What is the most effective way to communicate with people about climate change? Even more, how can we inspire people to take action to resolve climate change now?
I found a great answer to this question over a month ago when I attended the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. I heard many fabulous presentations about how to communicate climate change effectively. The best message that still “sticks” in my mind was by Dr. Edward Maibach, the Director of The Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.
Dr Maibach made the case for this formula for effective public communication:
“Simple clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted sources.”
Even better, he then showed what this simple clear message is. It is a beautiful message because it can be repeated often. Furthermore, one can easily back up this message with a variety of trusted sources, such as NASA, NOAA, American Meteorology Society, all US Military Institutions (Army, Navy, Air Force, & Coast Guard), and all 32 US & Worldwide Science Academies.
Dr. Maibach then boiled it down to Five messages about global warming – identified through audience research – that you may wish to convey:
• Climate change is real.
• People are causing it this time.
• There is widespread agreement among climate scientists; more than 95% of scientists are convinced of the above two points.
• It is harmful to people.
• People can limit it, if we choose to.
As a climate change communicator, I struggle with communicating climate change quickly, succinctly and in a manner that it easy for me to say. Even more, I think this is a “sticky” message that is easy for my audience to remember. Hopefully, other climate change communicators can easily repeat this message to their audiences to spread the message.
Dr. Maibach discovered this technique of effective “sticky” messages from the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath. In my correspondence with Maibach and another friend, Tom Smerling, it was highly recommended that I read this book. I was so impressed with Dr. Maibach’s presentation about effective climate change communication and The Five Messages about Global Warming – that you may wish to convey that I bought Made to Stick yesterday.
I felt like I just found an excellent “sticky” tool to enable me to be a more effective climate change communicator. I hope this “sticky” tool helps you too.