How to Talk to Friends and Family About Climate Change
One of the best things you can do to make a real impact
Even though we’re all hyper-aware climate change is happening and of the dangers it poses, it’s usually the last thing we want to talk about. Some of the time, a conversation about climate change can feel like an uphill battle about a polarizing topic. But most of the time, it just isn’t a fun conversation to have. We’d much rather discuss fun birthday parties, travel plans, or the latest show we binge watched!
But according to scientists, one of the best things you can do to combat climate change is to talk about it (1), which is why we put together a guide of helpful resources on how to talk to friends and family (and even a separate guide for kids!) about climate change. These tips and tricks will help make talking about climate change so much easier.
Why we need to talk about it
Even though climate change is a serious international problem, there seems to be a disconnect between knowing about climate change and talking about it. In fact, even though about 71% of adults in America believe global warming is happening and that it will harm future generations, 64% of the same adults rarely discuss it (1). What’s worse, only 25% hear about global warming from a media outlet at least once a week. If we’re basically all worried about it, why aren’t we talking about it more?! Staying silent about a major issue like climate change, makes it easier to pretend the problem won’t impact us as individuals. But if everyone is suddenly talking about climate change, it makes it impossible to ignore. Just take a look at Greta Thunberg- what started as her own school strike turned into a global movement with a huge impact. Just by talking about climate change, Greta made the issue impossible to ignore and inspired countless others to advocate and help put pressure on politicians to create real climate change mitigation policies. That’s why we think it’s so important to continue to discuss climate change; one small conversation can help create meaningful change.
Tips and Tricks
We know that climate change isn’t always the easier subject to talk about, which is how our tips and resources come in. And don’t forget- practice makes perfect!
1. Lead with personal impacts
When someone is a climate change skeptic or just not interested in the topic, it’s often better to have a conversation about the personal impacts of climate change rather than scientific facts or abstract concepts. Personal examples of how climate change is impacting someone’s life like “we’ve been seeing more ticks this summer, which means more bites and more potential for vector-borne illnesses” or “”wildfires went from once in a while to a constant threat every year. We might move. What about you?” can be much more persuasive than melting icebergs thousands of miles away. Personal anecdotes show that issues caused by climate change are real, local, and are already impacting their lives.
2. It’s a conversation, not a lecture
When having a conversation about climate change, it’s just as important to listen to the other person’s thoughts and opinions as it is to discuss your own. A big part of climate change education is understanding where someone is coming from so you can educate without offending core values of beliefs. And even if someone has dramatically different views than your own, you can always try to connect over shared values. Things like nature, outdoor recreation, and wanting a good world for your children are appreciated and wanted by almost everyone. Connecting with shared values like these can drive home the personal impact climate change can have on our daily lives.
3. Keep Trying
Let’s be real, you probably won’t change someone’s mind on climate change after just one conversation. That’s why it’s so important to continue the conversation about climate change whenever you can. Every conversation can help move the needle forward and change someone’s mind about climate change. Persistence is key!
Climate Change Communications Resources
“These maps show how Americans’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the state, congressional district, metro area, and county levels.”
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is an excellent resource for recent studies and news articles about climate change.
This TED Talk by Katharine Hayhoe gives a great overview of why climate change can be a polarizing topic, and how to lead a successful conversation with someone whose views differ from yours.
Rutgers University gives a brief overview of climate change communications and how to go beyond politics while discussing the topic
C-Change Conversations, whose mission is to discuss climate change with moderate and conservative audiences by meeting them where they are, gives expert advice on how to talk about climate change with someone who has opposing viewpoints.
Even though it feels like it shouldn’t be a polarizing issue (it’s just science, after all), your views towards climate change often align with your politics. Check out this helpful resource for tips on discussing climate change with conservatives.