Climate change communication: “It’s a symphony, not a solo!”

September 26, 2011 | 2:31 am | , Research Associate

We travelled around the world during 24 Hours of Reality to hear from 24 different Presenters — each with a unique story and motivation for participating in the event. It was, as we like to say, not a solo but a symphony, composed of many distinct voices.

Those who study climate change communication say a multiplicity of voices is exactly what we need. The more cacophonous the symphony, the better! And here’s why …

Climate change has become such a polarizing issue (at least in some areas of the world) that it’s not always just the cold hard facts that count. In fact, research shows that many of us formulate our opinions on climate change not based on scientific evidence but based on our values. We take whatever position is most in line with and least threatening to our identity. Then — once we’ve firmly planted our feet — we look for arguments to help us defend whatever stance we’ve already taken.

This means that before we’re really able to push the climate change “debate” out of its current rut, we’ll have to show that there is no such thing as a stereotypical climate crusader. We need more people like Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian climate scientist, and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Titley to speak up. They show us that caring about climate change doesn’t have to be threatening to those with certain religious or political beliefs.

It’s important, of course, for all of us concerned about climate change to be prepared to push back on the misleading claims of climate change deniers (or, to “win the conversation”). But generally speaking, we should attempt to approach our conversations on climate change in depolarizing, inviting and inclusive ways.

The bottom line is, we need spokespeople of all kinds to spread the messages contained within sound, peer-reviewed climate science. So, in keeping with the 24 Hours of Reality spirit, let’s do all we can to encourage a diversity of climate-conscious individuals to chime in and add their voices to our symphony!