Blog Climate Change

How to talk to your friends and family about climate change and our Reef

September 17, 2020

Social researcher and expert on social trends Rebecca Huntley recently presented to Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) supporters on how to talk about climate change to their family and friends.

Rebecca is an expert on engaging with people with differing views on climate change and her advice will be invaluable to AMCS supporters who wish to encourage support for bold action on climate change for our Great Barrier Reef at the Queensland election.

You can help promote a race to the top for our Reef between the major parties by having meaningful conversations with friends and family and encouraging them to contact local candidates in the lead up to the October 31 election.

So how should we talk to people about this critical issue?

Rebecca says the key is to connect the reality of climate change to peoples’ lives to make it relevant and significant enough for them that it influences the way they behave, particularly in the ballot box.

“It’s not just enough to learn the facts about climate change, we need to find a way to connect it to what’s happening around us today. And have outlets for our concern and anxiety, such as in activism,” she said.

“One of the things we have going for us is that the Great Barrier Reef holds an extraordinary place in the hearts and minds of Australians of all kinds. In all the research I do, concern and anxiety about the Reef is high. You don’t have to convince people it’s important or being affected.

“What my research has shown is that different groups of Australians have different perceptions of the impact of climate change on the Reef. While some don’t need to be convinced that issues are linked to climate change, other people will say is it to do with pollution or the impact of tourism? Sometimes you have to do some work to understand that those links to climate change are not immediately obvious for people, and find useful and creative ways to talk about making those links for them.”

Rebecca said the next step is to understand what different groups of Australians value, and connect this with taking action on climate change.

“There are people who are generally concerned or perhaps a bit disengaged and cautious on the climate change issue, but there are still many shared values and emotions we can tap into,” she said. “One of these is an almost patriotic view that the Reef, our natural environments, flora and fauna are a genuinely unique thing about this country. It’s why tourists come here, it supports jobs, it’s at the core of our national identity. It’s a patriotic Australian pride in what we have and what we want to retain. If you can tap into those values while talking about climate change, you may be more persuasive.”

Rebecca also said her research had revealed that people still cared about climate change and its impacts despite our lives being dominated by COVID.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the extent to which people recognise the tasks we had as a country before COVID are not going to go away,” she said.

“In groups, people have been talking about how the things we need to do, like transitioning to renewables, can help with the economic recovery, protect Australia and make us more self-reliant. They want to see these aims prioritised. This is a good sign, and we need to keep helping people to make that connection.”

Rebecca’s book How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference is out now.