Thursday, June 13, 2013

Global Warming Language

When we talk about about global warming, what language are we speaking?

At BGI we learn a lot about effective communication. We learn the language of accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, and operations so we can make a business case for a new venture. How effectively we can tell a story truly impacts the outcomes we experience. We've learned specifically how to communicate aspects of the triple(or quadruple) bottom line. 

Effective communication depends on understanding your audience. Are we talking to investors, family, friends, or strangers? When we talk about climate change and global warming, what language is most effective? Science jargon? Business? "Layman's" terms?

When it comes the issue of global warming, it's imperative that the message is clear.

The Sightline Institute has been running a project entitled "Flashcards", designed to showcase effective communication tools using values-based strategies. In this post, I'll try to capture some key takeaways.
  1. Communicating the Science of Climate Change (Somerville & Hassol)
    1. Focus on what we know - Stop leading with caveats and disclaimers
    2. Start with the bottom line, then provide the details. 
    3. Use plain language that communicates the message you want
      1. "Theory" sounds like a 'hunch' or 'speculation': "Scientific understanding"
  2. A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change and Energy in America (Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions LLC.)
    1. Threat: Talk about extreme weather and protecting our kids: Value of Responsibility
    2. Solutions: Talk about American ingenuity: Value of Patriotic Pride
    3. Villains: Talk about fossil fuel stranglehold on government: Value of Accountability
  3. Two Rules for talking about Climate Change
    1. Talk about it. People love to talk about the weather. Not acknowledging climate change is irresponsible. 
    2. Keep it simple.
  4. Climate Change in the American Mind (Leiserowitz, Yale & George Mason University)
    1. There's also a great video to watch here: Bill Moyer's interview with Anthony Leiserowitz
    2. Identifying the audience (Six Americas)
      1. The Alarmed - 16%
      2. The Concerned - 29%
      3. The Cautious - 25%
      4. The Disengaged - 8%
      5. The Doubtful - 13%
      6. The Dismissive - 8%
    3. Simple message and make it personal(to your specific audience)
      1. Climate change is happening, and it's a big deal.
      2. It's personal - not partisan.
      3. There's hope!
  5. A Public Health Frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change(Nisbet, Maibach, et. al.)
    1. Comparative study of three frameworks:
      1. Environmental consequences - "Do it for the planet!"
      2. National security - "Fossil fuels = war!"
      3. Public health - "Keep our families safe!"
        1. Most likely to elicit emotional reactions with support for climate change mitigation and action
        2. Connects on a personal level

Now that we've been given some useful frameworks and tools around the language of global warming, let's use them.

1 comment:

  1. This is such an important thing to remember, the language and how we frame the issue is crucial to success of effective climate change legislation. I was at at climate change conference in San Francisco a few years ago, and was struck by the mixture of power and impotence of the group. Power, in that these were the best minds about this, but weak because few of these scientists had grappled with "marketing" the reality of climate change. To a certain extent marketing induced consumption has gotten us into this mess, and maybe that will be a solution as well.


Blog List