Guide: A Warm Response - Our Climate Change Challenge

Annex A to Appendix 3 – The Rules of the Game – Principles of Climate Change Communication

Section 1:Blowing Away Myths

  1. Challenging habits of climate change communication.
  • Don’t rely on concern about children’s future or human survival instincts. Recent surveys show that people without children may care more about climate change than those with children. “Fight or flight” human survival instincts have a time limit measured in minutes – they are little use for a change in climate measured in years.
  • Don’t create fear without agency.Fear can create apathy if individuals have no ‘agency’ to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution.
  •  Don’t attack or criticise home or family.It is unproductive to attack that which people hold dear.

         2. Forget the climate change detractors.

  • Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate change, but how we should deal with climate change.

3. There is ‘no rational’ man.

  • The evidence discredits the ‘rational man’ theory – we rarely weigh objectively the value of different decisions and then take the clear self-interested choice.

4. Information can’t work alone.

  • Providing information is not wrong; relying on information alone to change attitudes is wrong. Remember also that money messages are important, but not that important.

Section 2: A New Way of Thinking

5. Climate change must be ‘front of mind’ before persuasion works.

  • Telling the public to take notice of climate change will only be successful when people realise (or remember) that climate change relates to them.

6. Use both peripheral and central processing.

  • Attracting attention to an issue can change attitudes, but peripheral messages can be just as effective.

7. Link climate change mitigation to positive desires/aspirations.

  • Traditional marketing links products to the aspirations of their target audience. Linking climate change mitigation to home improvement, self-improvement, green spaces or national pride are all worth investigating.

8. Use transmitters and social learning.

  • People learn through social interaction, and some people are better teachers and trendsetters than others. Targeting these people will ensure that messages are transmitted effectively.

9. Beware the impacts of cognitive dissonance.

  • Confronting someone with the difference between their attitude and their actions on climate change will make them more likely to change their attitude than their actions.

 Section 3: Linking Policy and Communications

10. Everyone must use a clear and consistent explanation of climate change.

  • The public knows that climate change is important, but is less clear on exactly what it is and how it works.

11. Government policy and communications on climate change must be                   consistent.

  • Don’t ‘build in’ inconsistency and failure from the start.

Section Four: Audience Principles

12. Create ‘agency’ for combating climate change.

  • Agency is created when people know what to do, decide for themselves to do it, have access to the infrastructure in which to act, and understand that their contribution is important.

13. Make climate change a ‘home’ not ‘away’ issue.

  • Climate change is global issue, but we will feel its impact at home – and we can act on it at home.

14. Raise the status of climate change mitigation behaviours.

  • Research shows that energy efficiency behaviours can make you seem poor and unattractive. We must work to overcome these emotional assumptions.

15. Target specific groups.

  • A classic marketing rule, and one not always followed by climate change communications from government and other sources.

Section Five: Style Principles

16. Create a trusted, credible, recognised voice on climate change.

  • We need trusted organisations and individuals that the media call upon to explain the implications of climate change to the average citizen.

17. Use emotions and visuals.

  • Another classic marketing rule: changing behaviour by disseminating information doesn’t always work, but emotions and visuals usually do.

Section Six: Effective Management

18. The context affects everything.

  • The prioritisation of these principles must be subject to ongoing assessments of the UK situation on climate change.

19. The communications must be sustained over time.

  • All the most successful public awareness campaigns have been sustained consistently over many years.

20. Partnered delivery of messages will be more successful.

  • Experience shows that partnered delivery is often a key component for projects that are large, complex and have many stakeholders.