ACT Event Summary: What Britons Think About Climate Change

ACT Event Summary: What Britons Think About Climate Change
Source: Fargo coventry

How do you go beyond the usual suspects, and engage more people with climate action? At our latest event, we shared results and insights from our three-month programme of research in 2022.

We talked to Persuadables across the UK, and complemented these qualitative conversations with desk research, and expert consultation.

Who are the 'Persuadables'?
The 69% of Brits who have not yet made up their mind about climate action. They're not activists, nor deniers. But the majority of climate communications in the UK fails to reach them. 

Today, we'll cover the key learnings, including:

  • The challenge: why is talking to some audiences so challenging? What research did we do to tackle the problem?
  • Our results: how do the Persuadables relate to climate change? What insights can help us understand them better?
  • How to take action: 10 recommendations for supercharging your climate communications, plus snippets from the event Q&A.

The event was co-run by ACT Insights Director Harriet Kingaby and ACT Strategy Director Florencia Lujani.

Before reading on, sign up for our next in-person event.
Last year we ran multiple advertising experiments with ACT members to gather detailed insights on how to cut through the noise. Reserve your space for 25th April. We will also be hosting events elsewhere across the UK later this year - watch this space!

The challenge

Why is communicating climate change so challenging? Plus, our research methodology.

The Challenge

The climate movement has done a great job of raising the alarm on climate change. But, following a succession of identity and economic crises (Brexit, pandemic, cost of living) climate change remains low on Brits' priority lists. Signs also show that support for climate action is being eroded.

ACT Insights Director Harriet Kingaby outlines the challenge facing climate communicators in the UK (part 1).

The climate movement talks mainly to supportive audiences, while at-risk audiences - our Persuadables - are being left behind. These Persuadables have extraordinary social and political power but are being taken in by our greatest competitor - climate misinformation.

ACT Insights Director Harriet Kingaby outlines the challenge facing climate communicators in the UK (part 2).

The Methodology

This is why ACT embarked on a three-month research programme to discover how we can better reach and speak to this crucial but diverse audience. We conducted desk research, interviewed Persuadables from different communities across the UK and consulted with experts on intersectional communications.

ACT Strategy Director Florencia Lujani outlines the methodology for our research programme.

Our results

How do the Persuadables we studied relate to climate change? What further insights did we gather?

How do Persuadables relate to climate change?

Three cultural themes emerged from our research:

1) Persuadables commonly feel sceptical about the future.
2) A lack of welfare support and the rise of loneliness has created a rise in do-it-yourself culture.
3) Years of false promises have produced an anti-political sentiment, in which climate change is usually included.

In terms of media, Persuadables tend to fall into one of three categories:

1) Bingeing: climate change gets lost in the mix of more stimulating news.
2) Drowning: information overload makes facts about climate impossible to find.
3) Turning away: a decision to ignore the news means climate is totally missed.

Florencia summarises the principle insights from our three-month programme of research.

Audience Deep Dives

We visited the North East, Birmingham and Yorkshire to learn more about what Persuadables think and feel about a wide range of topics. Detailed findings about each group can be viewed in the videos below.

To give a taster of the content, in Newcastle and Gateshead we spent time with 'Urban Somewheres', people from places with industrial heritage, who feel a deep connection to their area:

What makes them tick? A sense of camaraderie, challenges to power, a feeling of pride and conformism specifically for the sake of the greater good.

What about climate change? Climate change is low on the urgency list because of concerns about the cost of living, affordability or restrictions arising from proposed climate solutions, as well as feelings that the younger generation will solve the issue themselves.

What did the experts suggest? Instead of going climate-first, we should be making use of existing environmental movements in the area that may not be immediately obvious to us, such as the health and safety at work movement.

Deep Dive into "Urban Somewhere's", Newcastle.

For an overview of British Black and South Asian communities in Birmingham, watch the video below.

Deep Dive into British Black & South Asian communities, Birmingham

Watch the videos below for an overview of Rural and Semi-rural audiences in Yorkshire.

Deep Dive into Rural and semi-rural communities, Yorkshire.

How to take action

10 recommendations for supercharging your climate communications, plus insights from the event Q&A.

10 recommendations for supercharging your climate communications

Watch the video below for a detailed explanation of each of our recommendations.

Harriet and Florencia go into detail about our 10 recommendations to supercharge climate communications.

Top insights from the Q&A

What climate messaging works best with Persuadables? Adverts that talked about the increase in jobs received a better reaction than health benefits, although narratives around air pollution still worked well.

What kind of advertising should we use to reach Persuadables? From our advertising experiments, TV appears to be the most trusted channel, and roadside adverts are also very effective.

How to achieve behaviour change? Address barriers to action and break them down. Support this with messaging that makes it clear what the benefit is to them, their families, or their communities.

Hungry for more? Come to our in-person event in London on 25th April to gain insights from last year's advertising experiments to Persuadables.
Further resources
Inclusive climate communications webinar with Steven Sahota of Hope for the Future.
Meet the Persuadables: the 69% of people in the UK yet to be convinced about climate action.
Key dates for your 2023 calendar: Which events can we look towards to communicate climate action to Persuadables in 2023?