ByClaire Rosling
07/12/2015
4 min read

Communicating Climate Change: Part 2

With so much information in the public domain about climate change, how can you get heard above the noise? We share some digital tips for getting your campaign to stand out.

Part 1 of our Communicating Climate Change series focussed in on the importance of understanding your audience and their psychology. This can really help campaigners get to grips with the reasons why climate change is such a difficult topic for people to take on board and do anything about.

Once we better understand this challenge we can use this information to ‘frame’ the issue in a way that resonates with your audience, making the science more accessible. In order to frame your issue effectively we’ve highlighted some key points to consider as well as some digital tips of our own.

local

Make the issue local

Although a large number of people consider climate change to be a serious threat, many of those people think of it as something affecting people in another country and so discount it as not being personally relevant. It is not seen as a local issue.

Tip: Find out the local perspective. For example, people living and working in the Alps may be more interested in the threat of climate change to the ski industry whereas people in Florida may be more concerned about climate change causing rising sea-levels.

Carbon Story have created a clever campaign website World Under Water that allows users to see a 360 degree view of any address ‘underwater’, as it could look in the future due to rising sea-levels. The ability to ‘localise’ the experience helps to make it more relevant and it’s simple visual message (without too much hard-hitting negativity) also means it’s likely to get ‘shared’ around groups of friends.

Geo-locate your audience

By using geo-location and detecting a user’s IP address it could be possible to customise a user’s experience based on their location and so make it more meaningful. For example, World Under Water could take you straight to your current location.

Bring data projections to life

The next level would be to use real data on projected sea-level rise. This could potentially show the differing extent to which individual locations across the world are likely to be submerged in the future.

make-it-matter-now

Make it matter NOW

People tend to take issues more seriously when they are an immediate threat rather than a future problem. Social scientists believe this is one of the top reasons why it’s so hard to get people to take take action to combat climate change.

Tip: Communicate how climate change is affecting people and the planet right now – it is all too often talked of being a future risk.

Clocking up the cost of Climate change

In order to demonstrate the urgency of taking action against climate change it can be useful to visualise the current and ongoing cost of climate change to the economy. The Natural Resources Defence Council have produced a report, The Cost of Climate Change which helps to quantify the effects of Climate Change. If carbon emissions continue as they are today then it is projected that the annual cost to the US economy alone (due to hurricane damage, sea-level rises etc) will be £1.9 trillion by 2100.

A nice way to communicate this through a digital campaign could be to integrate a feature which clocks-up the cost of climate change to the economy in real-time eg. ‘whilst you’ve been reading this the cost to the global economy has been £££’ This could help make the data more meaningful and demonstrate the urgency of the issue.

save-money

Tap into the desire to save money

Everybody loves saving money and this can be a great incentive to get people to change their habits in a way that can reduce their carbon footprint. The Clean Energy Switch, a recent campaign by 38 Degrees tapped into this by encouraging people to switch to a green energy supplier, quantifying the savings that could be had from doing so.

Future losses vs. future gains

Research shows that people are more interested in avoiding future losses rather than future gains. For example, rather than communicating how much money can be saved, make your audience aware of current and future losses resulting from inaction eg. ‘Switching energy provider will help you avoid losing money on higher energy bills’ rather than ‘help you save money in the future’.

Interactive Savings Calculator

An interactive campaign site could be used to ask questions about a user’s lifestyle and home (in a similar way to how the Slavery Footprint campaign site does) and then calculate how much money you could save (or avoid losing!) through insulating your home, switching to energy saving light bulbs etc.

It’s an interconnected issue

All too often, climate change is communicated as an environmental issue which can cause some people to disregard it as something only tree-hugging environmentalists need worry about. Climate change is a hugely interconnected issue that is impacting not only the environment but human health, the economy, and state stability. It’s not just about polar bears any more – in 31.7 million people were forced to leave their homes as ‘climate change refugees’ in 2012 alone. To put this into perspective, the recent Syrian refugee crisis (albeit not climate refugees) has involved approximately 9 million Syrians leaving their homes. If we don’t take action now then we need to ensure we are open to accepting many more refugees into our country in the years to come.

The Gathering Storm, and No Place Like Home are two fantastic video campaigns from Environmental Justice Foundation highlighting how climate change is a human rights issue just as much as an environmental issue.

Summary

By bearing in mind a few key principles, it is possible to frame a climate change campaign that really resonates with your audience.

Here’s our summary checklist:

– Make your issue locally relevant to your audience

– Communicate the urgency of the issue – it’s difficult to grasp impacts for the future

– Engage a wide audience by demonstrating the human, social, economic and environmental implications of climate change

See all four parts of this series in our blog.

Yoke are committed to working on projects that work for positive change for people and the planet. We’re passionate about raising the profile of Climate Change so if you’d like help in communicating your key findings in this area or for getting a campaign off the ground then get in touch.