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Talking about climate change

This section explores different ways to talk about climate change.
Two young people are walking through a park and talking

In years gone by, talking about climate change was the domain of scientists who rely very heavily (and rightly) on facts. It has since become an incredibly polarised and political issue. These factors combine to make it a technically and emotionally difficult subject for many people to talk about.

If you are looking for some in-depth reading on why we find it so difficult to talk about, have a look at George Marshall’s book “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change” [1]. And if you are after some tips on what to do about this fact, he also offers some resources here.

There are some very good reasons that we don’t like to talk about climate change. There is evidence that apocalyptic nature of the discourse on climate change can lead to negative effects on our mental health. A TED talk by Britt Wray [2] explains some of these impacts. Another TED talk by Per Epsen Stoknes [3] gives us an alternative way of framing it to lead to more positive response and therefore ability to act.

You can also read this summary outlining how we might re-frame how we talk about climate change in particular to get better results in Futuerra’s ‘Sell the Sizzle’ document [4]. It is also worth noting that the cultural context you are in should inform how you approach the subject. As with thinking about the climate when designing a building, you might think about the cultural norms of the audience when designing a presentation or even conversation on this topic.

George Marshall also talks about the power of narratives in how we form our opinions so it is worth recognising the power of storytelling as a tool to help you reach your audience in a way that facts simply won’t. Simon Sinek’s seminal TED Talk [5] or book “Start With Why” [6] are good ways of understanding why some people’s ability to influence others is so much greater than most of us. It is worth noting that both men also emphasise the value of radical or deep listening to really understand a problem. Perhaps you might need to frame it in corporate speak as “gaining insights” but listening to and really seeking to understand those you trying to influence is an often overlooked part of the process.

We can learn a lot from the way young people across the world are organising, speaking and acting. The podcast ‘Mothers of Invention’ [7] takes a look at some of the methods of communication being employed to bridge the generational divide. The principles of “deflecting confrontation and forging connection…active listening and using stats the right way, [can] transform bickering into brainstorming.”

What insights have you gained? How might you change how you communicate about climate and sustainable building? What will you do more of?


  1. on the Internet), Good Reads: Don’t event think about it.
  2. (video on the Internet), Britt Wray: How climate change affects your mental health; May 2019.
  3. (video on the Internet), Per Espen Stoknes: how to transform apocalypse fatigue into action on global warming.
  4. (page on the Internet), Futerra: Sell the Sizzle.
  5. (video on the Internet), Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action.
  6. (page on the Internet) Simon Sinek: Start with why.
  7. (page on the Internet), Oh my god mom.
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