Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 6: Framing the emergency: how to use facts and figures effectively

Briony Latter, 1st August 2019

Briony Latter square.jpg

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 sixth and final post of the climate communications series we explore different ways to present and talk about climate change information in a way that your audience can understand and engage with.

Climate change is complicated. The science can be difficult to understand, it’s a global issue that affects multiple aspects of our lives and it’s not always easy to agree what is best to do about it. If it’s a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate about, it may be easy to get sucked in to talking about things like ppm, tipping points and geo-engineering and forget that not everyone has the same level of in-depth knowledge. When talking about it to others, you’ll need to consider who your audience is and identify whether you need to adjust the way you talk about climate change. Depending on how much time you have, you may need to choose just one element of climate change and ensure that you talk about it in a way that is simple to understand (though perhaps in a little more depth than these bullet points from 350.org).

Some of the HFTF team meeting with Ed Miliband MP

Some of the HFTF team meeting with Ed Miliband MP

If you’ve managed to arrange a meeting with your MP, you’ll have limited time to talk to them and clearly explain your ‘ask’. An average surgery meeting with your MP is only around 20 minutes long. It’s important to research your MP beforehand so you know about their interests and values, and whether climate change is something they have had much engagement with previously. This should give you an indication of how detailed you need to be in the way you explain and discuss your chosen topic. Researching your MP and constituency will also help you to decide what topic to bring up and ask them to take action on.

Our resource hub introduces several issues related to climate change which have been found to work well when engaging with MPs. One of these free resources looks at the basics of climate change, which explains in simple terms what climate change is, its causes, impacts and more. Depending on your MP this may or may not be useful, but we also have a number of other resources looking in-depth at specific topics such as divestment and fuel poverty.

Be aware that people can have different preferences about how to learn and receive information. Some information may also work better in one format than another. Is there vital information that you want to show your MP which would be much more impactful if you showed it visually as a chart or diagram rather than simply talking through a list of data and numbers? Although these are global rather than local impacts, the BBC’s 6 useful graphics to explain climate change demonstrate vital information at a glance in a way that can be easily understood. Using images to accompany information or emphasise a point could be another way for you to communicate about climate change. Climate Visuals, “an evidence-based image library” by Climate Outreach, is a fantastic and growing resource for climate change imagery that goes beyond the standard images of polar bears to provide images of the causes, impacts and solutions of climate change.

Underlying all of this is the importance of researching your MP and your constituency in detail. No matter how detailed your knowledge of climate change is and how much you care about it, if you try to discuss it with your MP in a way that isn’t related to your local area or their values and concerns, it will be much harder to find common ground and create positive outcomes. You can get help working with your MP by filling in our survey and we can work with you to develop a detailed strategy.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Sarah Robinson and Carrie Cort met with Jeremy Quin MP.

Sarah Robinson and Carrie Cort met with Jeremy Quin MP.

We worked with a constituent in Horsham in to engage Jeremy Quin MP on the topic of climate change. There was a point in the conversation where you could visibly see Jeremy sit up and listen, and this was when we presented him with an article of a constituent who had saved hundreds of pounds by switching to a renewable energy provider. This message worked so well because it was relevant to him - a local constituent he represents benefiting from an initiative that he could support. It was also presented visually which meant that he could take the information away with him. He offered to write an article in the local paper about the story of this constituent and attended the local repair cafe’s first birthday celebration shortly after the meeting. You can read a blog about our meeting with Jeremy Quin on our website.