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Patriotic language could fuel centre-right ‘passion for climate change action’

By Sophia Taouri on February 9, 2017

First published in PRweek

The research, compiled by climate change comms group Climate Outreach and Cardiff University, says the language we use has the capacity to either encourage or discourage discussion about tackling climate change.

Black Rock Solar and The Children's Cabinet conducted a joint field trip for students from Zephyr Cove Elementary. The Children's Cabinet - a nonprofit providing services to young people in the Reno area - is partially powered by a Black Rock Solar array.

Lorraine Whitmarsh, a professor of psychology at Cardiff University, said: “This is the first study to explore how different ways of talking about climate change can engage different voter groups in the UK.”

Following group discussions concerning “great British energy” and waste avoidance with centre-right individuals, a survey of more than 2,000 people from across the political spectrum compared these so-called centre-right narratives with more typical left-wing views that focus on the theme of ‘climate justice’.

Adam Corner, research director at Climate Outreach, told PRWeek that language referring to “British democracy”, “the British people”, and tackling climate change by “supporting British manufacturing” and “creating ‘green’ jobs” resonated deeply with those on the right of the political spectrum.

“But what was really striking was that people on the left also engaged positively with this language. So while the ‘climate justice’ language we tested polarised our sample, the narratives discussing avoiding waste and ‘great British energy’ brought people together,” he said.

According to Corner, the value of the research for PRs – particularly those in political comms – is that it provides some of the first peer-reviewed evidence on language that engages centre-right values on energy and climate change in the UK.

“At a time of sharp political division, tools for a more productive conversation across the political spectrum are valuable for building bridges and ensuring that the climate debate doesn’t start to become like the US – completely polarised,” he said.

The comms group has also published a guide designed to offer recommendations for language for climate change communicators to use and avoid, which is based on 11 principles that centre-right audiences value, Climate Outreach said.

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