7 Tips for Telling Better Climate Change Stories
A big part of our mission here at ecoAmerica is discovering and sharing the most effective climate change messages. We use social science and marketing research to find out what approaches resonate best with average Americans. This Grist article echoes many of the best practices we recommend.
Rather than calling out someone as a “climate denier,” it’s important to acknowledge that different points of view exist. Setting up an atmosphere of mutual respect helps make your audience more receptive to your message. Linking climate change to something that’s of universal concern, such as public health, and appealing to self-interest by emphasizing the economic benefits of climate solutions are other effective techniques. It’s also advisable to avoid doom-and-gloom scenarios, and instead paint a positive image of the exciting future we can create.
Read on for the rest of Grist’s communication tips. To learn more about our latest communications research and recommendations, download our new report, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans.
By Amelia Urry, contributor to Grist
People are not very good at talking about climate change, not even climate activists — or so says Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. Understanding the science of climate change isn’t enough. We also need to understand the social science of how people react to certain messages.
Stoknes’ book What We Think About (When We Try Not To Think About) Global Warming is a manual for telling better climate-change stories. With chapter titles like “Stand Up For Your Depressions!” and “Make It Simple To Choose Right,” it distills a great body of social science to a handful of accessible lessons. From why we’ve traditionally gotten stuck when we’ve tried to talk about the climate to what we should actually do about it, Stoknes provides clear examples with a healthy dose of psychotherapeutic understanding.
Stoknes came by the Grist office to share some of what he’s learned. Here are our favorite takeaways:
1. Don’t use the word “denier”
“I think the words ‘denial’ and ‘deniers’ are overused. The original psychological concept [of denial] goes back to Sigmund Freud and the discovery of the unconscious, starting with how the Viennese people were repressing their sexuality and coming [up] with diseases and symptoms due to that. Now it’s being used as a pejorative, a synonym of being ignorant, stupid, and immoral. Using it is counter-productive.”
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