COSAM News Articles 2020 April Karen McNeal Encourages People to Talk About Climate in State-Focused Webinar

Karen McNeal Encourages People to Talk About Climate in State-Focused Webinar

Published: 04/14/2020

By: Maria Gebhardt

In this article:

  • Learn five ways you can spark climate conversations
  • Check out websites with climate-centric information

“We have tons of reasons to be hopeful,” explained Karen McNeal, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences during the “National Power Dialog and Power Dialog for the State of Alabama” webinar on April 7.

Mike Kensler, director of the Auburn University Office of Sustainability, moderated the webinar and introduced McNeal in addition to two other panelists, Daniel Tait from Energy Alabama and the Reverend Michael Malcom from Alabama Interfaith Power and Light.

McNeal discussed climate change and shared insightful information with participants throughout the state. She shared how people use two parts of their brain when processing information about climate change. The affective domain, or emotional side, and the cognitive domain, or analytical side, play important parts in how people understand information about climate change. McNeal asked participants to share via an online poll a word on how they feel about discussing this topic. Answers included apprehensive, confrontational, hopeful, important, motivated and more.

Important factors to climate change risk perceptions included:

  • Misinformation
  • Confirmation bias
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Political views

She empowered participants with give ways they can help overcome these risk perceptions and communicate effectively about climate change.

  1. Know your audience – learn valuable date from the Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2019 website
  2. Get your audience’s attention – frame your message for the local community, now versus future position, or add a human health perspective
  3. Talk about the real world – use metaphors and analogies
  4. Use effective imagery – visit, a photography-based resource for climate photos
  5. Be hopeful and solution-oriented – start your discussion with positive facts and ways people can take action

“This was an opportunity to have a statewide conversation about climate change and the suite of solutions that our state has to offer,” McNeal added. “I specifically talked about effective communication approaches when discussing climate change with a variety of audiences. It is exciting that dialogues like this are happening around the country and it is even more exciting that Alabamians are coming together on this issue.”  

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