We must acknowledge that facts alone are insufficient to augur widespread climate action. The Trump administration’s disdain for facts highlight the importance of a science-based understanding of climate change. However, the Trump administration is not the biggest impediment to climate action. They are merely taking advantage of human psychology.
Narratives bassed exclusively on facts make people feel both afraid and guilty. Rather than motivating us to act fear causes apathy, avoidance and passivity. We need messaging that is both clear and concise. We also need narratives that reflect the propensities of the human psyche.
First and foremost we must acknowledge that we are social creatures. This is a defining feature of human psychology. We can more effectively encourage climate engagement if we incorporate what we know about social-behavior. Research shows that making comparisons and encouraging competition has been found to foster action. Social competition has been shown to help people engage in environmentally friendly behaviors like saving energy.
We also need more optimistic climate narratives. Behavioral change is possible but we must do more than guilt people into action. We need to help people understand that we can manage the climate crisis no matter how daunting it may appear. We need to avoid pessimism and present positive narratives. We need to share environmental success stories including the campaigns that induce behavior changes like those that are resulting in the repair of the ozone layer.
Climate Lab is a partnership between Vox and the University of California. They created the following video which explores research conducted by the UCLA Engage Project. It offers some interesting research-based insights into the realm effective climate communications.
The Science of Storytelling: Making Facts Matter in a Post-Factual World
Sustainability as Both Sexy and Spiritual
The Pearl in the Oyster – Leveraging the Climate Crisis for Human and Planetary Health
Why We Need a New Climate Change Narrative
Overcoming Obstacles in the Creation of a New Climate Narratives
Video – It’s all in our heads: The psychology of sustainability
Video – Making People Care About Climate Change: The Psychology of Risk Perception
Video – Changing the Narrative to Change the World
Guide – Solutions to Sustainable Living: A New Narrative
Video – Narratives on Carbon Pollution: Are Individuals to Blame for Carbon Pollution?
Making Environmentalism Everyone’s Concern
How Morality Can Win the War on Climate Change
Study Shows Americans Would Act on Global Warming if they were Urged to do so by People they Like and Respect