Climate Change Communications; The ‘Preparation Frame’

At the begin­ning of March, the US cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion spe­cial­ists Climate Access released a new guide titled, ‘The Preparation Frame: A Guide to Building Understanding of Climate Impacts and Engagement in Solutions.’ The guide is based on trends in public opinion and syn­thes­ises over one hun­dred social sci­ence studies, as well as tools and best prac­tices from cli­mate leaders who are already enga­ging com­munities in pre­par­a­tion efforts. Climate Accessargue that framing cli­mate change around the idea of ‘pre­par­a­tion’ might go a long way to enga­ging audi­ences who oth­er­wise are not inter­ested in cli­mate impacts.

The first prin­ciple of pre­par­a­tion framing explores how to ini­tiate a con­ver­sa­tion and engage an audi­ence. Naturally, it is best to start with the most per­tinent issues. For example, a com­mu­nic­ator may start a con­ver­sa­tion with issues sur­rounding water avail­ab­ility for farmers, or the best use of resources when talking to com­munity leaders.

This may not even mean men­tioning ‘cli­mate change’ ini­tially as this can ali­enate some audiences from the get-go – although as COIN’s own work shows, it is important not to propagate a ‘cli­mate silence’ by ignoring it altogether.

The guide also sug­gests focus­sing on local, rel­evant and observ­able impacts. People and their security should be pri­or­it­ised as the number one point of dis­cus­sion, to over­come the per­cep­tion that cli­mate change is a dis­tant, far-away issue. We invest a lot in our sur­rounding envir­on­ment. We build rela­tion­ships within, as well as with these areas, so talking about the threats to them, as well as how to pro­tect them engages audi­ences on an emo­tional level.

Along with feel­ings of dis­tance are those of uncer­tainty. Uncertainty – real or man­u­fac­tured – plagues the cli­mate change move­ment. It is some­time used as a jus­ti­fic­a­tion for inac­tion even by those who are con­vinced cli­mate change is a defin­itive dia­gnosis. The guide sug­gests “flip­ping the problem of uncer­tainty on its head.” Much like an insur­ance policy, uncer­tainty can be framed as a very genuine reason to mit­igate cli­mate change and adapt to it by out­lining dif­ferent scen­arios where not acting under uncer­tainty is an unwise choice to make.

The guide also iden­ti­fies a solu­tion to bypass the acute politi­cisa­tion of cli­mate change by building dis­cus­sions around ‘non-partisan values.’ Climate Access argues that examples of such values are ‘respons­ib­ility,’ ‘stew­ard­ship,’ ‘fair­ness,’ how it is ‘better to be pre­pared,’ and ideas of ‘pro­tec­tion and safety.’

The idea of ‘non-partisan’ values is an inter­esting one: cli­mate sci­ence has become so heavily politi­cised, that being able to get beyond this is very appealing. But should the politics of cli­mate change be avoided or embraced? Should this be tackled by trying to create non-partisan dis­cus­sion or by attempting to bridge the polit­ical spec­trum with a more bipar­tisan approach, such as COIN’s work on enga­ging centre-right constituencies?

A common trope in cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion is the need to artic­u­late a vision. A clean, green, healthy vision. A vision of the smog clearing, health improving, energy and water prices decreasing in a town peppered with solar panels, con­nected to a smart grid and maybe even a tidal lagoon a few miles down the coast. Promoting and presenting prac­tical solu­tions and a vision of the future is cru­cial for enga­ging wider audi­ences. Climate Access sug­gests cli­mate com­mu­nic­ators should artic­u­late what will get better if action is taken and high­light existing suc­cess stories, an approach used by 10:10’s in their ‘it’s hap­pening’ campaign.

Originally posted here.