“Our research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them. Too many assumptions have been made by communicators, which haven’t been tested. Working directly with young people we have been able to trial a series of narratives about climate change, providing valuable insights for anyone interested in improving communication about climate change with this group.”
Some of the key findings and recommendations from the report include:
- For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’ – describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.
- Young people want to hear how climate change relates to (and will affect) those aspects of their everyday lives that they are passionate about – but communicators must take care not to ‘trivialise’ the issue by failing to link the ‘personal’ to the ‘political’.
- Fighting organised scepticism is mostly seen as a waste of energy by young people – scepticism is relatively uncommon among the young and talking ‘solutions not science’ is a much better approach.
- Young people often find it hard to talk about climate change with their peers – there was a fear that talking about climate change would set them apart as ‘preachy’ or ‘un-cool’.
- There is widespread doubt that there is a ‘concerned majority’ among the general public who support action on climate change – communicating a ‘social consensus’ on climate action may be just as important as the scientific consensus.
- Young people have very little faith in mainstream politicians – so it makes more sense to ask young people to challenge (not support) politicians on climate policies. Campaign messages should clearly set out what needs to be done – who, when, where and what young people can do to make a difference – and which policy prescriptions support this.
- Climate jargon is unfamiliar and off-putting – phrases like ‘managing climate risks’, ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘2 degrees’ are seen as hollow and vague. People want to hear about specific policies and how these relate to protecting the things people love and are passionate about.
Indeed. It's not just the young who are confused, and the heart of the problem lies in the first bullet:
For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’ – describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.
But climate change is not fundamentally about what is happening in the ‘here and now', at least not in relation to large impacts. Political action and communication has to involve explaining what life might be like, if we keep on doing A, or don't start to do B. And for that, you need evidence.
Meanwhile, the EU is only directly responsible for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a number that is set to fall, not rise – which means that the UK's contribution is ~1.5% – another number set to fall – and the price of Brent Crude is now $80.