How Climate Solutions Could Save Your Winter Holiday

Ryan and JustinAs college students prepare to head home for the holidays, many are daydreaming about their weeks of leisure through January. Both of our sons hope to spend their vacation time flying down steep, snowy mountains. Our college freshman, Ryan, loves snowboarding – Justin, our high school junior, prefers skiing.
 
When our family gathers together for Christmas, we’ll discuss where to go for our mountain holiday this year. Last year, we thought it was a sure bet to head far north to the mountains of New Hampshire. However, it rained and hovered around 40 degrees. The conditions were slushy – hardly the snowy winter playground we’d been dreaming about.
 
Warmer winters could put an end to our cherished family tradition of skiing and snowboarding – but there’s much more at stake. According to USA Today, “between 2000-2010, the snow sport industry lost over $1 billion in revenue as a result of shrinking snow packs and shortened winters.” Although people may have differing opinions about the cause of the warmer weather, we can agree that fighting climate change is in everyone’s best interest. Fortunately, colleges, universities, cities, towns, churches, synagogues, mosques, hospitals, and businesses throughout our nation are working to implement a variety of solutions to climate change.
 
Now, those groups have a new tool to help them build support for climate solutions. Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication, a joint project by ecoAmerica and Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, was just released. It includes 10 principles for communication based on research from a range of social science fields, including psychology, anthropology, and behavioral economics. The guide offers strategies for boosting engagement, common mistakes to avoid, and best practices for connecting with individuals and groups on climate issues.
 
As outlined in the guide, it is important to emphasize the benefits of taking action when crafting your message. Highlighting co-benefits that are immediate and personally relevant to your audience may be especially effective in getting people on board with solutions. For Justin and Ryan, winter fun in the mountains is a strong co-benefit. More generally, co-benefits may include improving public health, jump-starting new economic opportunities, catalyzing technological innovation, and strengthening community.
 
The guide outlines these basic communication principles:
• Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
• Channel the Power of Groups
• Emphasize Solutions and Benefits
• Bring Climate Impacts Close to Home
• Connect Climate Change to Issues That Matter to Your Audience
• Use Images and Stories to Make Climate Change Real
• Make Climate Science Meaningful
• Acknowledge Uncertainty But Show What You Know
• Approach Skepticism Carefully
• Make Behavior Change Easy
 
Download the guide at connectingonclimate.org.
 
All of us at ecoAmerica and Solution Generation look forward to working with you to strengthen our efforts for climate solutions in 2015. We wish you and your family a very happy and healthy holiday season and New Year!
 
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