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15 ways to powerfully communicate climate change solutions

by the Guardian

Should campaigners be publishing in more local languages, or pushing for climate change to be taught at school? Our panel share their suggestions for the best ways to promote positive action

people's climate march
Last year, thousands of people took to the streets as part of the People’s Climate March. Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP

Create a vision for action: Talking about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, temperature goals and so on is too abstract. We need a way to make people understand what needs to happen in the real world to solve the problem, something simple that can capture people’s imagination. I think 100% renewable energy provides that vision. When we say we want a world powered by 100% renewable energy, people understand what is needed to happen; it is physical and concrete. Wael Hmaidan, executive director, Climate Action Network, Beirut, Lebanon, @whmaidan

Connect the dots: A prevailing obstacle is a lack of clarity on how things connected leading up to the climate crisis we are currently experiencing. We need to show people that our dependence on fossil fuels, which led to environmental, political and economic exploitation, contributed to climate change. Hoda Baraka, global communications manager, 350.org, Cairo, Egypt, @hodabaraka

Use different languages: Many publications today are in English, and there is lack of effort to have them translated into local languages. In the course of our work, we failed to find a word in Bahasa Malaysia – a language taught in schools and used by most indigenous peoples – for deforestation. Maybe our culture did not see a use for it or did not think it would happen on our land! This makes the teaching, promotion and understanding of climate change just that little bit more difficult in Malaysia. Adrian Yeo, community organiser, #PowerShiftMsia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, @ninoamigo

Highlight the economic benefits: Over the last few years the focus on economic growth has been relentless and while I don’t think we should reduce the benefits of action on climate change down to a “value for money” equation, it’s important to tackle the misguided assumption that climate change policies cost, rather than benefit it. Emma Pinchbeck, head of climate and energy, WWF-UK, Woking, UK, @ELPinchbeck, @wwf_uk

Make climate change a social issue: Where I come from, many people don’t understand the term climate change, but they do feel the impact. Talking about climate change from a social angle helps people to understand and be more prepared to adapt to the impacts. Esther Agbarakwe, founder, Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition and #ClimateWednesday, Abuja, Nigeria, @estherclimate

Appeal to communal values: Simply “selling” people solutions – saying that the only reason to tackle climate change is to make yourself richer or cooler – is ultimately self destructive. If people don’t care about the issue then it’s important to communicate the things that we all would want for ourselves – things like health, community development, and having a clean and safe environment. Jamie Clarke, executive director, Climate Outreach Information Network, Oxford, UK, @JamieWClarke

Amplify the voices of impacted communities: The global community should hear the voices of those directly impacted by climate change, and from those implementing solutions at the community level – this will help to highlight how climate solutions can be empowering and could serve to overcome structural barriers. Hoda Baraka, global communications manager, 350.org, Cairo, Egypt, @hodabaraka

Don’t forget that small efforts add up: One big problem is that the challenge posed by climate change is so big and the contribution any one group or sector can make to a solution is so small. But climate change solutions do exist. They are not simple and there is not a single silver bullet – even if we have a carbon tax or an agreement at Cop21 – but by adding up action on many different fronts, the problem can successfully be addressed. So what we need to communicate are the effective and credible solutions that cumulate and scale up. Elke Weber, professor of international business, Columbia University, New York, US

Get climate change on the curriculum: In Nigeria, the Lagos state government has made it mandatory to have climate change on the school curriculum. If this can be expanded to other states in Nigeria, we will begin to have an informed generation of climate-smart Nigerians. Esther Agbarakwe

Empower people to send their own messages: Mobilisation fosters a stronger, more resilient climate movement for solutions. Particularly when, like at the People’s Climate March, the majority of participants are not regular climate activists but farmers, teachers, union leaders and people of faith. We want to help give people around the world the chance to take to the streets and to communicate their own desire for climate solutions. Wael Hmaidan

But don’t just march: Street protests are almost immediately linked to politically-aligned campaigns, from which we try very hard to disassociate. During the last People’s Climate March, #PowerShiftMsia hosted a People’s Climate Picnic instead. It was fun and zero-carbon, yet still sent a message to the right people in power. Adrian Yeo

Look beyond social media: When it comes to climate change I don’t think social media has done the same justice as it has done for other issues. I think the best way to communicate climate change is for it to become an election issue. This can of course be done by using social media but we should be framing conversations to show that development, economic growth, and job creation can only happen when climate change solutions are implemented, otherwise the proposed manifestos of all parties will not yield dividends for its citizens. Richard Munang, climate change programme coordinator, United Nations Environment Programme – Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, @mtingem

Encourage action at the local level: Many cities around the world are taking leadership and exceeding the efforts put in by the national government. One example is MBPJ/Petaling Jaya in Malaysia winning sustainable awards while the same effort by the national government is left to be desired. Adrian Yeo

Encourage businesses to speak up: One of the biggest hurdles to climate action is a perception that we cannot afford to financially invest in mitigation, adaptation or finance. However, increasing numbers of businesses are saying that climate change poses a key operational risk, so they need to have their say, as well as the growing businesses that are driving the clean economy and are invested in climate action. Emma Pinchbeck

Forget about images of polar bears: For people like me who live on the equator, we just do not get images of melting ice caps and stranded polar bears – most have never seen snow in their lifetime. Let’s focus on the effects of climate change on different people’s livelihood, for example how fishing communities will suffer from ocean acidification, how farmers will experience drops in production, or people will need to pay more for dirty fossil fuel. Adrian Yeo

Global development professionals network
Climate change debates
Katherine Purvis
Tuesday 5 May 2015
Source and more details: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/05/15-ways-to-powerfully-communicate-climate-change-solutions
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