Communicating about the Climate Crisis
Here are some questions to start off with:
What is the best way to bring about awareness and action in response to climate breakdown and environmental destruction?
How do humans take in (or not take in) information that can be scary and overwhelming?
Is it better to scare people in to action? Or inspire them with hopeful possibilities?
What is the psychological impact of words like “Global Warming” and “Climate Breakdown”?
How do differences in language impact behavior?
Why does climate breakdown receive so little attention so little attention, given the existential implications for life on earth?
Many have addressed these questions. Since we’re still in this mess, it’s clear that no one has completely answered them. That’s because there are are no simple answers. For example, fear motivates some to activism, but pushes others towards apathy or hopelessness.
Below are some resources that explore the question of climate communication from a psychological standpoint. The more we understand how our minds and hearts process information about the planet, the more likely we are to move in a direction of increased awareness, attention, and action around an issue central to our very survival.
A good place to start when exploring this topic is the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. In their own words, they “conduct scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior at the global, national, and local scales.” Check out their “Six Americas” framework (Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful, and Dismissive)
In addition to providing resources, articles and other visualizations, the YPCC provides a nice summary that begins to answer the question, “What is Climate Change Communication?”
One definition of Climate Communication is “the diverse processes by which climate change-related information, knowledge, ideas, emotions, meaning, values, and behaviors flow between individuals and through societies.” (Yale Program on Climate Change Communication) Below is a list of additional books and articles that seek to explore these processes.
(If you are aware of additional resources, please contact us and we will include them).
Marshall, G. (2015). Don't even think about it: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change.
Stoknes, P.E. (2015). What we think about when we try not to think about global warming: Toward a new psychology of climate action.
Articles & Essays
DeWeerdt, Sarah (2019). “How social learning can speed up or slow down climate action.” Anthropocene. June 11, 2019
References: Bury T.M. et al. (2019). “Charting pathways to climate change mitigation in a coupled socio-climate model.” PLOS Computational Biology.
Hayhoe, Katharine (2019). “How To Talk About Climate Change So People Will Listen.” Chatelaine. Apr 18, 2019
Lertzman, Renee (2017). “How Can We Talk About Global Warming? It’s time for the climate story to go beyond hope and fear.” Sierraclub.com. July 19, 2017.
Mortillaro, Nicole (2018). “The psychology of climate change: Why people deny the evidence.” CBC News. Dec 02, 2018.
Quaile, Irene (2019). “The psychology behind climate inaction: How to beat the 'doom barrier'.” DW.com. April 25, 2019.
Rubin, Dan (2019). “How to Have a Useful Conversation About Climate Change in 11 Steps.” Medium. March 7, 2019.
Ruiz, Rebecca (2019). “How to talk to kids about climate change without scaring them.” Mashable. May 9, 2019.
Taylor, Jerry (2019). “What Changed My Mind About Climate Change?” The Bulwark. May 21, 2019
Yoder, Kate (2019). “Why your brain doesn’t register the words ‘climate change’.” Grist. April 29, 2019.