What Is Your Best Persuasive Elevator Pitch for (Or Against) Climate Action?

Use these tips to flip the conversation

Climate action seems to be taking a back seat to public health and social issues right now. To look at the headlines, one might conclude that the media has forgotten all about the climate apocalypse in the midst of Covid fatigue. But the virus is part of a much bigger problem.

Pandemics and accelerated social problems are two of the many impacts of climate change, along with superstorms, floods, national security, food and water insecurity, economic decline, and extreme weather. If we want to keep climate action on the front burner we need to keep talking about it. But there is a right way and a wrong way to talk about it.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Starting a conversation with science facts doesn’t work — unless of course, your audience is a bunch of science nerds, which is usually not the case. In order to inspire climate action effectively, we need to lead with values. Here is a blueprint that successful communicators use based on communications research and experience. I break it down into three main ideas:

  1. “I care” statements.

2) “We know” statements.

3) “Here are some positive things that are happening” statements.

Keeping this format in mind, here is my one-minute elevator pitch, and also a video link below.

“I care about the water and food that my children and grandchildren will have. I care about our health, security, and the economy. I care about my town and my state.

We know that the climate is changing here and around the world, and we know humans are responsible. We know it is affecting clean water, food supplies, security, human health, and the economy.

Here are some of the positive things we are doing to take climate action. We are creating lots of good jobs and helping the U.S. become a leader in future energy technology and products. The sun, wind, hydrogen, groundwater, and oceans all provide clean energy. Clean energy benefits us and it gives us and our kids a healthy and secure future.”

This quick pitch sums up the three main ideas succinctly and the statements are difficult for even for a curmudgeonly, misinformed, stick-in-the-mud to disagree with. This strategy has a much better chance of resonating and inspiring others than a speech about the science data and models. I can tell you from personal experience, the science approach will be countered with misinformation and fallacies.

On the other hand, if you want to pitch business-as-usual that’s easy too. Use the same three steps to frame your pitch like this:

“I care about fossil fuels and a carbon-rich lifestyle regardless of the probable peril to humanity. I know that I can repeat unsupported misinformation that further discredits, creates doubt, and delays action. Furthermore, even if I did care, and it would make a difference, the choices to draw down carbon are all bad.”

The sad fact is, lots of Americans are using this second elevator pitch to support their contrarian views and resistance to climate action. But not enough of us are using a focused message of caring, knowing, and positive outcomes in our pitches. That needs to change.

Change starts with us and because we care, we know, and we can take positive steps, we need to keep on message, draw down carbon, and vote for clean energy candidates.

There it is, plain and simple. Let’s spread the word. If you want to know what personal action steps you can take, go to Drawdown.org .

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Author of Vermont’s Ebenezer Allen: Patriot, Commando and Emancipator by Arcadia/The History Press, University of Vermont EdD.