How To Talk To Your Friends And Family About Climate Change

All of us have a part to play in spreading the word about climate change and encouraging others to take action. If you want to find out how to have a productive climate conversation, keep reading.

Two people drinking out of mugs sat opposite one another

Why should you talk to others about climate change?

Rather than telling people what to do, we want to enable and empower people to take small steps in the places they will have the most impact, so each person’s climate journey can look very different. Our homes and cities are also unique, and what is right for one community might not be right for another. So, we want to get you talking about climate change, so that you can get ready to make a difference in whatever way works best for you. 

Human beings are not atomised individuals. Rather, we shape and develop our views through interactions with others. People are more likely to listen to people they know and trust, and you certainly don’t have to be a science expert to start a conversation about the climate. The more people we can bring on board, the better! 

Why do we need as many people as possible talking about the environment? 

When citizens talk more about climate, it creates a mandate for our councils and governments to act. Politicians are elected to represent their constituents, so the more their constituents are pressuring them on climate issues, the more likely they are to take action and vote for legislation to protect the climate. 

Connecting climate change to people’s everyday lives helps us to see climate change as a problem that is already affecting all of us, rather than a distant issue for future generations to deal with. We need to act now, but highlighting relevant local issues (such as air pollution or harm to wildlife) and solutions makes it more likely that people will feel empowered to take action.

Taking climate action also provides us with opportunities to address other social issues, such as poverty and inequality. Sharing ideas and experiences at a grassroots level enables us to come up with creative solutions to climate change that help both people and the planet, based on our unique experiences and problems. So, let’s get chatting!

How to have a productive climate conversation 

It has never been more important to get people talking about the environment. Use the simple tips below to keep calm and talk about climate change! 

Climate Outreach suggests using the REAL TALK mnemonic when chatting about climate change. We’ve included our three favourite tips below, but you can read the the full REAL TALK advice here, on page 4 of Climate Outreach’s #TalkingClimate handbook, available for free download.

  • “Ask questions! Rather than lecturing your conversational partner about your views, ask about what climate change means to them. Give them the space to reflect on their own experiences and views on the issue.
  • Respect your conversational partner, and find common ground. Find out what you have in common with the person you are talking to and show them that you respect their concerns, priorities and values. Many people feel blamed and judged when they talk about climate change, which is likely to make them defensive or withdraw from the conversation.
  • Tell your story. You don’t need to know everything about climate science to talk about climate change. Your climate change story – how you became engaged in the issue and why it concerns you – is one of the most powerful communication tools available to you.’’ 

The Climate Communications Hub, based in Sheffield, adds the following suggestions for having a productive climate conversation: 

  • Recognise what you can learn from their knowledge and perspective. We all approach the world differently based on our individual experiences, and we have a lot to learn from other people. Be open to their ideas, and don’t assume you always have the correct answers – there is no one-size-fits-all solution to climate change!
  • Be patient about uncertainty or resistance. We know that there are a lot of confusing messages out there, so be prepared for the possibility that your conversational partner might be reluctant to engage in a conversation about climate change. Empathise with this perspective as much as you can. 
  • Listen to what they tell you about their values, i.e. what is important to them. It can be difficult to understand how it is relevant to our everyday lives here in South Yorkshire, so try to listen and understand what they care about. If you can connect these values to the climate, they are more likely to get on board and take action. For example, if the economy is important to them, why not talk about green jobs?

If you’ve had a good chat about climate change, let us know about it on social media using the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire. Perhaps you’ve convinced a family member to switch their energy supplier, or maybe you and a friend are going to start volunteering together – no matter how big or small, we want to hear your stories! 

Links and resources

Climate Outreach has done lots of research into the best ways to communicate about the climate emergency. You can read their reports and guides here if you would like to learn about climate communications in more detail: Reports & guides – Climate Outreach

The Carbon Literacy Project trains individuals and organisations in carbon literacy, which they describe as “An awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.” Find out more here: Home – The Carbon Literacy Project