Communicating Climate Change: Advice from an Upcoming Scientist
Climate change is a pretty hard topic to communicate. it is challenging to talk about something so sad and depressing. However, as a first-year student enrolled in a climate change degree program, I recently had opportunities to speak publicly at climate change events. Over time, these experiences helped me get a better understanding on how to effectively communicate the science.
My first speaking opportunity took place last fall and it did not really go as planned. It felt like a disaster. It was at the Rise for Climate picnic in Montpelier, Vermont, in front of a small crowd. When I got up to the microphone I just rambled on and didn’t really say much besides how climate change is urgent. However, with every mistake there is a learning experience.
I have since learned that when you are speaking, you always want the audience to leave with one main point. No matter what, stick to this point and make it a priority when your talking. This makes it easier because it allows you to focus on one objective rather than scrambling to make sure you mention everything. This idea certainly helped when I spoke at a college-wide event that recognized the Global Climate Strike this past March. For this event, I talked about health impacts of climate change. There are many different aspects of the topic that you can talk about, but I highlighted and stuck to the top three impacts.
Another thing I learned while engaging with the public, was that it is okay to just be human. Climate change affects everyone differently depending on where they live, what they do, and what they eat. So, if you connect with them and learn how they will personally be affected, it can help open their mind up to learn more about the science. It’s much easier to talk to people about things you have in common. So finding something in common can help bridge a gap.
Even if you successfully focus on one objective and connect with your audience by finding commonalities, your message may get lost if you’re not motivated. The major key is to motivate yourself until you’re at the point where you just want to talk to someone about climate change. Your audience will then feel your passion and excitement while you talk. A good way I motivate myself is to read success stories. They might be about a country that announced it is going green, or a new groundbreaking technology startup that sucks CO2 out of the air, or a group that just cleaned up the dirtiest beach or park in your favorite area. These stories help provide me with hope and motivation to speak about climate change, but they also help me provide a sense that were all in this together. You want your audience to know that good changes are happening, just not as fast as everyone wants.
For me, public speaking is difficult, even in front of a small crowd. However it is more important now than ever that scientists start engaging with the public and speak up about climate change. Just starting a conversation about an important subject could change one person’s view, and by educating one person at a time, we might just change the world. We only have one world so let’s start the conversation to save it.