Communicating climate change

What is the best way to create written or spoken materials that really inspire people?

Download the pdf

What is the best way to create written or spoken materials that really inspire people?

Language  is absolutely critical to communicating effectively about climate change, and Talking Climate contains a series of guides to effective climate change communication.

Individual words and longer phrases are important – avoiding jargon, and knowing how an audience is likely to respond to particular terms is essential. This guide describes the most effective methods for communicating climate change.

But effective communication is about more than just picking the right words – the way messages are framed, the values they speak to and the narratives that bring the climate change message alive are incredibly powerful. Getting to grips with the growing body of research on how to use framing to effectively target particular attitudes and behaviours is essential.

Many climate change communicators spend a great deal of time countering the arguments of those who do not accept the science of climate change. However, there is now a growing body of evidence that climate change scepticism is not really about climate science – it is about people’s political viewpoints and worldviews, which the science of climate change seems to challenge. This guide describes the social science research that is getting to the bottom of the real reasons for climate scepticism, while this section outlines the key messages from studies of public perceptions of climate change.

The media are an important influence on public attitudes towards climate change, and this guide provides an introduction to media reporting on climate change, while the most effective ways of using images to communicate climate change are outlined here. And our comprehensive list of climate change communication resources available online contains a number of essential resources for creating effective written or spoken materials.

Encouraging sustainable behaviour

There is now a great deal of information available about how to promote sustainable behaviours – but it can be confusing identifying the evidence that really matters.

Download the pdf

There is now a great deal of information available about how to promote sustainable behaviours – but it can be confusing identifying the evidence that really matters.

This comprehensive collection of climate change communication resources provides a clear, straightforward and practical list of the many guides and handbooks that promote sustainable behaviours among individuals and communities, and this section contains an outline of the key findings from studies of public perceptions of climate change.

Talking Climate also contains a series of more focused summaries of research on specific aspects of sustainable behaviour. Targeting social networks is an important but often neglected method of influencing sustainable behaviour. This guide describes the best research on how to use social networks and social norms to encourage not only individuals but groups and communities to engage in more sustainable patterns of behaviour.

The predicted effects of climate change are scary – but there is now a solid body of research that shows that ‘scare tactics’ only work under certain conditions. This guide explains when using the fear of future problems works for motivating sustainable behaviours, and when it doesn’t.

Lots of behaviours do not involve conscious decisions – they are habits, which means they can be tricky to change. But one area of psychological research on how to break bad habits and create new ones provides crucial guidance for targeting behaviours that are not ‘deliberate’.

One strategy for promoting sustainable behaviours is known as ‘social marketing’. Social marketing uses insights from marketing and applies them to pro-social behaviour. This guide explains what social marketing has to offer, but also points out some of the drawbacks of this approach and outlines different strategies that go beyond social marketing. Talking Climate also contains a section focusing specifically on the approach taken by the UK government in attempting to influence sustainable behaviour – based largely on social marketing prinicples.

A new approach that goes beyond social marketing – and is rapidly growing in popularity – starts from the idea that changing behaviours is impossible unless you begin with people’s personal values. All campaigns speak to certain values, and all messages are framed in a particular way. Getting to grips with the right values and frames for promoting sustainable attitudes and behaviours is essential for any climate change communicator.

Communicating climate science

The evidence for climate change is so overwhelming that you might expect the facts to speak for themselves. Unfortunately they don’t – which means that using the most effective methods for communicating climate science is critical.

Download the pdf

The body of scientific evidence showing that the climate is changing due to human activity is so overwhelming that you might expect the facts to speak for themselves. Unfortunately they do not, as some people still do not accept the reality or seriousness of climate change. This means that using the most effective methods of communicating climate science is critical.

One challenge for communicators is that climate science – like any other scientific discipline – will always contain uncertainties. Being honest and open about what scientists do and don’t know about climate change, without undermining the strength of your message, is a real balancing act. Talking Climate contains a guide to communicating uncertainty, a section focusing specifically on communicating uncertainty in IPCC reports, and links to other resources that offer advice on communicating uncertainty in climate science in the most effective way.

Another reason that climate science is so difficult to communicate is that it is complex, and often involves technical terminology and jargon. This guide contains advice on making climate science simple – the best and clearest language to get complex scientific concepts across in an understandable way.

While communicating the science of climate change is an essential component of climate change communication, there is mounting evidence that simply turning up the volume on the scientific facts and figures is not enough to get more people interested and engaged in climate change. Scepticism about the reality and seriousness of climate change is often not based on a lack of scientific knowledge. This guide summarises the social science research that is revealing why some people remain sceptical about climate change despite the strength of the scientific evidence. Talking Climate also offers a roundup of the key messages about public attitudes towards climate change – essential to understand for overcoming scepticism.