Finding the Right Frames for Climate Change

100914Frames_OrigMany climate advocates now understand the value of taking a solutions-based approach to communicating about climate change. But just talking about solutions may not be enough. Advocates also need to take into account a suite of subtleties surrounding framing and word choice when they craft their solutions-based message, says Meredith Herr in a recent Climate Access blog post.
Herr flags several terms and topics communicators that should pay special attention to, including the term “transition.” The term “transition,” Herr explains, may be appealing to progressive audiences who want to usher in new types of communities and ways of life. However, it may be confusing at best and offensive at worse to people who are happy with the status quo and don’t desire change. The bottom line? Starting with a solutions is a good first step for climate communication. But in order to be maximally effective, communicators need to think carefully about how their audiences will respond to subtle word choices like those described in this article, and adjust their communications strategies accordingly.


Watch Your Frames

Meredith Herr, Contributor to Climate Access

Climate change has profound implications for our current way of life. In my adopted home state of California, this summer’s exceptional drought has me on pins and needles with every reported fire in the area.  It was a truly unnerving sight to witness firefighting helicopters fly over my backyard carrying loads of water to a nearby blaze. My first thought, as I grabbed my dog (and my laptop) was, “I’m not prepared for this.” As extreme weather events become an increasingly common and destructive force in our lives, how do we protect our communities from these harmful impacts? And how do we communicate about these serious and, at times, dire threats in a way that is not only inclusive, but also inspires hope and action?


Americans are beginning to notice that weather patterns are becoming seasonally uncharacteristic and uncommonly severe, and they are also starting to connect the dots between these shifts and climate change. As the pendulum of public opinion continues to shift (fingers crossed) in the direction of understanding the causes and implications of climate change, the next step is for communicators is to impart the need for solutions, both to reduce emissions and prepare for the wide-range of potential consequences that we are facing.When constructing this solutions-based issue frame, it is essential for climate communicators to take into account the multifaceted mental models of target audiences in order to ensure that messages carry the intended meaning.


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Image credit: Climate Access

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