Ten Principles for Making Climate Change Real for Your Community

In a spirit of openness, Pat Armstrong shares climate change communication principles developed by a small group of participants in a workshop run by Prof Bob Stevenson at the World Environmental Education Congress 2011 in Brisbane, as recorded by Pat.

I like these a lot, especially the first five.

Be positive

Remain positive. Using fear tactics will only alarm people and may even lead them to turn off completely.

Report on success stories

Report success stories from the local community and from other countries that are appropriate to the audience (e.g. savings from energy efficiency measures in a local business).

Encourage meaningful actions

Give people ideas for practical, positive and meaningful actions to address climate change.  Taking actions can help lead to changes in attitude which can lead to further actions.

Walk the talk

Be prepared to explain what steps you are taking to address climate change in your own life at home and at work (e.g. downsized your car or even sold your car and now use a bicycle and public transport, eat one non-meat meal a week).  You don’t have to be perfect, just show that you have made and are continuing to make changes, but despite these changes, you still have a good quality of life.

Support local champions

Identify and support local champions in the various sectors of the community (including different cultural groups).

Clarify the consequences

Help people to recognise the predicted consequences of climate change – in the short-term (e.g. hotter summers) and long-term (e.g. changes in local agriculture and ecosystems) 


Respond to people’s concerns and questions (e.g. I have more immediate concerns than to worry about something that may happen 100 years from now.  Should I turn off a fluorescent light when I leave a room?)

Build on prior learning

Build on and acknowledge people’s prior experience and knowledge of climate change, the impacts of climate change in their local area (e.g. the huge increase in the cost of bananas after the hurricanes in Queensland) and their actions at home and work to address climate change (e.g. installing water tanks, turning off lights, taking public transport etc.)

Use locally relevant data

Back up the science of climate change with locally relevant and substantiated data (e.g. rainfall records, temperature records, extreme weather events (e.g. fires, droughts, floods, coastal high tide lines), biodiversity changes (e.g. time of flowering of local plants, nesting times of birds, movement of species, loss of species, appearance of new species, etc.), diseases that have not previously been seen an area (e.g. malaria)

Communicate appropriately

Communicate about climate change in ways that are socially and culturally appropriate, relevant and respectful (e.g. working with leaders of different cultural groups to find culturally sensitive ways of explaining the issues and solving problems)