Still not sure how to have a conversation about climate?

The "messaging triangle" below ties everything together and provides an easy way to structure your conversation. It’s also very useful if you're going to speak to a group about climate change (your mosque, sports team, colleagues, etc)

A triangle with the words

  • The Benefits: highlight tangible opportunities and benefits of climate action to lives, families, and communities.

  • The Challenge: recognize causes, threats, and impacts of climate change in plain language.

  • The Pathway: offer practical actions that are feasible and relevant to your audience.

Step 1: Understand Your Audience

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  • Who are you speaking to?

  • What do they care about? 

  • What are some of the barriers to their understanding of or involvement in climate change (consider identity, literacy, competing priorities, sense of efficacy, and lack of relevance)?

  • How/where do they get their information?

  • Who do they most trust?

Step 2: Identify Threats, Impacts, and Opportunities (The Challenge)

Part of the challenge is that people view climate change as an environmental issue and don't necessarily connect impacts to health, food, livelihoods, or other parts of their daily lives. 

Talk about the impacts of climate change from the perspective of your audience.

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Ask: 

  • What are key threats, impacts, or opportunities your audience cares about? Poor air quality in your region? Impacts to livelihoods from moving away from oil and gas? Economic opportunities? Affordability? Safety? 

  • What does your audience stand to gain from an energy transition? How might some of the solutions benefit them? What do they stand to lose?

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Remember:

  • Tie the challenge back to the cause — the pollution blanket overheating the earth.

Step 3: Highlight The Solutions (The Pathway)

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Inspire new thinking about what’s possible by sharing practical examples of solutions to the challenges that concern you and your audience.

Talk about specific, tangible solutions. For example, "Urban densification will help curb urban sprawl and preserve farmland in our region. This is especially important because we'll need to rely more on local food sources if climate change negatively affects the places we import food from."

Step 4: Emphasize The Benefits

Be aware that climate competes with other pressures that people feel right now (the pandemic, war, housing, affordability, etc).

Hone in on the benefits of climate action most relevant to your audience by talking about what will improve for their lives, families, and communities, or other things they care about.

Make the case for support by speaking of the benefits for a better life that go beyond climate change issues (health, food safety, etc). For example, "Urban densification is not only good for the environment. It will also provide more flexible housing solutions."

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  • What does your audience stand to win? How will their lives, personally, improve?

  • What are the benefits of acting now?

  • How does taking action on this problem/opportunity intersect with other issues people in your community care about?

  • How do the economic benefits tie into values?

The Messaging Triangle In Action

Here’s an example:

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You're talking to your favorite uncle who lives in the suburbs of Calgary but came from Bangladesh about 10 years ago. He doesn’t really care about the environment but does go back to Bangladesh regularly to see his best friend, who is a farmer.

  • Audience: your family member — you've already built a trust and relationship with them.

  • Challenge: They care about their best friend, who is facing having to move away from the coastal area where she farms rice because of rising sea levels.

  • Pathway: Climate-resilient farming methods, such as vertical farming, will help farmers like your uncle’s friend be able to resist the impacts of climate change on their livelihood.

  • Benefits: Besides extending their livelihoods, vertical farming can be done in urban areas, as it requires less land and less irrigation, making it more practical if your uncle’s friend has to move away from the coast.

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This Byte has been authored by

SB

Sabrina Bowman

Manager, Operations and Special Projects