Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our planet in the 21st century. Research shows that the more we ignore climate change, the more severe, pervasive, and irreversible the impacts we and the entire ecosystem on earth will face in the future.
As time goes by, the public is increasingly aware that our planet is experiencing a climate crisis emergency. According to a People’s Climate Vote survey, 64% of the total respondents in 50 countries realise that climate change is an emergency that needs to be addressed globally.
But, the reality is, no one wants to talk about climate change. It is considered a taboo topic to talk about with coworkers or after dinner with family. Talks about climate change are almost the same as talks about politics or religion: not the first things you want to bring up to the table. This reality is unfortunate, especially considering that people are actually experiencing the effects of climate change from day to day. Still, they don’t want to voice their opinion about it.
The cycle of silence on climate change
People’s unwillingness to talk about climate change is called the “climate spiral of silence”. It happens where people who care about the climate issue are reluctant to discuss it because they rarely meet others who casually talk about climate change, causing the cycle of silence.
Climate silence happens for many reasons. Many people out there think that climate change is a sensitive topic, like politics or religion. Or maybe they feel that they don’t know much about the issue, so they remain silent. Some people still think that the discussion about climate change is overwhelming and scary, especially when considering the severity of weather-related disasters caused by climate change.
The importance of talking about climate change
As a matter of fact, talking about climate change is crucial. In her TED talk in 2018, Dr Katharine Hayhoe explained that the most simple yet important thing we can do to fight the crisis is simply to talk about it. Our casual conversations on the subject matter because people are more likely to do something if they think it matches their identity and supports the people and groups they are connected to.
According to research, having casual conversations about climate change with people in your social circle is a significant first step to raising awareness and creating a feedback loop to keep the discussion going.
When we talk about climate change to someone, our conversation partner is more likely to learn influential facts on the discourse and the fact that humans are the cause of the crisis itself. Upon acknowledging the realities of climate change, people will be more confident that climate change is real and an emergency. After they believe it’s real, they will be concerned about this issue and try to deepen the discussion about climate change, thus creating a feedback loop.
Starting a conversation about climate change with someone
Conversations about climate change are necessary, but sometimes people find it a little harder to start one. So, how can we have productive and proper discussions about climate change with someone to make them informed, involved, and willing to do something to solve this problem? Here are a few steps you might want to try.
1. Ask how they feel, and then listen
This conversation is not about you telling them how much you know about climate change. This conversation is about them, how they feel about the issue and how much it matters to them.
Then, the most important thing is to listen. By sincerely listening to their opinions and stories, you are also signalling that you respect and understand what they say about climate change.
2. Build the connection
An effective conversation on climate change doesn’t require a deep understanding and a lot of data on climate science. The facts are interesting, but the feelings are undoubtedly compelling.
Finding common interests and concerns, discussing common values and experiences, and connecting with what is important to people are the essential foundations of effective climate conversations.
3. It’s a conversation, not a debate competition
It is just a conversation. Nobody wins or loses. You don’t need to constantly lecture and force every single one of your thoughts on climate change to make them agree with you.
Also, people don’t like to be told they are wrong. When people are forced to admit they are wrong, they usually take offence and build defensive walls towards the person who told them wrong. Remember why you want this discussion in the first place: to make people informed, involved, and willing to do something to solve this problem.
A collective problem for all of us
Climate change is not just a government matter or an obstacle for scientists to solve. Climate change is a collective problem that needs personal, collaborative, and governmental action. To continue to talk about climate change is one of the most powerful things you can do to address this crisis. We are all in this together; we face new challenges one way or another because of climate change. So, if we can’t even talk about climate change, we certainly can never fix it.
Climate Change is one of the many issues that are the main focus of the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) and its regional sections like United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG ASPAC). UCLG ASPAC, as a global organisation of cities and local, regional, and metropolitan governments in the Asia-Pacific, as well as their associations, has been actively taking an essential part in climate change negotiations. UCLG ASPAC is aware of the importance of involving local and regional governments in a collective effort to raise awareness, fight the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as to build resilience.
One of UCLG ASPAC’s works in fighting climate change is its constant support for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), by acting as the GCoM Southeast Asia Secretariat. UCLG ASPAC is also actively supporting cities and local governments in the development and implementation of action through the Climate Resilient and Inclusive Cities (CRIC) project, which is co-funded by the European Union. It is a collaborative work of UCLG ASPAC with partners, aiming to assist Indonesian and other Asian cities’ efforts to protect their citizens and assets from the impacts of climate change and strive to promote sustainable urban development.
In fact, there is no better time than now to start leveling up the conversations around climate change, especially with the kick off of the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26 in Glasgow. For 2 weeks, nations convened to negotiate the next crucial steps for curbing the impacts of climate change and build resilience. This included pushing for better deployment of climate finance towards cities, regions and vulnerable groups, as well as “phasing-down” on coal to reduce emissions. It also highlighted the important role of cities and its local governments to speed up climate action, with 11 November specially dedicated to its discussion.
During and after the conference, everyone around the world are beginning to speak out about climate change, which indicates how awareness on climate change is gradually increasing and citizens are taking this opportunity to hold decision-makers accountable.