The following blog was written in response to the March 17th Noons for Now teach-in on Climate Communicaiton with Chris Russill.

The Impact of Framing on Climate Action

Chris Russill noted the point of the Noons for Now on Climate Communication very early in the meeting. He argued that the frames that we use to talk about the climate crisis must be rethought. The main fames by which we talk about the crisis have always been based on scientific and technical communication; but does scientific communication really convince people that we need to do something? According to Professor Russill, the answer seems to be no. We need, instead, to appeal to people’s emotions when talking about the climate crisis. Maybe anyone who wants to understand the science behind the climate crisis already understands enough to be motivated to take individual or engage in collective action. In that case, we need to communicate our feelings of climate grief, anxiety, or any other worries to try to reach those who still don’t care. Finding new ways to relate to people and engaging in a wider range of communicative models about the climate crisis is essential to overcoming these challenges. Rethinking how we communicate is especially important because these same feelings are also why people can be convinced to deny that the climate crisis is even happening. Disinformation campaigns are designed to appeal to these emotions, they give people privileged information and allow them to be part of an ‘in group’. Oil and gas companies and political actors have created strong identities around oil that people can hold on to by using their fear of the future and by appealing to people’s inherent biases. Nobody has the time to debunk every climate denialist, nor does that even really work. We need to work to build a vision of a just recovery that everyone can be on board with. We must focus on communicating the transition away from fossil fuels as being a social justice issue rather than a technological issue, and make sure our vision of the future doesn’t contain the same inequities as the present.

written by David Baker.

David is a fourth-year student at Carleton University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Political Science. David’s main academic interests are environmental policy, the politics surrounding contemporary ‘democratic decay’, and East Asian politics and history.