Different approaches to addressing and communicating climate change
In this article we are going to take a closer look at several approaches to climate change communication, from different actors in the field of climate literacy.
But first, it is helpful to summarize some key takeaways from the previous sections. Per Espen Stoknes highlights that the science behind climate change, while forecasting gloomy future scenarios, has become ever so indisputable. In his work he has highlighted a series of barriers to people’s engagement with climate change, and in the video he argues that in communicating about climate change, it is important to not get stuck in scientific indicators that paint a hopeless framing of the issue, as, psychologically, people need to be able to envision the potential for change in order to engage with a cause.
In the video that followed, Mika Hietanen, similarly, points to academic work that has been looking into doomsday and fear-inducing narratives and their shortcomings with regards to increasing climate change action. On the other hand, considering one’s audience and taking into account and adapt the messaging to their specific experiences, can help render climate change a relatable issue, and thus drive up engagement.
Keeping all of the above in mind, we are now going to look at and reflect on different approaches to climate change communication.
Example 1: Greta Thunberg
An interesting example is that of climate activists Greta Thunberg. Thunberg, who in 2018 at the age of 15 started a school strike for climate. In the talk below, from November 2018, she does not shy away from framing climate change in catastrophic terms, while also mentioning scientific phenomena and cites relevant data to build her arguments.
Example 2: Judith Black
Judith Black is a professional storyteller and professor. In her talk below, from September 2016, she adopts a very personal account and combines addressing the urgency and graveness of climate change with presenting localized and accessible examples of climate action for her audience.
Example 3: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
For this example, we are looking at Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist and conservation policy expert. In this talk from April 2022, she suggests that instead losing hope given the gravity of climate change scientific projections, we should foster conversations about solutions. In particularly, she addresses her audience by asking them to reflecting on the intersection between what they are good at, what brings them joy, and what work needs doing for climate and justice solutions.
- How did you personally react/respond to the different speakers?
- Do you recognize any of the above mentioned discourses in your communication style?
- How do you usually frame your ways of talking about climate change?
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