It Matters How You Talk about Climate Change

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We always seem to find ourselves talking about climate change, for one reason or another. Sure, it’s a matter that affects and will affect all of us, as well as our future generations, for centuries to come. But since we, humans, are resourceful creatures, we’re always trying to come up with ways to contain our problems.

But the same doesn’t really seem to work for climate change. As much as experts try to convince people that we should reduce our greenhouse gas emissions for the future of our planet, it doesn’t seem to work all that well. It turns out that it might just be the way people are going about it.

According to a new study from the University of California in San Diego, it matters how you talk about climate change. Talking about the subject in the right way can lead to long-term actions, while talking about it the wrong way can lead to more people completely uninterested in the subject.

So, what is the right way and what is the wrong way to talk about climate change in order to actually get results? Well, you have to make it a collective responsibility. People have caught on that we are actually all responsible for the situation, so attempting to convince an individual that they can personally help may have unwanted results.

The team of researchers behind the study figured this out by having three different tests. Groups were presented the same facts about climate change in multiple ways, and were then asked to donate some money for the cause. It turns out that those that had climate change presented to them as a collective issue tended to be more generous than the other groups.

It turns out that emphasizing collective responsibility instead of focusing on personal guilt helps bring in monetary donations a lot better. When applied, the collective method seemed to raise monetary donations for climate change from environmental groups by seven percent and from the general public by a whopping fifty percent.

According to Nick Obradovich, one of the study’s authors, the study was even more important than they initially thought. It turns out that presenting the facts in a collective manner can actually have long-term effects. It would only stand to reason that presenting them the other way would also have long-lasting effect, albeit not the ones you might be hoping for.

A couple of days later we had the same people come back, and we observed similar effects: the collective [framing] groups still gave more. This was surprising because we don’t see that a lot in a social science [experiment], that the treatment effects persist over days. This means you could give a personal message of climate change and this will turn them off from acting now and in the future.

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