Climate Change Communication – How do you get the people of today to care about the people of tomorrow? (721 words)

During last week’s seminar a perplexing question was asked, how do you communicate climate change as a problem that not only affects us now but affects future generations too? How do you get people of today to care about the people of tomorrow? I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days and have realised just how complex this problem is.

There are a few major reasons why it’s so difficult to do:
1) Long timescales – Thinking and caring about the future is on a timescale that people find challenging, the future is too temporally distant for people to comprehend.
2) We are not directly influenced – It’s a problem that will happen to others, in the future, therefore we feel distant from the issue.
3) Climate change is seen as a problem out there/ distant from everyday life. It’s a fleeting thought rather than a nagging issue.

Communication right now:
Using shocking or disturbing tactics is the major way to communicate climate change and the future, images like this are often used.

Blog Post 2 - Dramatic Climate Change image

Sydney from the Movie 2012 – From the Daily Telegraph

However they have been overused. Desensitisation was mentioned in the lecture and I think that’s the truth, we’ve seen it so many times its effect upon us just doesn’t work anymore. We need another approach. But more images of polar bears stranded on ice and cities underwater is just not working anymore.

Ideas I have for communication instead:
To tackle the issues above I’ve been thinking about how I would attempt to communicate climate change, I’ve picked my top three idea to discuss here:

1) Make it Personal – Communication needs to get into people’s lives, make people realise it’s THEIR children and THEIR grandchildren and even THEMSELVES who are going to be affected by climate change. Communication needs to be centred on the individual, Google, Intel and Microsoft are already doing this by using mapping software to show people the effects climate change will have upon their own homes. Stephan Sheppard’s blog helps explain this further.
Similarly the banned Act on CO2 adverts for climate change provide the personal touch needed in communication. It makes people think what ending do I want to this bedtime story, asking people ‘well what do I want for my child’s future?’. This tugs on people’s emotive strings and promotes action.

2) A change of perspective – The perspective often taken to communicate climate change and the future is often adults thinking about what their children will go through. Maybe we need to swap the perspective and get the children talking to the adults about climate change. Get them talking about what they want for their futures and about the world they want to live in. We need to give children a voice as they are the ones that are going to be affected.
We should show how children want to take action to fight climate change and build a better future for themselves. Hopefully this will create upward mobility making parents/adults think that if their children/ the youth want change and are willing to do something to achieve it, adults will want to be a part of that movement too. These two ideas might create empathy and push action to fight climate change forward. The short clip below is helpful in emphasising my point.

3) Increase Visibility – Climate change too many people is invisible, people don’t see how what they do emits particles of CO2 and how that affects the climate budget. It needs to become visible for people to take action and actually understand that what they are doing today is harming the people of the future. These two YouTube videos make the invisible components of climate change visible and put them into layman’s terms that all people can understand. If people can truly understand that what they do affects the climate they will be more likely to take some form of action and this will benefit future generations.

To conclude, I would state that making people care about future generations is complex/difficult and a number of strategies should be used to try and communicate the message. The best method would be to go to the future and collect the evidence, but for now that is impossible. We’re just going to have to keep on trying with the methods we’ve got and hope it’s enough to create action to help the future.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Climate: Who Cares (the most)? | Climate Matters

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