Climate Change Messaging

This section is an abbreviated version of Climate Solutions for a Stronger America: A guide for engaging and winning on climate change & clean energy, a booklet developed by Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions.

Organize your arguments around this messaging triangle:

(1)   We must address extreme weather for our kids: We can’t ignore the growing reality of destructive weather—we owe it to our children to protect them, and that means addressing climate change before it’s too late to fix.

(2)   We can do it, we have the ingenuity: No one should doubt America’s ingenuity and resolve. Those who say nothing can be done about climate change forget who we are and what we can do.

(3)   We will break fossil fuel’s stranglehold on government: It’s time to end Big Oil’s extreme influence in Washington. We can build a secure, affordable energy future and address climate disruption if we put people, not fossil fuel companies, back in charge of our democracy.

Let’s begin with a monologue detailing the first point, that we must address the problem:

Say . . .

We can’t ignore the increasingly severe weather: it’s already causing tens of billions in damage and it’s only getting worse. We owe it to our kids to protect them and their futures, and that means addressing climate change before it becomes irreversible. Running away from tough problems only makes them worse. That’s not how America works. We need to apply commonsense strategies now. We know what’s right, we know how to implement clean energy solutions, and we know that reducing fossil fuel dependence will make America stronger and our kids safer. It’s time to step up and get it done…our children are counting on it.

Why . . .

Scientific facts generally don’t persuade swing voters. For years, scientists have told us that climate change is real. Yet, propaganda campaigns sponsored by oil and coal companies left many Americans confused. All that misinformation is now being overridden by the force of the wildfires, floods, droughts and violent weather that people see with their own eyes.

Talk about extreme weather in ways that create mental pictures—severe storms, droughts, wildfires—rather than using the less-descriptive phrase global warming. Employ both your own experience and recent destructive weather in the news, preferably from your geographic area. For details on extreme weather in your state, go to or look at the impacts section of the website. You can use this as an opportunity to introduce the phrase climate disruption when talking about extreme weather and local impacts. Disruption makes it slightly harder for people to dismiss unusual events as being caused by natural weather cycles.

Then pivot to the second point of the triangle, we can find climate solutions:

Say . . .

No one should doubt America’s ingenuity and resolve. Those who say nothing can be done about climate change forget who we are and what we can do.  We already have the energy technologies to run our economy cleanly and affordably. American businesses and scientists have developed amazing renewable energy technologies, including solar mirrors that magnify the power of the sun, efficient wind turbines, and jet fuel from algae. America can build a healthier, more secure future by leading the world in clean energy solutions. Developing clean energy creates jobs, strengthens local economies, and helps us gain control of our energy future.

Why . . .

Because climate change denial is now a losing tactic, the oil and coal companies have shifted to the argument that clean energy is unrealistic, or too expensive, or it will cost our economy jobs. We know that voters are seeking confident leaders who are willing to take on the complex problems of our times. Without strong leadership, climate change can be intimidating. Remind voters about practical, available clean energy technologies and solutions available today instead of focusing primarily on solutions projected for the future.

This is the patriotic high ground—America can do it. Include supporting stories or facts to back up your claims. Focus on local success stories—not using numbers but visual images. “In Albuquerque, we’re installing solar on firehouses, schools, and we’ve got them on the airport roof.” In fact, solar power is growing at an extremely fast pace and the federal National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that renewable energy could meet the vast majority of our electricity needs by mid-century.

Some of the most effective political narratives include a villain, and it’s not difficult to find one on the topic of climate change. Pivot to the third point of the triangle, that despite all opposition, we will address the issue:

Say . . .

It’s time to break the stranglehold that the oil and coal companies have on government. They are rigging the system to pad their profits, blocking clean energy innovation, and preventing responsible action to protect our kids from climate disruption. They are paying for deceptive campaigns to spread doubts about climate science and the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change.

Why . . .

Voters recognize that big fossil fuel companies have an unfair amount of influence over energy policy decisions in government. They see Big Oil as a greedy corporate actor that coordinates with superPACs, the billionaire Koch Brothers, and corrupt politicians to suppress clean energy innovation. Nearly 6 of 10 voters are troubled “a lot” or “a fair amount” by “oil companies pouring tens of millions of dollars into so-called superPACs advertising campaigns in order to influence key elections.” They are not just promoting fossil fuels. They are aggressively working to block wind power, solar energy, mass transit, and energy efficiency programs. Polling shows that the public reacts with anger when they learn about these details.

So insist that we hold oil and coal companies accountable and fight back against corporations that are “rigging the system” against clean energy and “not playing by the rules.” Remind the public that, “What’s best for the oil companies is not what’s best for the American economy and the American people. And especially not what’s best for our children’s future.”

The following arguments and answers come verbatim from Climate Solutions for a Stronger America.

Right wing argument: Clean energy costs too much.

Say . . .

What costs too much is what we’re doing now. 1,300 counties have been declared disaster areas due to drought, losing billions of dollars in crops, exports and income. This year’s wildfires have cost us billions more in firefighting and emergency aid. Clean energy is practical, affordable and inexhaustible—it’s the fastest growing energy sector around the world. America has the know-how to power our economy with clean energy—if we break Big Oil’s grip on Washington.

Right wing argument: We still don’t have proof that this is caused by humans.

Say . . .

We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re not entitled to our own facts. Nine out of 10 of the hottest years on record have been in the last decade. Destructive weather is getting more common—just like the scientists warned it would if we did not reduce our carbon emissions. These are facts, not political positions. The longer we delay solutions, the more expensive they get. Denial is not a responsible strategy. It’s time for solutions.

Right wing argument: Clean energy sounds good, but it’s unrealistic.

Say . . .

What’s unrealistic is expecting our weather to go back to normal if we just ignore it, or relying on fossil fuel industries to do what’s best for Americans. Clean energy technology is proven and economical. Other countries are gaining a competitive edge, by using our technology, while oil company lobbyists tell us it’s unrealistic here. Building a healthy, secure future for our kids isn’t unrealistic. It’s our job.

Right wing argument: Oil creates jobs here and it’s cheap. Why are you so opposed?

Say . . .

Oil dependence is an economic dead end. It’s too costly, too dangerous, and it lets oil companies and the Koch Brothers control, and seriously harm, our future. We can create far more jobs and tackle climate change with clean energy. We already have the know-how; we just have to break Big Oil’s stranglehold on Washington so we can move forward with solutions.

Right wing argument: You think higher gas prices are good.

Say . . .

The only way to beat high gas prices is to reduce oil dependence. Clean energy opponents want to increase our dependence. Let’s get real. We’re seeing how big banks rig interest rates. How Enron rigged electricity rates. And how oil companies rigged gas prices. We can’t have affordable energy and transportation choices until we break the stranglehold that the big oil companies have on Washington. All clean energy companies need is a level playing field to compete with Big Oil so America can innovate, move forward and develop clean energy solutions. But the right wing supports policies that stack the deck against home grown clean energy.

Right wing argument: Solar panels and windmills cannot provide enough energy for the U.S.

Say . . .

There’s no shortage of sun or wind or American ingenuity. Many of our competitors, like China and Germany, are racing ahead of us while oil companies try to intimidate Americans into thinking we can’t compete. We need to step up to the plate and not let Big Oil hold us back with obsolete technology and backward policy.