How to talk about climate change

How to Talk About Climate Change

So Energy

Over recent years we’ve watched the climate crisis shift from an abstract threat, to an increasingly common subject of conversation. 

But talking about climate change isn’t always easy - whether you’re speaking to a climate change sceptic who may have been exposed to a little too much fake news, or someone suffering from climate anxiety. Whatever the case, creating opportunities to have constructive conversations about the environment is one of the most important things you can do to make change happen. 

Read on for our tips on how to have an open, positive conversation about climate change. 

Ask questions

Irrespective of the topic, a fundamental part of being a good conversationalist is showing that you are listening to the other person. It’s impossible to do this if you don’t ask questions. 

Even if someone is critical of your own stance, asking them questions and listening to their response without interrupting gives that person space to explore how they really feel about something - and shows that you genuinely want to understand where they are coming from. 

Asking thoughtful questions also demonstrates that you don’t have all the answers - an important component in finding common ground, especially when discussing something as nuanced as the climate. This might include questions about finding solutions - “what do you think we could do to change that?” - or to better understand how the other person is feeling - “has there been a particular news article you’ve read that has made you feel that way?” 

Respect other people’s viewpoints

It’s important to show the people you’re talking to that you respect their opinions and ideas, even if you disagree with them. In these situations, Greenpeace recommends that you resist the urge to try and persuade people to think differently. 

Instead, the campaigning group suggests that it’s better to be the moderator than the persuader - “the one who gives people a chance to explore the issue in their own way, without feeling judged or pressured.”

Start small

If you’d like to use your conversation to encourage the person you’re talking to to take action to help the environment, start by suggesting small, manageable changes. While your red meat loving uncle may be unlikely to switch to veganism on the spot, he might be open to starting out with a small change, like giving Meat Free Mondays a go. 

You could also ask people to team-up and try out an action together, whether that’s supporting each other in going plastic-free for a month, or helping each other draft emails to send to your local MP. 

Take your time

Lastly, remember that changing someone’s mind - especially when it comes to a topic as huge as climate change - rarely happens overnight. At the very least, your conversation should have given the other person the opportunity to think about things in a new way, and that’s a great place to start. 

For more information, we highly recommend Greenpeace’s ‘Inspiring action through conversation’ guide, which you can access here