Another summer, another heat record. July 2019 will go down in history as the hottest month yet — at least until next summer comes along. As our news feeds are flooded with headlines on the latest climate catastrophes, the sheer scale of the crisis can start to feel overwhelming. It makes you question what impact, if any, you as an individual can have.
“While shocking statistics on rising temperatures and images of starving polar bears can act as a useful wake-up call, a barrage of scary news can be counterproductive, causing people to disengage rather than inspiring them to become part of the solution.” — Anika Nicolaas Ponder
The good news is that, when it comes to fighting climate change, every one of us can take a stand. For proof, we must look no further than the Fridays for Future movement, a global juggernaut spearheaded by one high school student. If everyone were this personally invested in climate change and the energy transition, imagine what we could achieve! Fostering public engagement in climate change activism will require a new approach to communication. Reporting shouldn’t just highlight the risks and challenges involved as global temperatures rise, but also the opportunities that can emerge from smart responses to climate change. This means that we need to communicate our message in a new format — and with a new narrative.
Let’s start by considering the format. Most well-researched information on what to expect in the coming years and how to prepare for it is buried in jargon-heavy scientific reports that provide little clarity or direction to those outside the energy and climate sector. For the general public to access science-based information and act on it, we’ll need to communicate more, but also better — through innovative, engaging communication formats that can reach new and broader audiences.
“We will be more effective messengers if we reframe the way we talk about climate change and the energy transition.” — Anika Nicolaas Ponder
And then there is the narrative: Most articles on climate and energy topics are gloomy at best and apocalyptic at worst. While shocking statistics on rising temperatures and images of starving polar bears can act as a useful wake-up call, a barrage of scary news can be counterproductive, causing people to disengage rather than inspiring them to become part of the solution.
News articles generally focus on all the ways curbing climate change will disrupt our daily lives. They often neglect to mention the many things we stand to gain. These include the availability of electricity to off-grid communities; public health benefits and an improved standard of living; employment opportunities from new low-carbon jobs; economic gains for citizens rather than large utilities; and stronger communities through citizen-driven, bottom-up approaches to energy production. The energy transition quite literally restores power to the people!
These are the tales that need telling, and these are the narratives we need to hear. We will be more effective messengers if we reframe the way we talk about climate change and the energy transition. We can do this by focusing on opportunity and empowerment and drawing more people into the conversation through accessible communication formats.
There is no question that this is the system transformation that will define our generation. People will care about climate change if we tell the right story — and if we tell the story right.
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