Your browser is no longer supported. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

A thank you for supporting an issue most people don’t want to think about

By Tany Alexander on March 2, 2016

“Even after 25 years of ever more alarming scientific warnings, in no country do polls find climate change listed among the top ten national issues for governmental action”, writes Climate Outreach’s George Marshall in an earlier blog. “This in turn keeps climate change permanently on the political sidelines, as a distant global problem that someone else, somewhere else needs to deal with – sometime.”

So what is it like being the fundraiser for an organisation dedicated to promoting action on an issue no one wants to think about?  As if that were not challenge enough, Climate Outreach is an organisation that doesn’t have – and also doesn’t seek – a public profile, preferring to work largely behind the scenes through existing institutions and organisations, national, local and international.  And,  to cap it all, the importance of our skills in ‘climate communications’ – social research on how to engage groups with climate change through messages and and messengers that resonate with their values – is not one that even the subset of people dedicated to a low carbon world always recognize readily.

We do attract funding from forward-thinking Trusts and Foundations, academic research funds and organisations which commission us. But it is gifts from individual donors that form the backbone of the organisationand this ‘unrestricted’ giving (not tied to a particular project) helps us do some of our most creative thinking to take on the amazing array of projects and commissions that we have completed over the years.

Thank you to all those who donate – your gifts allow us to provide workshops for groups and organisations that can’t pay, share the findings of our work through webinars, and pilot new and promising but untested areas of research such as work around flooding and centre-right audiences.

This year our forward thinking supporters donated over £11,000 through our annual appeal, double last year’s total, and the number of those giving increased by nearly 70%.  We are grateful to each and every person who responded and welcome all gifts, whatever their size.

So who supports us, and why?  

Amanda Crossfield, Lead Advisor for Climate Change Adaptation for Yorkshire Water

“My role is to advise and support Yorkshire Water in understanding our climate risks and what our response (…) should be.  Climate Outreach’s  Uncertainty Handbook has helped improve the way I communicate these complex ideas and given me some very practical, evidence based methods to use in my communications.”

Hannah Wakley, from Leicester

“I attended a lecture and a workshop at Friends of the Earth Base Camp last summer and signed up to your newsletter shortly afterwards. I listened to your podcast on talking about climate change with people of faith last autumn and used the ideas when contacting local faith communities about Leicester’s climate march, so it was very useful!

Sandra Brown in Edinburgh

“It hasn’t been all that difficult for me to learn about climate change, and to be absolutely clear about what needs to be done to try to prevent it from running away from our control. The most difficult thing for me has been to find a way to communicate that knowledge and that certainty to others around me without eliciting a defensive reaction. As you well know, the problem with talking about climate change here is that it involves talking about the responsibility we have, not just to try to influence policy makers around energy, but also to rein ourselves in and live differently. People don’t like to hear things that suggest they may need to do things differently and phrases like ‘hectoring’, ‘browbeating’, ‘shoving it down your throat’ abound even when you’re not doing any of these things. All you’re doing is switching off an extractor fan and opening the window instead, or walking for 10 minutes rather than taking the car! So any insight into how we can talk effectively about what we’ve learned without people recoiling is worth supporting. Your work is very important.”

Kathryn Aston from Sheffield

I’ve been interested in how to get people to take climate change seriously for some time, and found George Marshall’s book ‘Don’t even think about it’ very illuminating. I teach English and academic skills, including critical thinking and debate, to overseas students at Sheffield University. Most of them are from the Far East, especially China, and the Middle East or North Africa, and are planning to study Masters’ degrees in various disciplines. (…) Climate change is extremely relevant to most of the disciplines they are going into, e.g. Engineering, Town and Regional Planning and Architecture.

The topic can be controversial and polarising, and [is] good for teaching students to build and defend arguments. It is often obscured by misinformation, and [strengthens] skills like evaluating evidence and spotting bias (…) Most students and teachers have very poor understanding of the issue, and most of the books we use to teach English and academic skills treat the subject in a very superficial way (polar bears on ice floes, advice about recycling etc.(…) But really what I want to do is use my position to make young Chinese and Saudi people worry as much about climate change as I do!”

One of the reasons for the success of our appeal this year is the matching fund generously provided by Mark and Jan Scott. This is what inspires them:

“We care deeply about climate change because its cumulative harm to the earth and its plants, animals and people will be devastating.  Today’s catastrophes jostle for attention and help but it is even more important to reduce the magnitude of climate-caused disasters in future decades.

Our choice of current ease and pleasure over future needs and benefit, our desire to defer any sacrifice until others are doing at least their share, and the magnitude of the task, lead us all to construct reasons and stories why comfortable inactivity seems legitimate.  Clear scientific truth may convince our minds, but rarely our hearts, so people will only act when their values and beliefs are understood and addressed persuasively.  Climate Outreach has an analytical, perceptive and non-confrontational approach to how we think.  This is the best way to persuade us to act urgently and vigorously to achieve efficiently a future that is worthwhile and attractive to all.”

Header photo is from graphic recording by Zuhura Plummer

Sign up to our newsletter