Practical Ways to Communicate Climate Change Conference 2009 – key notes

View of Ness Botanic Gardens copyright Ness Botanic GardensBGEN’s 2009 conference drew more than 50 delegates representing a diverse range of organisations to Ness Botanic Gardens. The conference featured four keynote speakers addressing key issues surrounding the conference theme; ‘Practical Ways to Communicate Climate Change’.

Topics included the role of phenology, key messages for education and case studies from several successful projects/sites.

Several of the keynote presentations and speaker biographies (Word, 74KB) are now available to members .

Ben Oliver, BGEN Chair opened the conference…

Ben reflected on the conference title; ‘Weathering the Storm’ and what it might mean. One way, perhaps the most tempting way today is to think about it in terms of battening down the hatches. Certainly research from DEFRA’s 2009 public attitudes to the environment study shows that the environment is less important to people than it was in 2007. People are focussing less on the loss of biodiversity, they think that government should prioritise the economy and unemployment during these difficult times. At the same time people are becoming more skeptical about the science – 4/10 believe that even experts don’t agree on the evidence. Researchers have coined a number of groups for how people view climate change – the deniers, doubters, disinterested and the depressed.So should we as communicators consider battening down the hatches when we think about climate change – it is after all the largest of storms. Or should we consider a different approach?

In India, when the monsoon storms arrive, rather than hiding from the rain, people take to the streets – they embrace the weather. Is this approach of accepting and challenging the storm a better one to consider when we think about climate change communication? This is what this conference is about: taking on the challenge and facing it.

And communication is making progress. The DEFRA survey also shows that people know more about carbon footprints than they did in 2007. They are also adopting or thinking about taking environmentally responsible actions. And more than 50% say they would like to do more if they knew what to do. Of course climate change presents its own challenges to us as communicators. It’s a huge issue that’s happening somewhere else, sometime in the future. The information is often confusing and contested. But as recent research highlights, communication can overcome these issues (see Psychology of Climate Change Communication and Rules of the Game). These suggest the following key rules for good communication – information that is:

  • Easy to relate to
  • Personal to the audience and tailored
  • Scientifically certain (as possible)
  • Contains a clear, consistant and instructive message
  • Grabs attention

And is this not what we all do? This conference is not only about how we deliver climate change communication, it’s also about coming together to share. I suggest we all think of Weathering the Storm as a challenge and look at how we can overcome it.

Useful resources:
‘The Rules of the Game; the game is communicating climate change; the rules will help us to win it‘ 2009 by Futerra, evidence base for the climate change communication strategy.
Presentation 1: WELCOME TO NESS
Kevin Reid, Ness Botanic Gardens
Download the presentation (PDF, 1.4MB)
Key take-home messages:
  1. Ness Botanisde – a designed garden
  2. The idea of gardens as ‘stations’ – create transport gateways to gardens providing good transport links. Even small improvements like good bus shelters make a difference
Presentation 2: PHENOLOGY – THE IDEAL CLIMATE CHANGE INDICATORShed door with dates of daffodil flowering copyright Alan Chester
Professor Tim Sparks, UK Phenology Network
Download the graphs (PDF, 458KB) and presentation (PDF, 1.9MB)
In this presentation Tim reviewed some of the sources of phenological data in the UK; how and why they were collected and how they reflect our changing climate.
Key take-home messages:
  1. Change occurs and small changes can make a big difference.
  2. Photos make a big impact
  3. Collecting data is really important – can you collect phenology data at your garden?
  4. Seasons are shifting by a rate of 3 days per decade.
Dan Rose and Sally Wintle, The National Trust
You, Me & The Climate is a youth leadership initiative supported by the National Trust, which aims to empower young people to take action on climate change in their local communities. The presentation gave an overview of the project, looked at why and how to engage with young people, and offered some ideas to help grow your own Climateers.
Download the presentation (PDF, 320KB)
Belinda Hawkins, BGCI
Background and an overview of our education for climate change portal and resources pack, followed by a look at the current climate change debate and biodiversity loss targets and how these might impact/change education for climate change messages.
Download the presentation (PDF, 1.1MB)


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