Posted on 5th July 2019

War of the words

Can we engage our TV audiences on the subject of climate change and sustainability simply by changing the language we use?
by Aaron Matthews

This is the question that was posed at a recent event in Phoenix, Arizona at the American Meteorological Society. If we remove the political connotations from the language we use when we talk about the climate – will viewers become more engaged?

Instead of talking about global warming, what if we talk about local experiences and when our day to day life is affected by changes. Instead of talking about sustainability, how about putting it directly into the context of our future food supply, travel options and communities instead. Rather than climate change in its entirety, could we instead switch the language and focus on discussing local weather patterns highlighting where they’ve become more erratic.

Switching the focus away from who or what is responsible and instead focussing on what is happening and how unusual it is and the ultimate cost to our communities, might provide an alternative way for content makers to engage with their audiences.

For a weather report, this could mean simply talking about ‘weather events in the context of how much more often they are occurring than in the past’ without even having to bring up the words climate change or human impact.

For nature programmes like Countryfile, Countrywise, SpringWatch or WinterWatch it would be about showing the direct effects of these weather events on local communities and wildlife – which they frequently do – but could this be done in a way that allows the audience to the come to same conclusion without using language potentially loaded with political connotations.

Of course, ultimately for things to change, we as humans need to take responsibility and collective action but as this report points out – recognition is Step One.

Once sceptics or the disengaged can see the direct impact that climate change is having on their community they’ll be in a better position to get on board with the solutions.…/27/climate-change-politics-224295