How can I frame my climate arguments for the most impact?

How to talk about the climate crisis and help people feel empowered to act

Article by
Emily Kratzmann
Woman holding a colourful sign at a climate rally

The climate crisis might be big, complicated and intimidating – but it’s important that we keep having productive (and proactive!) conversations about it. It’s only by talking to each other, and working through our fears, concerns and ideas that we can begin to look for solutions and move forward.  

But how can we frame our opinions on climate in a way that will help our colleagues and employers feel empowered enough to take action?

Lisa Whiston works at Climate for Change, a registered charity focused on encouraging meaningful conversations about climate change. Part of her role is training people to have effective conversations that can help spark climate action, particularly within the context of the work place.

Have a clear why

Before you start the conversation, be clear about what the end goal is. Do you want your workplace to switch to renewable energy? Divest money away from fossil fuels by banking with an ethical bank or super company? Or do you want to encourage your colleagues to start taking climate action more seriously within the workplace? Having a goal will help keep your conversation on track.

“Statistics show that more than 80% of Australians care about climate and theoretically want more action,” Lisa says. “But if they don’t know how to go about that, or what needs to be done, we end up taking no action.”

Having the conversation is the first step into taking action.  

Seek to understand others’ views and values

“It’s really important to relate to people on a human level, and find out what their values are,” Lisa says. “Our bosses and managers are human too, and there’s got to be more to their values than just profitability and the bottom line.”

You can do this by asking questions, and practicing active listening. “Even though you may want to counter what people are telling you, it’s really important to recognise what they’re saying as valid, because it’s true for them,” Lisa explains.

Listen to what they say and if there’s anything you can gently pick up on, do, and then offer up a way that you could alleviate that one concern. For example, if your employer admits to being worried by fossil fuels, open up a discussion around switching to renewable energy. “So it can often be a sense of reframing their concern into a way they can make a commitment that will meet both their values and the needs for climate action in society,” Lisa says. 

It’s OK to get personal

The sheer volume of information about climate can be overwhelming. Rather than relying on facts to convey your argument, it’s OK to bring personal stories into the conversation. It could be about a friend who lost their house in the2020 bushfires, or the extent to which the planet will change over the next 50 years if carbon emissions continue at the rate they are, and the concern you feel for not only future generations but this generation.

It’s a conversation, not a debate

Regardless of how passionate you are about the need to take action, in your initial conversations with an employer it’s important to keep the conversation positive. As soon as the dialogue starts swaying into negative territory, the other person may shut down, become defensive, and could become unlikely to engage with you again.

Start talking, share your thoughts on how you feel about climate inaction, acknowledge the other person’s opinions, and commit to keeping the conversation going.

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Image via Hello I'm Nik, Unsplash.

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