Tips for talking about Climate Change

Friends, isn’t it funny how sometimes you come across something at just the right time.

And since I have now become one of the ‘mad people’ you have to avoid eye-contact with as you walk past me in the street, I was happy to come upon these notes on Talking about Climate Change.

The notes were prepared by Richard Erskine as part of his work to raise consciousness of Climate Change in his local area. And the aim is to simply share some experiences and ideas about dealing with some of the most common situations one encounters.

  • You can find Richard’s blog here
  • You can follow him on Twitter here.
  • And you can download the notes as a pdf file here.

There is no point in me re-writing what Richard has written, but I thought I would just highlight some of the things the document covered that I felt were especially delightful. And the main feature I liked was the subtitle: you don’t have to be an expert.

On my first day out, I went equipped with a laptop loaded up with key graphs and animations. On contact with the public it immediately became obvious that these would not be needed. Talking to people in the street is absolutely NOT about lecturing clearly. And although Richard’s notes include some well-referenced ‘facts’, it is not about knowing the very latest facts.

The point of speaking to people in the street lies in the power of conversation, and the sheer pleasure humans take in ‘having a chat’. And meeting someone who is honest and straightforward and concerned, and not trying to sell anything is a pretty powerful event in most people’s days.


The document starts with some tips on starting conversations and some key Climate Facts. And then there are 10 questions which I have listed below together with my précis of the Richard’s more expansive comments.

Q1. CO2 is only a trace gas (0.04%) of the atmosphere. How can that affect the climate?

  • This drink contains 0.04% cyanide, would you like some?

Q2. CO2 is used by plants so isn’t more of it a good thing

  • Yes, CO2 is used by plants, but it also affects the climate, and many plants can’t cope with heat-induced stress. Look at the grass…

Q3. We’ve had heat waves before (1976) so what’s the fuss?

  • Heat waves have become more likely year-on-year, and this one has extended across much of the northern hemisphere. Reaching 40 °C in the UK would have been impossible without the underlying warming.

Q4. Aren’t Electric Vehicles (EVs) environmentally bad?

  • EVs are much better for the environment than petrol and diesel cars, but they are not perfect.

Q5. Don’t we need better public transport rather than Electric Vehicles (EVs)?

  • This is not an “either-or” decision.

Q6 What about China; our emissions are tiny compared to theirs?

  • China’s per person and historic emissions are much lower than ours, and they have become the factory of the world. Many items you own were probably made in China. 

Q7. The problem is population growth, so what can we do, and is it even worth trying?

  • This places the blame on the poorest people in the world who have NOT caused global warming. The problem is caused by our society’s consumption.

Q8. “What’s the big deal about the world warming by 1°C or 2°C?”

  • Like your body, the climate and ecology of the Earth are adapted to living at a particular temperature. Just like you, a rise in temperature of 2  °C or 3 °C is very serious.

Q9. Arctic methane and other tipping points have already been crossed, so we need to now just prepare for the worst, don’t we?

  • We don’t have runaway Climate Change yet – and we want to avoid that. So every action matters, every bit of warming matters, every choice matters.

Q10. I am not a denier, but we can’t afford to rush it; Net Zero by 2050 is just an arbitrary target, we need more time

  • It is not a choice between the economy and climate change measures. With consistent policies and investment in a low carbon economy, we can actually have a flourishing future, good for jobs and the planet.


Friends, Climate Change is real and terrifying, and it is easy to feel petrified into inaction. But having honest conversations with friends and acquaintances is a great way to clarify one’s own thoughts and to help others clarify theirs.

But our conversations have been seeded – deliberately I believe – with false narratives that

  • either deny that Climate Change exists,
  • or if it exists that it is important,
  • or if it is important that it’s our responsibility,
  • or if its our responsibility that we can afford to do anything
  • or if we do anything that it is just as bad as everything else

These notes might just help you to avoid getting sucked into those awful conversational paths.

Good Luck!


2 Responses to “Tips for talking about Climate Change”

  1. Ian Nicholson Says:

    I bumped into a neighbour whilst earlier walking in the park. His family had apparently been cheated out of land just before the Norman Conquest. He might be right but one does have to take into account that one is going to meet some very strange people. They wouldn’t recognise climate change and to be honest they seem scary about Anglo Saxon enfeofdem.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Ian, I know – strange people are our neighbours. I met a couple while canvassing but I omitted details of encounters that left me concerned for the individuals connection to reality – it seemed disrespectful. But they are ‘out there’ – close encounters of a weird kind.

      Best wishes. M

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