Why climate talks are essential climate action

Why climate talks are essential climate action

One of the most powerful climate actions you can take is simply having a conversation with friends and family. Here’s how.

This is an excerpt from our weekly environmental newsletter Future Proof, brought to you by AMP. Register here.

Two billion people, most of them in developing countries, don’t really know the term “climate change,” according to estimates by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. This is based on a survey of more than 139,000 Facebook users around the world. “But when we give participants a one-sentence description of climate change, more than 80% of them immediately say, ‘Yes, this is happening,’” said Anthony Leiserowitz, the program director.

The survey also included more than 1,000 New Zealanders. Here’s what she revealed about kiwis and climate change:

  • 64% said they knew a lot, or a moderate amount, about climate change, but 4% reported they had never heard of it before
  • 77% of New Zealand respondents believe climate change is happening
  • 45% believe climate change is mostly caused by human activities, and 32% believe it is a combination of humans and natural changes
  • 65% of participants were very or somewhat concerned about climate change
  • 41% said climate change is very or extremely important to them personally

These results don’t look very different from other surveys on New Zealanders and climate change (albeit with different questions). Many of us know and care about climate change, but many of our friends, families and communities do not. A large portion of us have misconceptions about climate change and how best to address it.

Which brings me to the big question: How can we engage more people in the fundamentals and urgency of climate change?

One of the most powerful actions you can take is simply to have a conversation. This does not mean educating someone with data and science. It means speaking from the heart, communicating shared values, and telling stories. Here are some tips:

  • Listen, and ask questions. You’re having a conversation, not lecturing. Find out what’s important to your conversation partner and reflect their concerns to prove you’re really listening. Find common ground. What do you share?
  • Find a framework that resonates. Climate change may seem distant or abstract. But perhaps economics, health, or food might introduce surreptitious “adds” to the climate conversation.
  • Tell a story. Facts alone are not sticky. But facts are wrapped in narrative and emotion sticks in our brains like glue. The Climate Reality Project proposes to tell a story of climate hope. The workshop suggests leading with a positive vision, and “selling the cake, not the ingredients.”

By having these conversations regularly, we can create networks where talking about climate is the norm, friends and family feel empowered to take action, and where we don’t all feel alone.

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