Here’s How To Craft A Winning Climate Message

Read time: 3 mins

Just in time for Earth Day, the Climate Narrative project and the Sightline Institute have released a new, updated guide to fighting back against dirty energy industry spin when discussing the climate crisis.

The Climate Solutions for a Stronger America messaging guide is based on data from a repeat national survey of likely voters. Researchers examined the data to determine how to successfully communicate climate issues and identified three top-performing messages.

Together, those messages form a “persuasive narrative triangle,” according to the website,

The three points of the triangle include:

The Threat: Highlight extreme weather and our responsibility to protect children to drive home the urgency of dealing with climate challenge.

“We can no longer ignore our strange and increasingly severe weather. We have a moral obligation to protect our children – this means preparing for and tackling climate change now.”

The Villain: Bringing up the need to hold oil companies like ExxonMobil accountable for promoting misinformation about climate change and rigging the system against clean energy shows two things: why progress to date has been delayed, and that there is a way forward if we can overcome the roadblocks the ExxonMobils of the world have placed in our path to true sustainability.

“Oil companies are spending billions of dollars to rig the system against clean energy solutions. We need to break their stranglehold on our democracy and put people, not oil companies, back in charge.”

The Solution: Examples of the benefits of taking action in our neighborhoods, cities, and states help circumvent partisan debates and demonstrate that practical solutions exist and are effective.

“Investing in clean energy means investing in our own communities and taking charge of our own energy. Instead of subsidizing big oil, we must invest in wind turbines on farms, solar on our roofs, and schools that use less energy — creating local jobs, stronger communities and a more stable climate.”

So how do you use this messaging triangle in an actual conversation? First off, try to use all three corners of the triangle, since the message is strongest when all three elements are used together, especially when they’re supported by facts and real-world, preferably local, examples.

If you start the conversation, the creators of the Climate Solutions for a Stronger America messaging guide recommend this order of operations: Start with the threat (severe weather/protecting children), move to the villain (oil companies' stranglehold on our democracy), and close with the solution (taking charge of our own energy).

If you’re responding to someone else, on the other hand, just start with the most relevant point and move on to the other two messages when appropriate.

If you end up using these tips in an actual conversation, come back and let us know how it went in the comments.

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