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Why policy experts need science and storytelling to inspire climate action 

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The COP26 summit ended on a sour note this month after India and China, supported by several other countries, intervened to water down efforts to end coal power and fossil fuel subsidies as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact.  

Extreme weather events caused by climate change in the last five years have hugely worried the general public, with more than 50 per cent of UK citizens saying “drastic action” is needed.

However, information suggests that hard science is beginning to lose the emotional argument for climate action. Energy subsidies and taxes are still undermining climate change actions and a plethora of global warming deniers are still populating the media.

If scientific evidence alone isn’t effective enough to motivate the world today, how can policy experts educate and inspire climate change action across all levels of society? 

Climate change impact 

The latest report produced by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made for an alarming read. 

Climate action will mean huge changes for people, particularly those working in the worst affected economic sectors. A recent report by the International Labour Organisation found the hardest hit sectors include the wine industry, tourism, food and beverage, agriculture and fishing, and energy. 

Overall, the report estimates that 43 million jobs will be lost globally due to global warming, and the rising temperatures, which impact productivity and working conditions, will reduce 2 per cent of working hours worldwide. In the agricultural sector, for instance, this could translate to 60 per cent of global working hours lost due to heat stress by 2030.

While other sectors such as renewable energy, biotech, and heating and cooling will benefit in the short term, there is a need for stronger policies and awareness to appeal to the emotions of the public, state and business leaders, and policy experts.

The power of storytelling 

Our scientific knowledge has greatly advanced since the 1980s when the question of global warming was mostly described as a pollution problem. 

In the last 30 years, however, the majority of reporting on climate change has been centred around data and “issue-based” stories. 

This form of storytelling focuses on the physical consequences of global warming and overlooks the concept of control, resilience, and empathy. Unfortunately, up to 98 per cent of environmental news stories are negative in nature and people in developed countries such as the UK or the US fail to relate to climate injustice. Often those who can and do have the biggest impact upon climate change are not likely to suffer the worst of the consequences.

Science + storytelling

To enhance leaders’ and the public’s agency for climate change action, storytelling by policy experts needs to be both scientific and “action-based”. It should focus on well-developed solutions and showcase the positive outcomes of a resilient and equal post-carbon economy, as well as share positive stories from the worlds of technology, science and the world community. 

The policies that governments choose can make all the difference when it comes to the impact climate change has upon the planet. To draft, implement, and communicate the best policies, policymakers need to create a balance of urgency, positivity and possibility. 

Above all of this, policymakers must overcome the persistent narrative that climate change is too big an issue for people to solve. Science and positive storytelling will be key in the political and public debate surrounding climate change. 

Policy makers have an instrumental role to play in the fight against climate change. To find out more about roles in the sector or to discuss your hiring needs, please get in touch.

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