Communicating about a phenomenon like climate change, which by nature is complex, in plain language is a process fraught with several challenges.
The most important aspects of climate change issues, ideas, and policy measures are lost in the rumpus created by the confusion resulting from the lack of proper understanding of what climate change is really about.
While the basics of climate change is well known, that the world is warming due to increased levels of greenhouse gases emitted by humans, the real phenomenon is often reduced to an abstract theory. The evidence clearly points to a warming world, with record temperatures recorded every year, and still some argue that Earth is cooling. Some even argue that global warming is a scam, though overwhelmingly the Scientific community has shown that climate change due to a warming world is a reality. The difference in opinion is so much that there is very little room for rational argument.
The opinion on climate change is divided not because of the unavailability of proper information, but mostly because of the way the available information is falsely analyzed and mis-presented to the public. Communication with the vast majority of people who range from being dismissive to indifferent or undecided about an issue like climate change sure isn’t a cakewalk.
Creating an efficient communication strategy that brings about real change in people’s perception requires understanding the target audience’s psychology.
Photo credits: Feel green. Think green, Kristina Bychkova, Carpi, IT , Voices4Climate competition
While evidence-based science is something climate change specialists are comfortable with, common people are far removed from the harsh realities of climate change and the scientific data and concepts surrounding climate change. Also, since essays, research findings, and scientific data can be full of jargon, simplifying such information and presenting it in a well-articulated manner can be the first step towards getting and retaining the audience’s attention.
To overcome challenges and effectively communicate the causes and effects of climate change to a widespread audience, it is necessary to:
Craft messages that offer immediate benefits. Since climate change is not something that would top everyone’s priority list, it is important to create and deliver messages that would make them want to give a serious thought to climate change implications.
Instead of saying: Weatherization is essential to battle the consequences of climate change.
It’s better to say: Give your family a better and safer environment by protecting your home and taking action against climate change.
Let go of jargon. The language used for the purpose of communicating climate change is full of jargon, which at times can be intimidating. To make sure that more people pay attention to the issues at hand and understand the proper context of communication, it is imperative to simplify the language.
Instead of saying: Research bears testimony to the fact that the recent climate change is anthropogenic.
It’s better to say: Research supports the fact that the recent climate change has been brought about by human activity.
People should be made aware of the availability of jargon busters and acronym finders.
Tell a story. The focus should be on the audience rather than the argument. Putting out numbers, graphs, percentages, and other statistical information will not help drive the point home. It’s important to use a narrative that appeals to the emotions of people. To bring about a behavioral change, it’s important to understand what really appeals to the people. Using an emotional appeal which is also logically sound can help make the language more persuasive.
Make the messages relatable and credible. People respond better to someone they can relate to. People tend to react with skepticism towards things they can’t completely grasp. Therefore, it’s important to deliver messages that people can relate to, which in turn can have a lasting impact, when compared to climate change messages put out by Government and other institutions of authority.
Harness the power of social and visual media. Social media has tremendous reach and can be utilized to deliver messages to the masses. From graphs to charts to infographics, one can use different types of visual messages that summarize the cause and consequences of and solutions to climate change. Creating other impactful visual media such as videos and images can help garner much attention since they elevate the experience of the viewers.
Photo credits: Tomasz Wawer
Although the basic idea of communication is to help people know about something, it’s also important to focus on what they would do with the information they’ve access to. A message without any call to action hardly brings about any change. A change in behavior can be brought about by changing people’s mindset, which is why it’s important to deliver messages that can strike a chord with people and influence long term behavior.
It’s crucial to implement effective communication strategy sooner than later because we are at a juncture where creating awareness is more necessary than ever before.
Banner photo credits: Stefano Cefalo Geronimo, UK, Voices4Climate competition
Sophia is a passionate educator and blogger who blogs about education on her personal blog, Essay Writing and More.
She is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor who found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. In her free time, she watches movies and takes up freelance writing gigs. If you want to connect with her, you can find her on facebook and twitter.