What you will find on this page: knowledge vs understanding (video); when facts are not just facts (video); PLEASE stop talking about the environment (video); book excerpt – why we are wired to ignore climate change; book trailer (video); How to talk to a climate change denier (video); ideas for digging our way out of this hole; but what do climate scientists say? (video)Climate Access publication -The Preparation Frame; New Guide: Communicating effectively with the centre-right; human psychology and why don’t “they” get it?;  door-knocking on climate guidetalking to the right (video); election guide; engaging centre-right; religious leaders speak out; brightsiding; echo chambers;  latest news; latest opinion poll; key information & resource sites

Complexity of turning knowledge into understanding

For a person to change their behaviour a critical light bulb moment is needed when knowledge becomes understanding. Watch this video for an excellent example of why knowledge does not necessarily equal understanding, and why it may be so hard  for people to change their inbuilt biases. 

  Source: Smarter Every Day  

When the facts are not just the facts!

9 August 2019 RealClimate: Gravin Schmidt: In the wake of the appalling mass shootings last weekend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the pre-eminent scientist/communicator in the US) tweeted some facts that were, let’s just say, not well received (and for which he kind of apologised). At least one of the facts he tweeted about was incorrect (deaths by medical errors are far smaller). However, even if it had been correct, the overall response would have been the same, because the reaction was not driven by the specifics of what was said, but rather by the implied message of the context in which it was said. This is a key feature (or bug) of communications in a politicized environment, and one that continues to trip up people who are experienced enough to know better. Why bring this up here? Two reasons: First, I still come across scientists active in public communications in the climate realm that insist that their role is simply to give ‘just the facts’ and that they do so in a completely objective manner. Second, I often see people using ‘facts’ rhetorically to distract, diminish and devalue arguments with which they disagree without ever engaging with the arguments substantively. Thus it’s worth picking apart what is happened to Tyson with an eye to improving self-awareness on how ‘facts’ are received by the public and to help recognize, and maybe defang, the rhetorical use of irrelevant ‘facts’ as distractions. It should go without saying that, of course, I support basing discussions on truth, but any real discourse is far more than a mere recitation of facts. Access more here

Comedy and climate change

8 June 2015, The Guardian, John Oliver can make global warming funny, but climate comedy is still hard. The problem when it comes to making comedy about climate change is that it’s about the world falling into an open sewer, and it’s too impersonal. Comedy = tragedy plus time. That’s the equation to make ha ha’s happen. You may not know it, but all us lot in the comedy production line just hang out riffing maths formulas and that’s how we come up with the gold. Simples. (Winky face.) So I’m not that great at math(s) – NB I do like to keep in with the Yanks. But I can still do the sums when it comes to melting all the ice caps away with our long baths; destroying Mr P Bear’s ice house with our Trip Advising globe trots; and finishing off the fossil fuels by blow drying our hair to bits. Once we’ve done all that it’ll be too late. There’ll be no time left for the punchline: set up and then just tragedy. The laughter will be stranded and left for dead, marooned like one of those polar bears balancing on a singular floating block of ice.Yes, climate change banter has been a thing since forever … well I did a project on it in Geography at school – so a while. But really it’s just hummed away quietly in the corner like a old fridge – not much of a stink has been made of it and certainly not in comedy quarters. That’s weird Holly, I hear you cry, I thought nothing was off limits in comedy – cause I’ve seen you set yourself on fire, be pelted by raw meat and berate audience members dressed as a lap dancing dog, chasing that elusive laugh. Surely that’s all much more offensive than gags about carbon footprints and solar panels? So why is there so little comedy about climate change and why’s it so hard? Comedy is truth, it’s about failure, it deals with the fall of man and the human condition – it helps us understand ourselves and the world we live in. So surely climate change is perfect fodder? Read More here see also “What climate scientists say” below 

PLEASE Stop Talking About the Environment!

The dangers of framing climate change as an environmental issue and why this does not speak to peoples real concerns.

August 2014, Excerpt from Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall

book cover of Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall - links to Powell's Books to buy this bookChapter 41: Why We Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change… “And Why We Are Wired to Take Action Through our long evolution, we have inherited fundamental and universal cognitive wiring that shapes the way that we see the world and interpret threats and that motivates us to act on them. Without doubt, climate change has qualities that play poorly to these innate tendencies. It is complex, unfamiliar, slow moving, invisible, and inter-generational. Of all the possible combinations of loss and gain, climate change contains the most challenging: requiring certain short-term loss in order to mitigate against an uncertain longer-term loss. Climate change also challenges and reverses some deeply held assumptions. We are told that the way of life that we associate with our comfort and the protection of our families is now a menace; that gases we have believed to be benign are now poisonous; that our familiar environment is becoming dangerous and uncertain. Our social intelligence is well attuned to keeping track of debts and favors, and ensuring equitable distribution of gains and losses. Climate change poses a major challenge here too, with all solutions requiring that rival social groups agree on a distribution of losses and thereafter the allocation of a greatly diminished shared atmospheric commons.” To read more access Climate Conviction website here

Trailer for Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

How to Talk to a Climate Change Denier

To date 19,000 people have watched this twenty minute video on how to talk about climate change with someone who is still unconvinced (they are called a ‘denier’ because this is the standard search phrase). It draws on many of the arguments in the book, including the need to find common values and speak with respect. The evidence behind it is provided on the TalkingClimate website.

To access more video presentation featuring George Marshall go here

Another Excerpt: Chapter 42. In a Nutshell: Some Personal and Highly Biased Ideas for Digging Our Way Out of This Hole

dig out the holeClimate change is a scientific fact. Scientists have become so bruised by their political battles that they have come to use much weaker language, declaring that climate change is “very likely” or “unequivocal.” Let’s just call it a fact, because that is what it is. There is plenty of uncertainty around how the climate is responding to these enormous changes, but being uncertain is not the same as being unsure. Scientists are remarkably sure that climate change is bringing major impacts — they simply cannot with absolute certainty disentangle the web of cause and effect. The word certain is one of those many false friends of words that scientists use in a particular and unusual meaning. In regard to climate change, we are frequently divided by our common language. Our psychological obstacles are also a scientific fact. The large body of rigorous research-based evidence suggests that climate change struggles to overcome numerous biases against threats that appear to be distant in time and place. We need to make these explicit and recognize that many may be subconscious.

To create proximity we need to EMPHASIZE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING HERE AND NOW. In particular, we should BE WARY OF CREATING DISTANCE…….. There is therefore a potential to express climate change as an opportunity to RESTORE PAST LOSS, whether it is social (lost community, values, purpose) or environmental (lost ecosystems, species, or beauty)….We are very well adapted to respond to immediate threats but slow to accommodate moving change. Climate change is a process, not an event, so it requires that we RECOGNIZE MOMENTS OF PROXIMITY that can demand attention….Sometimes the act of CREATING THE SYMBOLIC MOMENT is far more important than its overall relevance……… the best option for building conviction lies with providing the information for trusted local communicators to OPEN UP A CONVERSATION ABOUT LONG-TERM PREPAREDNESS… we need to remember that not everyone wants to protect the status quo, especially if they are already struggling against economic and social injustice. So we need a NARRATIVE OF POSITIVE CHANGE…..People form their response to the narratives, not the science, and so it always needs to FOLLOW NARRATIVE RULES, WITH RECOGNIZEABLE ACTORS, MOTIVES, CAUSES, AND EFFECTS. People will be inclined to follow the most compelling narrative, so be careful: DON’T LET THE NARRATIVE TAKE OVER the way we think or talk about it….Most of the factors that enable us to ignore climate change derive from attempts to limit its meaning; that it is an environmental issue, a threat or an opportunity (but not both), a wellhead problem or a tailpipe problem (but not both). So, RESIST SIMPLE FRAMINGS and BE OPEN TO NEW MEANINGS…..We all need to ENSURE THAT A WIDE RANGE OF SOLUTIONS IS CONSTANTLY UNDER REVIEW — a process that planners call iterative risk management…. NEVER ACCEPT YOUR OPPONENT’S FRAMES — “don’t negate them, or repeat them, or structure your arguments to counter them.”… BE CAREFUL THAT ENEMY NARRATIVES DO NOT FUEL DIVISION…..for example CREATE A HEROIC QUEST in which the enemy may be our internal weaknesses rather than an outside group….Overall, we need to BUILD A NARRATIVE OF COOPERATION that can bring people together around a common cause. This should STRESS COOPERATION NOT UNITY … ACCEPT THE SPECTRUM OF APPROACHES with radical protesters, lobbyists, policy makers, and multiple different sectors, all pushing in the same direction if not with the same detailed objectives….In the way that we tell the climate change story, we need to BE HONEST ABOUT THE DANGER — but remember that this will only motivate people if they hear it from trusted communicators and can see opportunities for action and change. ENCOURAGE POSITIVE VISIONS, but remember that these may carry social cues that may repel others. The bright side technocratic future vision, for example, is elitist and materialistic, and alienates those who already feel disenfranchised…..” For the details and more suggestions access full excerpt here

But what do climate scientists say?

Climate Access publication: The Preparation Frame

A Guide to Building Understanding of Climate Impacts and Engagement in Solutions. A communications and engagement guide from Climate Access on how to break the manufactured scientific uncertainty debate with a focus on climate impacts and solutions. Access publication here This link will also provide other publications to peruse

March 2016, Climate Outreach, New Guide: Communicating effectively with the centre-right 

Download the report  NOTE: The above guide is from a British perspective but should relate well to the Australian context. 

Human psychology or why don’t “they” get it?

CRED_book_cropped_smSocieties must be motivated and empowered to adopt the needed changes. for that, the public must be able to interpret and respond to often bewildering scientific, technological, and economic information. …This guide powerfully details many of the biases and barriers to scientific communication and information processing. It offers a tool—in combination with rigorous science, innovative engineering, and effective policy design—to help our societies take the pivotal actions needed to respond with urgency and accuracy to one of the greatest challenges ever faced by humanity: global-scale, human-induced environmental threats, of which the most complex and far reaching is climate change.” Jeffrey Sachs, Director, the earth institute, Columbia University. Click on booklet image to open



A rough guide to door-knocking on climate
June 2010, Victorian Climate Action Centre: Door knocking is easy, fun and one of the most effective ways of getting our message into the community and having an impact. Research by the union movements “your rights at work” campaign established that door-knocking was a key factor in shifting public opinion and was the best tool used by the campaign. Access guide here

Talking climate change with conservatives: UK election 2015

The video above, comes from COIN (Climate Outreach & Information Network UK). George Marshall is the co-founder of COIN and I have found his perspective and balanced way of presenting an excellent resource in answering “Why they don’t get it?” and what to do about it. Even though the Election Guide has the UK election focus I thought it could easily be adapted to the Australian context.

COIN UK Election Guide 

The  COIN Election Guide is intended for communicators and campaigners from across the political spectrum who would like to learn new ways of talking about climate change in ways that resonate with centre-right voters, particularly in the context of an election. I think it has value even with no elections in sight  at present. It explores the following: What the centre-right thinks about climate change; Centre-right values and finding the right words; 4 narratives that can work with the centre-right; establishing communicator trust; what not to say;  election tips. Access Election Guide here

Engaging with the centre-right

COIN converse centre right13 June 2013, COIN’s ground breaking report presents the evidence for more effectively engaging centre-right citizens around climate change.  It argues that if climate change is to break out of its ‘left wing ghetto’, it must be communicated in a way that resonates with the values of the centre-right – and offers four narratives for bringing climate change into the mainstream. This report takes the first steps towards developing a better understanding of how to engage centre-right citizens on climate change. At the end of 2012, a roundtable meeting with some of the UK’s leading experts on communicating climate change to centre-right audiences was convened. In the words of one meeting participant, climate change must break out of its left-wing ghetto in order for a new, meaningful conversation with the centre -right to begin. Access Report here


Religious leaders finally speaking out

18 August 2015, The Carbon Brief, Islamic climate declaration calls for fossil fuel phase out. Islamic scholars from around the world have endorsed a declaration calling on nations to phase out greenhouse gas emissions and switch to 100% renewable energy. The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change will be seen as the religion’s major contribution ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December. Released during a two-day symposium on Islam and climate change in Istanbul, the declaration lays out why Muslims should be concerned about the planet, and sets out a series of demands to world leaders and the business community. It is the second major intervention to have emerged from the faith community this year, after Pope Francis released his encyclical on climate change and the environment in June. Writing the declaration. The process of drafting the declaration began around six months ago. A team of five Islamic scholars were involved in crafting the initial document. Read More here

18 June, The Guardian, The Pope’s encyclical on climate change: Eight things we learned from the pope’s climate change encyclical. From calling on rich countries to pay their social debt to his thoughts on GM food and UN climate talks, here are the top highlights. Pope Francis has called on global leaders and individuals to dedicate themselves to curbing climate change and ending policies and personal habits that are destroying the planet. Pope Francis has released an unprecedented encyclical on climate change and the environment. The 180-page document calls on rich nations to pay their “grave social debt” to poorer countries and lambasts the UN climate talks for a lack of progress. Here are eight things we learned: Read More here

15 July 2015, Climate News Network, Muslim scholars say climate change poses dire threat:  Islamic declaration adds to growing pressure religious leaders are exerting on richer nations to reduce the burden they are putting on the Earth’s climate. Human beings could cause the ending of life on the planet, says a group of Islamic scholars − and countries round the world, particularly the rich ones, must face up to their responsibilities. Climate change, they say, is induced by human beings: “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour – but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.” The views of the scholars – some of the strongest yet expressed on climate from within the Muslim community – are contained in a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August. Read More here



Brightsiding climate is a bad strategy: Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good climate action and communications strategy? This analysis finds that the answer is a resounding “no”. “Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences. Most climate advocacy and campaigning appears to assume that as long as you tell a positive story and move “in the right direction”, it doesn’t matter if people understand or agree about the problem. It’s all about selling “good news” and not mentioning “bad news”.  This is how the Obama administration, Australia’s Labor government, the Say Yes campaign and many national climate advocacy organisations worked in 2011. Click on image for more

An interesting “brightsiding example – Sustainia


Politicians living in echo chambers

27 May, Climate Progress: If You have Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer. Scientists have known for a long time what’s causing current climate change. What’s been less clear is why so many U.S. politicians are not listening. Sure, there’s been falsely balanced media coverage of climate science. And there are both financial and ideological incentives to deny that carbon emissions are causing the phenomenon. But according to new research published in Nature Climate Change, there’s at least one statistically proven reason why more than 56 percent of Congressional Republicans deny climate change: echo chambers. Read More here  View full research article here

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Latest Opinion Poll

Climate change Q: Do you believe that there is fairly conclusive evidence that climate change is happening and caused by human activity or do you believe that the evidence is still not in and we may just be witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate which happens from time to time?
Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens Vote other Nov 2009 Dec 2010 Jun 2011 Oct 2012 Oct 2013 Dec 2014 Nov 2015
Climate change is happening and is caused by human activity 63% 76% 46% 94% 56% 53% 45% 50% 48% 52% 57% 56%
We are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate 27% 19% 42% 3% 35% 34% 36% 39% 39% 36% 29% 32%
Don’t know 10% 5% 12% 3% 9% 13% 19% 12% 13% 12% 14%  



63% (up 7% since November) agree that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity and 27% (down 5%) believe that we may just be witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. This is the highest recorded agreement that climate change is happening and caused by human activity over the last 7 years. By age groups, those aged under 35 split 70%/18% and those aged 55+ split 48%/46%. People with higher education were more likely to think climate change is happening and is caused by human activity – those with university degrees split 73%/20%.

To view opinion poll results go here: countries doing enough on climate change; carbon emissions; 


Key Information and Resource Sites

CLIMATE OUTREACH (formally known as COIN – Climate Outreach & Information Network UK: Their work on climate change communication gathers the best research evidence  and trans­lates it into prac­tical guides. With a com­pre­hensive and fre­quently updated data­base of aca­demic papers, a reg­ular news­letter, and a blog fea­turing com­ment and ana­lysis from cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion experts, it is the gateway which ensures aca­demics and prac­ti­tioners get the most from cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion research.To access their resource page go here

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change: ARRCC is a multi-faith, member-based organisation of people from around Australia who are committed to taking action on climate change. We bring together representatives from all the major faith traditions to work together in addressing climate change.

Climate Denial: This is George Marshall’s blog that explores the topic of the psychology of climate change denial – with observations and anecdotes about our weird and disturbed response to the problem. It seeks to answer a question that has puzzled me for years: why, when the evidence is so strong, and so many agree that this is our greatest problem, are we doing so little about climate change? George is the founder of COIN above. 

 DeSmog Blog ProjectA Canada based and began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns. If you’re looking for information on noted climate change skeptics, or on the use of PR techniques and spin by politicians, scientists, and in the media, this is the place to go. They encourage using their media centre to full advantage for your own reporting. To access their media centre go here 

Psychology for a Safe Climate (Aust): Through workshops, presentations, and publications we contribute by: Increasing understanding of the psychology behind the challenges and difficulties of engagement with climate change; fostering psychological support and self care; and helping improve communication on climate change.