Impact Story: Citizen’s Climate
Citizen’s Climate is reaching US political representatives of all stripes to build a better future. Learn more about the work of this 2020 Social & Cultural Pathways laureate during a tense period in American electoral politics, and their efforts to bridge the partisan divide.
Citizens’ Climate is a 2020 Keeling Curve Prize laureate focused on the advancement of bipartisan climate change mitigation policies, such as national dividend and carbon fee policies. The movement has two components, with Citizens’ Climate Education works on education of the public on climate issues, while the Citizens Climate Lobby encourages legislators to move forward on climate. Jackie Francis, Global Warming Mitigation Project Executive Director, sat down with Flannery Winchester, Citizens’ Climate Communications Director, to talk about how they are successful at building bridges with representatives and community to have meaningful conversations about global warming.
“The first question we always get is how do you talk to a climate denier that doesn’t believe that there is a problem. I would not say that that is not that much of a challenge, because the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication polling shows that it is only actually a small percentage of Americans who don’t think that climate change is a problem. There is a bigger percentage of Americans that are concerned, but they just don’t know what to do. We help them understand that there are things they can do to make a difference….They don’t have to be frozen by their fear or their worry. They can take that as motivation and go make stuff happen!”
Citizens’ Climate has over 190,000 supporters worldwide, organized in local chapters and working in communities with their neighbors and friends to move their particular member of Congress forward on climate.
“CCL is the organization that you want to come to after election day, because elections are about choosing who you want to represent you, but we know that this is a very diverse country with a lot of different political perspectives, and not everyone is going is going to end up after election day feeling that they have their choice representing them or the person that they wanted in office. Our stance is whoever you have representing you, whether you feel like they are a great match or maybe not so much, CCL gives you a way to engage with that representative no matter what. We teach people how to approach their representatives and elected official in a respectful, appreciative way so that they can have a productive conversation about what we need to do on climate regardless.”
Citizens Climate does this through their 5 levers approach:
Lobbying: CCL volunteers learn how to go in and have a lobbying meeting with their member of Congress.
Engage with media: Writing letters to the media, op-eds, getting their voices in local media outlets.
Grassroots outreach: Talking to their neighbors, going to farmer markets and local festivals, how to educate people through presentations.
Grasstops outreach: How to interact with influential people in your communities - pastors, city council members, etc.
Chapter development: finding more people to join your local chapter and get involved.
When asked about how to get people to put climate at the top of their list, Flannery emphasized the importance of communicating effectively through listening. “Rather than coming into a conversation and saying, “Hey the most important thing you can care about now is climate change and let me tell you why!” we usually recommend that you listen first, and ask someone “What is it that you care about? What is at the top of your list.” Listening enables you to connect climate to the thing your listener cares about through a climate lens, and you can do that with almost every topic since it is such a pervasive issue.”
After a tense election season and during a stressful, divisive year, Citizens Climate is working to provide a way forward toward fruitful conversation with our representatives regardless of political affiliation. This 2020 Keeling Curve Prize winner received the award in July for this courageous approach to doing the hard work to bridge divides in climate conversations around the United States and the world.