Have you ever tried to talk about climate change at the dinner table?  

It can go one of two ways: 

  1. Heated discussion, the peas are on the floor and the conversation ends abruptly

OR 

  1. A collaborative discussion where you share with  friends and family members about the current state of our planet and  share your views and key takeaways 

We want to help you have conversation number 2.  

Why are these conversations important? 

These big conversations really matter. 

The more we talk about the state of our planet, the more we all become more aware. Some people may feel that these topics are too overwhelming and shut themselves off.   But these conversations are key to driving change.  

This is highlighted in a study published in 2019, which looked at the impact a child can have with their parents when talking about climate change. The study found that the parents who engaged in conversations with their children around climate change left feeling more connected to the cause, more accepting that it was happening and more open to engaging in possible solutions. 

So, if we know that these conversations are needed. How do we make them happen? 

Here are some tips on having a productive climate conversation: 

Here are the six steps outlined by Steve Deline with the New Conversation Initiative on how to have difficult conversations about climate change. 

Step 1 – Set realistic expectations for yourself! 

Your initial goal should be to lower the temperature around this issue. Even if you just succeed in attempting to talk to them one on one, or expressing a desire to do so, that’s an important step forward! Do NOT set yourself an expectation that you will change how they feel about climate all in one go!  

Step 2 – Find a buddy! 

Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with who’s down to be your support before and after having a challenging conversation with a friend or family member. Talk to them about what your fears are and name some goals for what and why you’re wanting to talk about it.  

Step 3 – Listen! 

When the time comes to talk, start by letting them know that you really want to understand how they feel about climate change. Listen, and ask follow up questions “Tell me more? Why do you feel that way?” But importantly don’t respond. Don’t engage with the parts that you disagree with. Just give them a chance to talk it out and be heard, you want to let them get the crux of their feelings on the subject off their chest.  

Step 4 – Acknowledge that you disagree 

Let them know what you think. For example, “Got it. So, you’re probably not surprised to hear it, but I think climate change is real and human-caused.” But then most importantly, say “But I really want to find a way to talk to you about it openly, and better understand what each other thinks, even if we don’t agree.” In other words, name the elephant in the room – that you disagree – and name it without being upset about it! 

Step 5 – Make it personal 

Turn the conversation away from hard facts, and towards life and experiences. Connect climate change with individual values and world views. In addition to the environment, talk about impacts on public health and jobs, and especially about your hopes and fears for your family and friends. The key here is to share vulnerably, and then talk about how it made you feel. And then (most importantly) invite them to do the same – bring emotion explicitly into the conversation. 

Here are some more resources to help make those difficult conversations, less difficult! 

The Secret to Talking about Climate Change, from the Alliance for Climate Education. This video was inspired by the research of Dr. Renee Lertzman, an expert in the psychosocial aspects of climate change communications.

 

Trying to Talk to Family about Climate Change? Here's How- How to Save our Planet – Spotify playlist 

 

A few of the research papers telling us that climate conversations matter: 

 

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