Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 5: Discussing Your Individual Choices

Briony Latter, 10th May 2019

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This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this fifth post we explore how to discuss individual action on climate change and the difficulties that can arise when doing so.

How to talk about people’s individual decisions in response to climate change without making them feel guilty is a topic that came up in a recent Hope for the Future training session. There are many areas that could be discussed here, including the decision of some people not to have children due to climate change, but I will focus on food and travel.

Credit:  Gabriel Gurrola

Food

Our diet can have an impact on climate change, and meat consumption, particularly beef, needs to be reduced. Vegetarian and vegan food is becoming more widespread and a record amount of people signed up to Veganuary for 2019. The BBC have even published a handy food calculator to show the impact of your diet on climate change.

If you’re already vegan or vegetarian, that’s great, but when you’re talking to someone about the potential impact of their diet on the climate, it’s important to understand different people’s circumstances. They may have dietary requirements that could restrict their ability to eat certain foods. For example, as someone with a severe nut allergy, a vegan diet is just not realistic for me. However, almost all of my diet is vegetarian and I ensure that any meat or fish I do eat is sustainable. When talking to people about reducing their meat consumption, Hubbub’s Protein Pressures project may be able to help. They recommend that future communications on this issue should be “positive, upbeat and focus on what is gained by diversifying protein, not what is given up” and should provide information about alternatives.

Travel

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There are a number of difficulties and contradictions when thinking about different modes of transport in relation to climate change. Cars can sometimes be essential for people to travel depending on where they live, particularly with the decrease in bus routes. Try to understand the other person’s situation and identify other things they could do instead if they are reliant on their car. For example, you could discuss car sharing or buying a more environmentally friendly car.

Flying can also be a difficult topic to discuss. Would you count flying as luxury emissions, or does it depend on why and how far away you’re going? What about if you’re visiting family or traveling for work? Is it okay to fly if you’re traveling somewhere to raise awareness of climate change? This contradiction can be demonstrated by a couple of recent examples. The Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently visited Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya in only 5 days whilst at the same time promoting the UK’s role in tackling climate change. Also, back in January there was a huge amount of individual private flights for leaders attending climate talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Some argue that individual action in this area is key, but there is also the argument that individual action will have a limited impact unless “the economic system can provide viable, environmental options for everyone – not just an affluent or intrepid few.”

This is a complicated area and, again, people will have different circumstances so it’s good to be aware that not everyone you talk to will be able to take the same action that you can. However, you could discuss carbon offsetting, using a carbon calculator to look at the emissions for different travel options or simply reducing the amount that you fly rather than stopping altogether.

There are no absolute right or wrong answers for the above. It’s also important to remember that individual choices are just one part of tackling climate change. Change has to come from other places including government. You may feel able to talk to friends, family and acquaintances about their individual choices, but what about your MP? Even if you know that your MP doesn’t have the most environmentally friendly behaviours as an individual, don’t forget that they have the power to make changes in a different way as your locally elected representative. That’s where we can help. Our team can help you to work with your MP and develop a tailored strategy for them. Have a look at our resources for more information.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Steve Baker MP

Steve Baker MP

We recently supported Jo, a constituent of Steve Baker MP, to meet with him about climate change. Mr Baker has very different views to the constituent, as a hard brexiteer and climate-sceptic. In the meeting it was clear that Steve felt negative about encounters with climate campaigners because of the reaction he receives when expressing his sceptisism of the science. Jo was able to listen to his doubts and show him how making progress to reducing emissions was not necessarily counter to his own agenda. Using questions is a powerful tool to discover the interests, needs, anxieties and desires behind someone’s position. Read Jo’s blog on her meeting with Steve Baker.

What to do when you don't agree with your MP

What can you do when you feel you have no common ground with your MP? Hope for the Future supported Wycombe constituent, Jo Howard, to meet with her MP Steve Baker. There didn’t seem to be much common ground between the two. But through an understanding of Steve’s core values, Jo managed to have a constructive conversation with him. Jo writes about her experience with the reminder to not be discouraged if you can’t find the common ground…

My first encounter with Steven Baker MP was in 2016, as part of a group of local constituents at the Climate Coalition mass lobby of Parliament that June.  I knew from that event that climate change was not a subject of particular interest to him.  Nevertheless, as someone concerned about the effects of climate change, I wanted to find a way to continue to engage with my MP on the issue in a meaningful way. Brexit has long been the top issue on Mr Baker’s agenda, so after the 2016 referendum result, I felt discouraged about trying to secure his interest in a subject which was of low priority for him.

Find Hope for the Future resources  here .

Find Hope for the Future resources here.

A chance encounter with Hope for the Future at the Greenbelt Festival in 2017 gave me the encouragement to persist. I sought help in how to frame a constructive dialogue with my MP when I knew we would have little in the way of shared concerns. Hope for the Future resources and an encouraging conversation with Sarah Robinson helped me to see that I might find common ground with Mr Baker in areas such as transport policy, green technology and potential opportunities for the UK to take a lead on environmental issues post-Brexit. The Hope for the Future website was a really helpful resource for further reading and for learning about recent research and developments in these areas.

I had an encouraging response to an initial letter to Mr Baker in early 2018, although little in the way of concrete action. A further letter did not elicit any response, but I managed to secure a meeting with him in February 2019. The constituency office had asked me to email beforehand with details on what I wanted to discuss and links to any supporting documents. I decided to focus on transport and specifically to ask for Mr Baker’s support for an upcoming Private Members’ Bill on standardisation of electric vehicle charging points. This is an issue that is important to me as a constituent who would like their next car to be electric.

I was realistic about the level of enthusiasm I was likely to encounter in Mr Baker but was determined to be as constructive as possible and avoid being side-tracked into disputing areas we were never going to agree on. On the whole I felt that the meeting went well, given the limitations of our differing perspectives. Mr Baker made it clear that he was not enthusiastic about the climate change cause and didn’t want me to have unrealistic expectations about the action he would be willing to take. We did however have an interesting and, I felt, respectful conversation.  Mr Baker was able to agree that if electric vehicles were increasing in number it was important to have an efficient infrastructure in place. As someone with an engineering background he understood the need for sensible solutions to practical problems, even when he was not enthusiastic about the wider cause. Mr Baker agreed to speak to Bill Wiggin MP, who had introduced the Private Members’ Bill and asked his caseworker to follow up on information I had mentioned about targets for transition to electric vehicles in other countries.

A meeting with someone where there is little common ground is never going to be easy. If I hadn’t encountered Hope for the Future, I would either have been discouraged from asking for a meeting with my MP at all, or approached it with a confrontational mindset which would have been counter-productive for all. As it was, we were able to find a limited area in which we could engage constructively. I will continue to look for areas in which there might be shared interest in the future.

If you would like support in engaging your MP or councillors on climate change, contact us.

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 4: Hopeful or Fearful for the Future?

Briony Latter, 28th February 2019

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This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this fourth post we consider the impacts of communicating about climate change in a hopeful way as opposed to a more scary and fearful way.

If you are someone who is concerned about climate change and interested in raising your local MP’s awareness, it could be easy to overwhelm them with fearful information about the negative impacts of climate change. It might also be easy to blame them for inaction. However, it is important to be aware of the impact of how you talk about climate change. As noted on our difficult conversations page, former MP for Harborough, Sir Edward Garnier, suggests that “an attitude that puts the blame with those you are trying to work with is not conducive to constructive problem-solving.”

In the second blog in this series, we spoke about research which showed that fear can make people take notice of climate change, but that it tends to be unsuccessful for engaging people with the subject in a meaningful way. Although this doesn’t mean that you should ignore the real, often scary impacts of climate change, it is important to bear in mind that you are also trying to get your MP to take action and therefore there must be hope of success in tackling climate change.

Jo and colleague, Chris, at Greenbelt Festival.

Jo and colleague, Chris, at Greenbelt Festival.

With the unseasonably warm February we’ve been having it’s easy to feel concerned about the impacts of climate change on our weather, but it’s important not to let that reduce our motivation to take action and have hope that we can still make a difference. Our Director, Jo Musker-Sherwood, shares what the name Hope for the Future means for the organisation and why the decision was made to have such a positive name…

“Hope, for us at Hope for the Future, is what enables us to keep working for change, despite an uncertain and potentially very bleak future. We draw hope from the actions of young people today, from previous successful endeavours such as the civil rights movements, and from a belief that by believing the best in humankind, we will bring out the best in people as we attempt to bring about change. Hope must not be used as a cover to continue with ‘business as usual’ but must instead grow the kind of resilience within us that we will need for the long road ahead.”
— Jo Musker-Sherwood, Hope for the Future Director

Susanne Moser notes that “researchers are increasingly interested in the role of hope, optimism, and positive emotions in climate communication”. In contrast to this, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has hit news headlines in recent months for her school climate strikes, talks about climate change in a way that clearly emphasises how scary and urgent it is. At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, she made a speech which included a number of fearful messages:

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people.”
“Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced.”
“I want you to panic.”
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
— Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is continuing to gain a lot of media attention and her school strike has inspired and mobilised thousands of other students from around the world to hold their own school strikes, indicating that this is really resonating with some people, enough for them to take action themselves. The school strikes have been lauded as incredibly hopeful by Bill McKibben and George Monbiot.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer about whether positive, hopeful messaging or more fearful messaging is more effective. As Josh Ettinger says in his guest blog for climate communications organisation Climate Outreach, “different people respond…well, differently.” We would suggest that you never solely rely on instilling fear in your message, you should always inject a little bit of hope.

What we do know is that “actions and practical support must be a central part of all climate communication”. This is important to consider as communication with your MP will include choosing your ‘ask’. Each MP will require a different approach to get the best out of your relationship with them and we can offer 1:1 tailored advice for working with your MP. Whether hopeful or fearful, or a mix of both, your approach needs to be tailored, based on an understanding of your MP and their perspective and with a clear idea of what you want your MP to do.

Hope for the Future Case Study

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Guto Bebb was wary when his constituent, Laura booked a meeting with him about climate change. The last constituent who had arranged a meeting about climate change had brought 20 or so friends with them and ended up with them all shouting at Mr Bebb in his office. His PA was careful to make sure exactly who was attending and asking for an agenda prior to the meeting. Laura, accompanied by Jo from Hope for the Future, went into the meeting with the intention of building a relationship and encouraging Guto to see the positive outcomes acting on climate change could bring about. Guto went on to deliver a workshop on climate change in a local school as a constructive action he could take. He also recently released a video with Laura on why their meeting helped him to see how important action on climate change is.

#ShowTheLove for Cornwall!

Show the Love for Cornwall!

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Every Valentines Day, the Climate Coalition encourage everyone to ‘Show the Love’ for the planet and those things we hold dearest that will be effected by climate change. Last Friday, on 15th February, Hope for the Future was in Threemilestone to Show the Love for Cornwall! To coincide with the New Seasonal Survey for Cornwall, we held event with the Cornwall Federation of Women’s Institutes (CFWI). Over 55 CFWI members from across Cornwall were able to attend alongside Derek Thomas MP and speakers from the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the University of Exeter. 

The panel discussion, chaired by HFTF’s Sarah Robinson, also aligned with the youth climate strikes taking place across the United Kingdom. Pippa Stilwell, event organiser and member of the CFWI said “It felt very poignant that 400 children and young peoplehad gathered at County Hall for the Youth4Climate rally on the morning of our event, and also that there was an Extinction Rebellion meeting in St Just that same evening.  There seems to be a new urgency out there”. This urgency was made clear in the afternoon’s opening presentation from the RSPB. Local warden, Jenny Parker and conservation Officer Paul St Pierre gave an overview of the effects that climate change is already having on Cornwall’s wildlife and habitats. Seasonal changes are already effecting the natural flood chain which mean that for many species their food is appearing at the wrong time. This change in temperature will also mean some birds and insects are forced to relocate as they try to find new habitats with climatic conditions more suited to their needs. 1 in 6 species could face extinctionas suitable alternatives are not always available.

Catherine Brabner-Evans from the Woodland Trust also echoed this urgency. She confirmed researchers have found that warmer springs are creating a mismatch in food chains, with spring now arriving11 days earlieron average than in the 19thcentury. Following the hottest winter day since records began (21 degrees!) its not surprising to hear that changes are already happening in Cornwall and elsewhere in the UK. Catherine told the audience, and the wider public, how they can get involved and contribute to vital databases held by the Woodland Trust; including Nature’s Calendar and Observatree.

To limit the changes we are seeing, emissions need to decline rapidly across all of the main sectors in society. This includes buildings, industry, transport, energy, and agriculture, forestry and other land use. Cornwall benefits from a wealth of low carbon resources through solar and wind energy. However, the potential for this growth is limited by the current grid system which presents a huge challenge for renewable energy for the county.  Dr Iain Souter from the University of Exeter suggested that the only way to tackle this problem is through more collaborative innovation. This requires bottom up demand and strong political leadership in order to act quickly and avoid the UK missing out on the transition to a low carbon economy. 

On this note, Derek Thomas encouraged the audience “not to think of Cornwall as the end of the line, but the start of something”. Derek highlighted that the afternoon’s event also fell on Fuel Poverty Awareness Day. reported by the Independent in July 2018 indicate that fuel poverty has been steadily increasing between 2009 and 2012, affecting more than 1 in 10 houses in the UK. The high cost of fuel is exacerbated by the UK’s current stock of poorly insulated and energy in-efficient housing. Cornwall is committed to becoming carbon neutral and Derek suggested that households would be the best place to start. George Osborne committed £1 billion for infrastructure improvement and Derek would advocate for this to be largely spent on homes. 

Reflecting on the panel discussion, Pippa concluded: “It is clear from the speakers that we need to identify the best ways to tackle climate change and to act quickly.  But it has to be the best action to take, and for that we need many, many conversations at grassroots level, meaning that all of us need to be well informed about the issues and the different interests involved. We all need to share in these conversations”. Jenny and Paul from the RSPB called upon Derek Thomas and other MPs to: Protect our environmental legislation and ensure ministerial accountability post Brexit. They also urged everyone to sign upto the net zero emissions campaign and get others to join up too. 

If you want to learn more about the net zero emissions campaign then please get in touch with us at info@hftf.org.uk. For more information about getting involved with Nature’s calendar, Observatree or any other Woodland Trusts citizen science project then visit: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

21st century democracy, climate change, and Hope for the Future

By Wilkister L Kiyumbu

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Sheffield is a very exciting place to study, not just because of the universities but also because of the exciting activities that local organisations are doing in addressing local and global issues. I found out about Hope for the Future (HFTF) when Jo came to give a talk in my Democratic Governance in the 21st century class. In this module, we had talked a lot about democratic innovations around the world. Our teacher, Dr Matthew Wood, has extensive experience in the area of democratic theory and governance. By inviting Jo to come and speak about HFTF work, he intended for us to see how “bottom up movements of citizens can change how politics works”. From Jo’s presentation, I was fascinated by the fact that it met a specific gap of giving citizens practical support to address a controversial policy area: climate change.

While we all enjoy democracy as a system of governance, it is understandable that one can feel like there is very little they can do beyond voting, to actually get the elected leaders to address the things that matter to them. For example, whether you voted leave or remain during the Brexit referendum, following the subsequent parliamentary proceedings gives you the sense that it is a big mess now that is impossible to unravel (or even understand!). Democratic innovations help to meet that gap between elections. A democratic innovation could be anything from a one-off participatory budgeting task in a given region to an online platform that enables citizens to follow up with the activities of their leaders. It is those things that allow us to strengthen the core elements of democracy that we value such as participation, inclusivity, considered judgement and transparency. So how is HFTF a democratic innovation and what value does it add to the ways of democracy in the UK?

HFTF is a non-profit organisation whose activities are what would be called democratic innovations. If I could explain what HFTF does in a very simplistic way, it would be this: 

HFTF enables individuals and local communities passionate about climate change to engage their local MPs effectively and realistically.

In other words, they help the MPs and local communities deliberate to a common ground. So for example, you may be an individual, group or school that is frustrated because you feel that your local MP does not seem to share the sense of urgency in matters of climate change. Perhaps you either have been unsuccessful in the methods that you have used before or you have no idea how to go about making climate change a primary political agenda. In these scenarios, HFTF would be a great place to start. 

In 2018 alone, HFTF helped local citizens across UK engage with 70 elected representatives through its wide range of support and training activities. Some of the success stories are extremely encouraging and they remind me of how valuable it is to get relevant help to address the issues that we are most passionate about within the democratic structures that exist. Feelings of disenfranchisement and disillusions about what democracy can or cannot achieve, sometimes come from a limited knowledge of how things actually work. Maybe that explains in part, why climate change is not a main political agenda in all the major parties. Having worked on bridging the gap between citizens and MPs for over 4 years, I think that the activities of HFTF are just the right kind of democratic innovation that we need.

In my time volunteering here, I hope to engage departments, student societies and other groups in both The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities to tap into the training resources that HFTF offers, in a manner relevant to those groups’ agendas for climate change. My personal goal is to have a total of at least 5 groups (from both unis) tap into this incredible resource in Sheffield that HFTF is to addressing the global issue of climate change.

 

 

Climate Communication Blog Series

Blog 3: Your MP’s values

Briony Latter, 25th January 2019

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This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this third post, we share some information about the importance of values when discussing climate change with your MP.

Values, which can be defined as “principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life”, can be an important consideration when talking to both groups and individuals about climate change. Listening to and having conversations with someone who shares your values can make a difference to how you respond to the subject and how much you trust what they have to say.

Laura D’Henin meets Guto Bebb, MP for Conwy.

Laura D’Henin meets Guto Bebb, MP for Conwy.

A good example of one of these “trusted sources” is climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who is an evangelical Christian and whose “lectures are effective at informing evangelical college students about climate change”. Another example of using trusted sources was at our recent event, Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet: An evening with Jo Johnson MP, which was held at Orpington Baptist Church. As mentioned in our previous blog post, climate change was discussed in a way that related to Christianity. But what can you do when you think your values are different to those of your MP?

Although you might not see eye to eye with them, it is important to find common ground with your MP so that you can start to have a constructive conversation and help them to take action on climate change. As Jamie Clarke from Climate Outreach states, we must find “shared values that unite us” and it is also important to remember that “effective communication involves listening as well as speaking”. Searching for shared values means that you can find topics that both you and your MP can have a productive discussion about and that you both agree are important to take action on. This article in The Guardian demonstrates some excellent examples of finding common ground. It details five pairs of friends in parliament from different political parties and despite their obvious differences, they have managed to find common ground from which trust can be built and friendships formed.

“If somebody you like and respect has a point of view, you can’t ignore it”.
— Anne Milton MP

As stated in an article by Adam Corner, Ezra Markowitz and Nick Pidgeon, “disagreements about climate change are more likely to be about values than about the underlying science”. Our page about working with Conservative MPs runs through some useful narratives and values to think about and use if you are working with Conservative MPs.

As we say in our vision, ultimately our language must speak to the values of those we seek to engage. Understanding your MP’s values can help you to better communicate with them about climate change. In order to find common ground, research your MP to get an idea of their interests and political values. Trying to identify shared values can help you to build a meaningful relationship with your MP and we can help you to get there. Visit our training pages for more information about how we can help you to work with your MP.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Karen Lee, MP for Lincoln

Karen Lee, MP for Lincoln

We delivered training for a group in Lincoln who are keen to engage several MPs in the area on climate change. Hope for the Future did background research on all the Lincoln MPs to try and uncover their existing interests and identify the main values that the MPs might hold. We were lucky to be joined by local MP, Karen Lee’s office manager who was able to give an insight into Karen’s core values. A local advocate, Karen’s key concern is alleviating poverty in Lincoln and beyond. Climate change is predicted to have the greatest effect on society’s most vulnerable such as those living in poverty, so we recognised this as the key issue with which to engage Karen. The group are now working to organise a constituency event on climate change and poverty with Karen Lee MP in attendance.

The G20 and Climate Change

By Tom Wymer

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A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to Argentina to cover the G20 Summit for Global Policy, an international affairs journal. Our team were there to produce in depth analysis of the policy decisions and outcomes from the Summit. We produced blogs and policy briefs on everything from cryptocurrencies to Sino-Japanese relations. In particular though, I was really pleased that so much of our work looked at what the G20 are doing on issues related to climate change, like food sustainabilityenvironmentally sustainable infrastructure, and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies

Unfortunately, however, the 2018 G20’s commitments on these issues left a lot to be desired. The collective leaders’ statement at the end of the Summit allowed the US to reiterate “its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement”; it included some very weak language on how to reduce the world’s emissions, which was widely regarded to be an attempt to appease oil rich member states like Saudi Arabia; and finally, the leaders failed to mention how they will meet the funding targets set out in the Paris Agreement to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. 

This failure is particularly disappointing given that the G20 can and should be central to the fight against climate change. Indeed, the G20 has proven to be at its most effective in times of global crisis. This was most clearly seen in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis where the likes of Gordon Brown, George W Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel were incredibly successful in using the G20 Summits to create an effective global response and avert a far bigger economic depression. 

 But now the world is facing another, much larger crisis: climate change. As some of the leading investors in the world reminded us this week, climate change could lead to a financial crisis many times the size of the 2008 crash. But it also presents a crisis to our homes, our health and our natural environment, to name just a few. 

 So why is the G20 so important in the global fight against climate change?

 While the COP talks are still vital, we have seen over the last few weeks in Poland that achieving consensus between every country on the planet is incredibly difficult. Indeed, the countries failed to even endorse the recent IPCC report that they themselves commissioned. The G20, by contrast, can be a lot more effective. While it is highly exclusive and unrepresentative of the world’s population, it is a far smaller and less unwieldy body with a greater prospect of building consensus. Reaching an agreement between 20 countries will always be far easier than between 197. Furthermore, the G20 is made up of the countries with the most political influence, economic clout and, crucially, responsibility for a disproportionate amount of the world’s emissions. Therefore, if we are to tackle climate change it is primarily going to be down to action taken by these countries.

 Overall, the 2018 G20 Summit was a disappointment on climate change. But that does not mean that the G20 cannot play a key role in tackling climate change. The G20 can work alongside the existing COP talks, acting as a forum for the largest emitters to reach agreement. In future the leaders of the world’s largest economies must use these summits as an opportunity to be a driving force behind the fight against climate change.

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 2: The Importance of Framing

Briony Latter, 29th November 2018

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This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this second post, we share some information about framing and why it’s important to think about when discussing climate change.

The way in which climate change is framed can mean that the topic appeals to different audiences. The panel at our recent Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet event discussed climate change in a way that related to Christianity. This is different to what a climate change discussion with a Muslim or Hindu audience would be like, for example. Climate Outreach have produced an excellent guide which provides some good examples of how to do this well with the major religions. However, framing isn’t only something to think about when talking to faith groups. Would you talk to a teenager about climate change in the same way that you would discuss it with the elderly? How about someone living in a city compared to someone living in the countryside, or a friend with conservative values compared to someone you know who is more left-wing? As Adam Corner from Climate Outreach explains, “Climate change has been consistently ‘framed’ in the language of those with left-wing values and this is one of the biggest barriers to engaging wider groups”. You can read some suggestions about how to communicate with people on the centre-right of the political spectrum on our first blog post in this series here.

Photo by  Jes

Photo by Jes

Photo by  Andrew Bowden

Photo by Andrew Bowden

Climate change is often framed as a security issue, with phrases such as ‘the fight against climate change’ or ‘the war on climate change’ used regularly in the media. Research has shown that using war metaphors can highlight the importance of climate change but could also lead to a lack of concern. This could be seen as framing climate change in a fearful way, which can be problematic. Research by Saffron O’Neill and Sophie Nicholson-Cole has shown that although fear can make people take notice of climate change, it tends to be unsuccessful for engaging people with the subject in a meaningful way. An interesting example of this is the language used by the group Extinction Rebellion, who have been in the news recently for blocking bridges and roads in London to draw attention to inaction on climate change. Their name alone is very evocative, and their website uses words and phrases such as ‘fight’, ‘global emergency’, ‘survive’, ‘destruction’ and ‘annihilated’. While framing climate change in this way certainly highlights the seriousness of the issue and draws attention to it, it is not an approach that will work for everyone.

Think about how you might frame a discussion about climate change with your MP. This could depend on whether you have a Conservative or Labour MP, or what climate-related issues there are in your local area. If you meet your MP, think about what action you would like them to take and what you will ask them to do. On our What can I ask my MP to do? page, we suggest that you frame your ‘Ask’ around your MP’s main interests and values such as their role in government, or frame your Ask around a local issue such as air pollution.

Although it’s important to think about how you frame climate change for particular audiences, finding the right way to do so isn’t an easy fix. It can take time to get people engaged with the subject and it’s important to find a way to have meaningful conversations with them. Building a good relationship with your MP may involve having contact with them on several occasions, from writing a letter to meeting them in person and following up after the meeting.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield.

Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield.

To Sutton Coldfield MP, Andrew Mitchell, tackling climate change meant possible detriments to his local economy as a huge base for car manufacturing. With this in mind, we knew going into a meeting with Mr Mitchell focusing on reducing emissions from vehicles would only be received badly. Instead, we re-framed our conversation to talk about the huge opportunities of electric vehicles in the UK, and the possibility of the West Midlands being the manufacturing base for greener cars. The meeting was a success and Andrew Mitchell went on to campaign on a fleet of electric taxis in his constituency.