Betsy Taylor of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions has put together an excellent messaging guide on climate and clean energy, “Climate Solutions for a Stronger America.”
She first “commissioned a national survey of likely voters to determine how leaders can engage and win on climate and energy in key races around the country.” She then consulted with leading communications experts to weave together a coherent narrative from the threads of those findings.
Readers know I’m a big believer in coherent narratives. Taylor’s guide is a must-read.
Here is more on the three major messages:
Key Finding 1: Extreme Weather
Voters have taken note of the nation’s unusual and severe weather—the tornadoes, heat waves, wildfires, and drought. The public clearly gets that something is going on with the climate because they see it in their own lives and on the news. Some are still uncertain about the causes of climate disruption, but three out of four now recognize it is real
Underlying Value: Responsibility
Message: We can’t ignore the increasingly severe weather: It’s already causing billions in damage and looks like it’s only getting worse. We owe it to our kids to protect them and their futures, and that means addressing climate change before it becomes irreversible. Running away from tough problems only makes them worse. That’s not how America works. We need to implement common sense strategies now. We know what’s right, we know how to implement clean energy solutions, and we know that reducing fossil fuel dependence will make America stronger. It’s time to step up and get it done
Talk about current and recent weather. Spend less time talking about what may happen in the future and more on severe weather and impacts happening now. Use local examples, but also refer to the wildfires, drought, and major storms that have been in the national news.
Introduce “climate disruption.” Begin to use “climate disruption” instead of climate change when speaking about extreme weather and local impacts. “Disruption” makes it slightly harder for people to dismiss unusual events as being caused by natural weather cycles.
Focus on destructive weather, not just heat. Destructive, costly, and unpredictable weather events are more unsettling to voters than just record high temperatures. Voters do connect higher temperatures to destructive wildfires and drought.
Talk about kids and grandkids. In America, we put families first and that means making sure we leave a healthy, secure world for our kids and grandkids.In early August, the nation’s top climate scientist at NASA reported that things are going to get worse and that climate change must be addressed now if we want to make sure our kids have a safe future.
Message Pivot: Use the message triangle to link to messages grounded in the other two core messages of patriotic pride (#2) and accountability (#3). “We have a responsibility to act, and American ingenuity can drive the solutions. It’s time to break the stranglehold that Big Oil and Coal has on Washington – a stranglehold that is preventing us from taking action on climate change.
Certainly it’s key to focus on increasingly extreme weather since we know linking that trend to climate change is scientifically accurate — see “Trenberth on How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change” – and since it resonates with people:
- Poll: Majority of Americans Understand Global Warming Worsens Extreme Weather and Want Nation to Act
- Poll: Americans’ Understanding of Climate Change Increasing With More Extreme Weather, Warmer Temperatures
Here’s the second finding, on solutions: