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3 - Use trusted communicators
Because climate change communication is so strongly based on predictions, it is vital that the communicator is trusted. The confidence in climate science has declined recently, making the trustworthiness of the communicator even more important.
Do not depend entirely on scientific sources
Mainstream climate science is under attack from sceptics and people believe there is still a major scientific debate. Trust in science has suffered as a consequence. It is therefore not enough to present scientific information without the endorsement of other trusted sources.
Avoid quoting politicians, governments and green campaign organisations
Politicians, governments and campaign organisations are seen as politically biased and are therefore not trusted by people who do not share their politics.
Find the sources and opinion formers who are trusted by your audience
Each audience respects different people and sources. There are many prominent people and organisations who have expressed concern about Climate Change, so choose and quote the ones that will best resonate with the audience. Alternatively, you can bypass people’s suspicion of experts by emphasizing the experience of familiar and ordinary people.
Time travelling Grandmother: I have visited primary schools, cub groups as my grandmother, who has time travelled forward from 1960. I wear late 1950s clothes and talk about how things were in the 1950s-60s - and then get 5-6 children to talk about how they do the same things now. 50 yrs ago we produced the same emissions in a year that we now produce in a week (x50!) - so this gives them the chance to question their own lives and behaviour. It is great fun, and they are always very happy to 'suspend disbelief'.
(Audrey Compton, Bovey Climate Action)
Prioritise peer-to-peer communications
The most trusted messengers are people who are similar to the people you want to reach, and can speak to their values and concerns: what we call peer communicators. This principle applies equally strongly whether you are speaking to bankers, bus drivers, or members of a local mosque. Wherever possible design your strategy around peer-to-peer communication: for example supporting people to make presentations to their work colleagues, or fellow members of a social club or faith group. Include photos and quotes of ‘typical people’ in your written materials or use videos of local people talking about their concerns and hopes.
My Brownies are great at talking to other girls in their age group.
(Tracey Todhunter, ex Campaign Manager Low Carbon Communities Network)
If you are seeking to influence a given audience find peer communicators to support your message. For example if you want your councillors to support a local wind farm, organize them into a roundtable discussion with officers from another council that has already approved a wind farm and enable them to share experience peer-to-peer.
We launched a Green Communities Network in Suffolk, allowing people from community steering groups and parish councils to come together and share their ideas and experiences. We had 45 people attend our launch event representing at least 20 different projects. There was a lot of hubbub in the room by the end so it certainly got people talking to one another and forged new links with local contacts.
(John Taylor, Suffolk Climate Change Partnership)
And a warning…
There are also dangers with peer- to- peer in terms of the potential for circulating false information - a big problem in this field already. So it is important to provide training and printed information for people to disseminate, and a contact for an impartial and well informed advisor.
(Danni, Centre for Sustainable Energy)