
Timothy @ Good Nature Publishing
I’m sorry, but two-thirds of this triangle are counterproductive messages. It’s quite simple–most people are overwhelmed with overhyped crises and threats (especially terrorists coming to get me!!!), amplified by the news media whenever there’s nothing else to talk about; so the threat message is lost in the noise at best. If they do hear it through the noise, the threat message just turns people off because they’ve heard it a thousand times before and they perceive the threat as too distant in time, space, or experience to worry about it.
The villain message is also counterproductive. In Washington state our lovely Republican caucus easily turned “big polluters” into “all of us who drive cars” and quickly short-circuited the villain message. Yes, we should take more responsibility for cleaning up our own footprints, and I think that at some level people already understand this–they feel guilty about flying places, but eat those extra calories anyway.
The only productive part of this triangle is talking about solutions, and we do a mediocre job at this. Instead of invoking guilt or tribal emotions around the word “climate”, words like “renewables” and “clean energy” poll much better. We needn’t even bring up “climate” in the headline or elevator pitch, because there are so many advantages of clean energy beyond climate effects. Talk about how renewables in many cases are already cheaper than fossil fuels, and will continue to get cheaper, just like LEDs and flat-screen TVs. Talk about the hundreds of premature deaths annually from fossil fuel emissions. Talk about energy independence through renewables–wind and solar resources dwarf fossil fuels by orders of magnitude, and they’re plentiful in our state. Sightline did a great article on how much Oregon and Washington spend on fossil fuels, almost all of which flows out of our states. Etc. All of these talking points are less distant than climate change and demonstrate that it is in a state’s, county’s, city’s or household’s own best interest to pursue fossil-free.
A superior list of wrong and right messages is described by Per Espen Stoknes, a Norwegian psychologist and economist, in his book What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming. Please read it.