The President of the United States of America (POTUS), in all his orange glory, recently signed an executive order to undo rules set in motion under the Obama administration. For reasons most of us will never understand, he believes this declaration against climate action will put an end to the “war on coal” and “job-killing regulations.” Yea…I couldn’t believe it either.
Luckily, that’s where you and I come in. Superheroes of the climate world.
We are charged with the responsibility, as writers, to challenge POTUS and his crew’s obsolete rhetoric about climate change and build a progressive narrative about how we can deal with climate impacts happening now and in the future.
In this overheated political environment, standing against the views of the president of the most powerful country in the world might seem intimidating, but Climate Tracker’s got your back.
Here are some tips to boost your climate writing:
1. Respect the science
If I wanted to find out about theoretical physics I would not go to Howard Wolowitz, you’d see me hanging out at the comic book store with Sheldon Cooper. Similarly, it’s important to strengthen your article by using the most credible and relevant sources.
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about climate change, it’s causes, and the impacts. To keep your writing a cut above the rest, find scientists who have authority to speak on the topic. Balance and impartiality don’t mean the same thing. You may have your own opinion, but facts are facts, and in the climate world, science has a clear role to play in accurately informing and successfully persuading your reader.
At any university, you will find specialists in some aspect of climate change, usually in the geography or science and technology departments. If you need someone to shed light on coastal issues, find a coastal engineer with a track record of conducting research in this area who publishes in peer-reviewed literature and who has recognised impact on contributing new knowledge to this field.
In my experience, lecturers and professors are not difficult to get a hold off and are enthusiastic to share their nuggets of wisdom. Email is a preferred way to initiate contact with academics. So head over to the university’s website and do a quick search. Remember to keep up a steady thread of conversation for deeper insight.
2. KISS your audience
Your goal is to help your audience understand the science, how it impacts their lives, and why climate action is necessary. So although you’re using science to backup your writing, stay away from making your article heavy with scientific jargon. Use the KISS technique to keep them coming back for more. Keep It Short and Simple.
Make the information digestible by utilising short words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Be creative and descriptive in your writing to get the message across in a way that’s both easy-to-read and remember.
3. Know your audience
Remember, no one really matters more than your reader. Not your editor, interviewee, or yourself. Your reader is the real MVP. Your hours behind the laptop and that last cup of coffee is all for the reader.
Always ask yourself, who am I writing for? Are you writing for tertiary students, scientists, the general public, or policymakers? The tone, structure, and style of your writing will alter according to your audience.
To effectively reach your reader, you must consider your audience’s age, level of education, and interests. These elements will affect how you transmit your message and your vocabulary. Familiarise yourself with their knowledge about climate change and the things they care most about. Never make the mistake of overestimating the audience’s knowledge and underestimating their intelligence.
Before submitting your story, read it through. Put yourself in the shoes of your average audience member and envisage what questions they might ask about the story. Be sure to answer those questions in your story before clicking send.
Bonus tip – Ensure variety by quoting an assortment of voices. Climate change affects men and women in different ways. Young people and old people have different perspectives. Variety permits a richer understanding of the issues at hand.
4. Stay well-informed
The climate story goes beyond hard science, it is increasingly local, influencing communities every day. It is important to stay on top of the current climate-related news, by reading the work of other journalists who are covering it well. You hear it from your favourite YouTubers regularly, “subscribe, subscribe, subscribe.” Follow big stories on IPS, The Guardian, New York Times, Huffington Post, the BBC, The Tree, and of course Climate Tracker, but also stay tuned locally.
Engage with social media! Use Twitter to find out what people are saying about climate change and to easily connect with international organisations and media houses. Set up Google Alerts to easily weed out the information you need. If you’re writing about coral reefs, set up an alert for “climate change coral reefs.” Be as specific as possible to get the most relevant updates daily, straight to your inbox.
Like Bernie Sanders says, the leader of the most powerful country on Earth is “threatening not only this generation, but the lives of our children and grandchildren. We will fight you every step of the way.” Now that you are armed with these four simple tips, go forth and conquer the climate deniers.