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Climate Communications - Sarah Hurtes, European Climate Foundation at ECF Europe 2018


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(c) Sarah Hurtes, European Climate Foundation,

Climate change affects everyone, and tackling it requires a response right across society, from people of different faiths, nationalities and political views. But what if the ways we talk about climate aren’t just failing to get through. What if they’re even making things worse?

Sarah will talk through the latest thinking and research on how to talk about climate issues in ways that break out of the activist/environmentalist bubble, and using language, imagery and approaches that drive action and change, with lessons for campaigners no matter what your field.

Sarah Hurtes is Media Associate at the European Climate Foundation, leading the work on health, food or humanitarian issues for ECF's strategic communications network. French born and South African raised, Sarah also works as a journalist, with prior communications roles within different institutions, including coordinating campaigns whilst working for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, global outreach strategies for the European Women's Audiovisual Network in Paris and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Womens office based in India.

Presented at ECF Europe 2018. Join the Campaigning Forum and find out more about its upcoming events here:

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Climate Communications - Sarah Hurtes, European Climate Foundation at ECF Europe 2018

  1. 1. How do we talk about climate change in ways that inspire action?
  2. 2. Overview 1. Introducing the European Climate Foundation’s unbranded comms network: GSCC 2. Review a set of 3 problems as to why climate change may be hard to communicate and see according solutions 3. Climate messaging in the digital age
  3. 3. 1. ECF’s communications work
  4. 4. • Start early to condense diverse and complex findings into compelling messages • Straight to the point 2 page max PR with quotes • Infographics/country rankings • Embed narrative in ongoing policy context • Highlight relevance of the report for the international climate processes
  5. 5. • New country specific data • Translations of key findings/executive summary • Streamline PR (key findings) • Q&A, talking points and media training for spokespeople • Work with key influencers & opinion formers, get strong voices to validate report
  6. 6. • Share complete and final materials as soon as possible • Facilitate early contact between partners, set up joint conference call(s) and a platforms to share documents • Be aware of competition for media coverage around key moments and events (G20 summit, COP24!) • Online media launch (set up 2 press calls in 2 time zones with different speakers) with recording to share
  7. 7. 2. Climate communication: Problems and solutions
  8. 8. First some remarks...
  9. 9. • Not here/not now (temporally and spatially distant), ‘invisible’ in many Western nations but not elsewhere • Psychologically distant – not personally threatening; nothing to link actions and outcomes • 'Affective' cues not present – we don’t ‘feel’ the risk
  10. 10. We have a limited amount of ‘concern’ to go round: economic troubles, military threats, daily problems take precedence
  11. 11. Weather and Climate Change Local weather does not equal global climate, but it is all we will ever get!
  12. 12. Which leads to...
  13. 13. The uncertainty of climate change projections allows people to play down the risks and has also been exploited by climate skeptics.
  14. 14. Do not get too positive!
  15. 15. Emphasise the benefits of taking action rather than the negative consequences of doing nothing
  16. 16. • People don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data. • The human brain relies on 2 different processing systems, known as 1. System 1 (intuitive, experiential, emotional) 2. System 2 (deliberate, effortful, rational). • System 1 often exerts a greater influence in decision-making.
  17. 17. The social science of human behaviour & communication is just as important as the science of climate change and sustainability.
  18. 18. 1. Problem: the risks of climate change sound uncertain A solution: Focus on what is known, rather than what isn’t – & on ‘when’ not ‘if’ 2. Problem: fear can be disempowering A solution: combine worrying information with constructive suggestions 3. Problem: Language can only do so much A solution: … Lessons learned
  19. 19. 3.Climate messaging in the Digital age
  20. 20. General interest Younf- middle-aged people Organisations and campaigns Journalists Politicians and decision-makers Researchers Think-tanks etc. Professionals Funders Consultancies General interest Students and young people Brings together audiences from all platforms
  21. 21. Source: 2018 NGO Global Technology Report
  23. 23. •Austrians and Swiss… are most used to printed newspapers •Italians… love TV bulletins •Latin Americans… get more news via social media and chat apps than others parts of the world
  24. 24. What are the most engaged with environment/climate articles on social media this year? A few take-aways...
  25. 25. Thank you!