Dialogue & Climate Change 101

Individuals, communities, and societies come to understand, care, and act on climate change through their communication with other people.

This statement is both the observation and organizing purpose of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. And many experts agree. But how do you begin a conversation on such a loaded topic with people whose views might be really different from yours? 

The resources on this page introduce some of the proven approaches.

A Climate Scientist Makes the Case for Talking About It

Talking about climate change, and helping other people connect climate changes to the things that they care about, is one the most important things we can do to support climate change action. 

Why? 

Because with a challenge as big as climate change, individual actions -- no matter how big -- are insufficient to turn the tide. We must work together to change the systems that have gotten us here. 

Watch this 17-minute video to hear what Dr. Katharine Hayhoe suggests. 

Maine Organizations Promoting Dialogue and Climate Change Communication

Many organizations exist in Maine to help people develop their communication skills and address climate change. These are three to begin with:

Makeshift Coffee House creates respectful spaces where people with different views can talk together. 

Maine Climate Table offers trainings in Climate Communication.

Maine Environmental Changemakers is an organization led primarily by and for youth.

The Science of Climate Change Communications

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Artwork by Michael Sloan

This Yale program is perhaps best known for its publication Global Warming’s Six Americas. The six Americas study has been repeated regularly since the original publication in 2009. It now serves as a powerful marker of the changing attitudes of Americans. The study also offers insights into the best strategies for communicating with each of the six groups.

If videos are more your speed, watch a short introduction here.

National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI)

Motivated by concern about climate change impacts on the ocean, a group of zoos and aquariums came together to hire social scientists to develop and test an evidence-based approach to climate change communication that their staff could use to talk with visitors. The network now includes 184 institutions in 38 countries and has a strong track record of success. It has an impressive collection of resources for professional climate change communicators and the rest of us.

 

A cartoon about the challenges of communication

This cartoon from The Oatmeal presents the challenges of communication among humans about beliefs, and the common pitfalls that get in our way - whether we are trying to help Uncle Joe understand the real story of what happened that night with the bear, or trying to shift our own ideas about a challenging topic. References are provided at the end for additional exploration of the science of communicating with humans.

Classroom-friendly version is available at the link.