Is there a better way to communicate about climate change?
Why is it important to change the way we communicate?
Climate communication is frequently framed as doom and gloom, resulting in no real progress. When we are told there’s a catastrophe around the corner and our lifestyles are partly to blame, it’s easy to ignore and deny the problem. Especially since the way we live our lives is not aligned with our fear of climate change.
This creates an inner dissonance where we either choose to ignore the problem or make changes in our lives to feel better.
A fresh approach to climate communication
Psychologist Per Espen Stoknes has done extensive research on climate psychology. His findings are presented in the book “What We Think about When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming”. His book provides a framework for how we can communicate climate change in a way that actually works.
- 1. Social – We are social beings and the way we behave influences others. If our neighbours, family members or friends talk about or act sustainable, it becomes the normal way of behaving.
- 2. Simple – Simple actions make a difference. Businesses should strive to make sustainable choices available, easy to recognize and affordable.
- 3. Supportive – Frame messages positively. We can promote advantages to health and well-being, opportunities for innovation and job growth.
- 4. Story-based – Use the power of storytelling and visualizations to promote your message. Stories have been proven to influence behavioural changes more than statistics alone.
- 5. Signals – We should define indicators and signals that shows how to make progress. Measuring our progress can inspire us to continue our journey towards sustainability.
How can you use this to create change?
Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
This also applies to climate communication, with social pressure being the most important factor of them all.
The following two examples suggest how you, as an individual can start influencing others today.
Lead by example
Invite friends to a sustainable evening
Invite friends to a tasty vegetarian meal or a repair workshop. Be a role model and show that a sustainable living can be both fun and social. Share why you think this is important and reflect on what kind of future you want to live in. This can be a great starting point for your friends to test sustainable actions and adopt a similar lifestyle.
Listen and be supportive
Frame your message
When your family, friends, neighbours or colleagues see you experiment with sustainable habits, their reactions might be defensive if they feel guilty about their own lifestyles. A good exercise is to listen to them and try to understand their frustrations. Talking about can lead to greater understanding of each other.
Per Espen Stoknes
Per Espen Stoknes has been a trusted advisor and networker for Ducky since day one. He is a psychologist with a PhD in economics, and chairs the Center for Green Growth at the Norwegian Business School. Stoknes is a serial entrepreneur, author of several books – and now a politician for the Norwegian Green Party.
His latest book, “What We Think about When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming”, he describes the five barriers for empowering climate communications, and the five solutions to bypass them.
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