Green Alliance Sees Communication Shift as Climate Change Solution

Sustainable life media logo2 The Green Alliance recently released, From Hot Air to Happy Endings, their report which provides a guide for those looking to build public support for climate change solutions. Some of the findings echo ecoAmerica's own research (here, here and here) – Americans don't respond well to simple facts and information. Framing the issue around Americans' values instead of the environment is a much more successful tactic.

Posted Feb. 18, 2010
By Sustainable Life Media

The Green Alliance launched its new report last week, From Hot Air to Happy Endings,
which outlines how to inspire public support for a low-carbon society. 
If governments shift the way they communicate about climate change,
perhaps the outcome may change as well. 

The report authors believe that it is difficult to get a moral
point across using only facts and scientific data, when what the public
responds to are values-based ideas, specifically ‘frames’ or keywords
that invoke a set of beliefs.  For example, “protecting the
environment” is a frame that fails to reflect our dependency on the
existence of the environment, and suggests it is a separate entity from
humanity that needs to be protected from some external threat.  The
problem is, we are a part of and nurtured by the environment, and we
are the ones the environment needs protection from.

In short, the report explains why we cannot rely on current frames
that teach the public that nature is separate from humans and a
resource for short-term private enrichment, that it is too expensive to
save the earth, that individuals couldn’t possibly make a difference,
that politics shouldn’t be involved in the environment, and that
pollution only effects the immediate environment.

Thus, the Green Alliance has some frame-altering suggestions that
necessitate climate change in political space, which may then create a
shift in public perception and help individual campaigns, incentives,
and legislation be more successful:

  • Be Positive: Save lists of problems for
    later, and aim for positive communication first.  Focus on creating a
    desirable vision for a low-carbon future and develop an course of
  • Tell a Better Story: Be clear
    that climate change is not only an environmental issue, but a
    fundamental national issue as well.  Appeal to the public through
    values and emotions, using concepts such as freedom and fairness,
    instead of statistics.  
  • Make It Visible
    People make decisions unconsciously and are influenced as much by what
    they see as what they hear.  So take actions towards climate change
    that show involvement in people’s lives. 
  • Show Your Own Work:
    Government should promote existing efforts immediately and communicate
    the importance of cooperative action between policies and citizen
    action.  Switch from “What are you doing?” campaigns to “Look what
    we’re doing!”.
  • Choose Your Messenger
    Move beyond the usual speakers and enlist fresh voices who will also
    positively communicate with their peers about climate change. 
  • Be Clear and Consistent
    Make a decision about what needs to be achieved and how government is
    going to play a role in those changes.  Clarify your position and
    reflect it in every public interaction.  Develop an inspiring brand to
    endorse low carbon initiatives.  
  • Know Your Values
    Government may need to gain public support for collective, long-term
    interests by promoting values such as community responsibility and care
    for others (limiting the use of certain resources, for example.)

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